Everyone has a different definition of the perfect study space. It’s often about trial and error, setting up in various places until you find where you work best.

However, it’s not just about productivity; for many of us, our desk is the place we spend a lot of our time, so this space must also feel comfortable and personalised. For example, you might get the most work done locked away in a cupboard with no windows – but chances are you won’t be too happy.

In this guide, we’ve taken a multi-sensory approach to create an effective space for studying at home, factoring in the look of where you work, as well as comfort and productivity.

Sight: What does a good workspace look like?

The first step towards creating an effective working environment is clearing the space around you. Whether or not you prescribe to the “tidy desk, tidy mind” philosophy, when motivation wavers, the objects in your peripheries quickly become distractions.

Unsurprisingly, the worst offender is your phone. Luckily, there’s a very simple solution: turn it off and leave it in another room. If you do need it to work, then try hiding it behind your laptop or computer. Out of sight, out of mind – in theory, at least.

When sifting through the other objects on your desk, consider asking yourself a few questions:

  • Do I need this to work?
  • Does this bring me joy?

This Marie Kondo-style approach to tidying means you won’t be left working in an impersonal, sterile space that neglects your happiness. Instead, everything on your desk is there for a reason.

Lighting is also important in creating a good study space. Whilst natural light is preferable, it’s not always possible. Keeping your zone well-lit throughout the working day is a fine balance to strike – too much artificial, white light and you risk shifting your circadian rhythm.

However, if the room is too dark, you’ll be left squinting at a bright screen and straining your eyes. Set yourself up by a window if you can and consider purchasing a lamp with a dimmer. This way, you can alter the light throughout the day.

Finally, the way your virtual space looks also has a sizeable impact on the way you work. Do you have a million files scattered on your desktop? Are you constantly running 17 tabs in the background? Do your apps launch automatically when you open your laptop?

If you take a moment to sort through your files properly, putting them in relevant folders, you’ll save hours in the long run. Similarly, if you turn off the ‘launch on start-up’ setting on your apps, you won’t be welcomed by a cascade of windows every time you log in.

Sound: What noise is the right noise?

There’s no definitive answer to the question of noise. Some people need absolute silence when working from home, whereas others prefer a low-level of background noise. For example, author Zadie Smith says she writes to ‘brown noise’, the “soothing and kind of mushy” cousin of white noise.

The question of working with music also comes down to the individual and the task. If you’re reading or writing, listening to music with lyrics will likely distract you from the words on the page. However, this can be solved by tuning into something in a foreign language or without lyrics.

Music can also be great for motivation and reducing fatigue. Research shows that when carrying out a repetitive task, listening to music keeps performance levels consistently higher.

Touch: Are you sitting comfortably?

Physical comfort is crucial when spending long hours at a desk. This is where ergonomics comes in – the relationship between efficiency and comfort in the workplace. There are five key tenets of ergonomics: safety, comfort, ease of use, productivity, and aesthetics. You might want to consider these five factors when choosing your chair and desk.

Following this logic, whilst your bed might offer maximum comfort, you’ll likely be too relaxed to do your best work. Many studies also suggest working from bed reduces the quality of your sleep and encourages bad posture. However, if a duvet day is unavoidable, then Dr. Bang suggests lying down with a tablet raised above your head for best posture.

Taste: Is your stomach your biggest distraction?

Proximity to snacks, water, tea, and coffee is an inevitable factor in your productivity. This doesn’t mean sitting with a bag of crisps all day. Rather, try to have a good number of healthy snacks with you to ensure hunger is never a distraction. Similarly, if you know you need a regular caffeine fix, don’t choose a study space that’s miles from the nearest café – or come equipped with a Thermos.

The most important thing is to never feel ‘tied to your desk’. Since you spend so much of the day there, where you study should be a welcoming, positive space. When you enjoy sitting there, you’ve already completed the first step towards effective work and study.

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