Study Buddy: 5 Lessons for Good Study ‘Hygiene’

Female student studying on laptop.

For our latest Study Buddy session, we’re taking a look at how you can work on your study “hygiene.” We’re not talking about showering while studying (although showering is a great way to get your creative mind flowing).

No, we’re talking about habits that will keep your study time, space, and mindset “clean” so you can learn with a clear head and minimal interruptions, both internal and external. Study habits of successful students go beyond just good memorization skills, so let’s delve into a more environmental approach.

The tips below are effective study space ideas, wherever you have chosen to locate it in your home. Others will travel with you, to give you a clean slate to study when you’re meeting up with a study group or relocating for another reason. (See Study Buddy Mythbusters post to learn about how mixing up your study location is actually a good thing.) 

Lesson 1: Login Laundry

Students log a lot of screen hours. Because you spend so much time on your computer, it makes sense to keep up with your housekeeping. Think of your computer like your bed–you spend a third of your life in bed, so you make sure you change the sheets. Same goes for your laptop (or desktop computer).

The following checklist can help you keep screen time distractions to a minimum:

  • First, the obvious: Clean your screen once a week. Fingerprints and smudges can contaminate your field of focus.
  • Close out your browser tabs. Do this at the start of study time, or at least daily, so you don’t find yourself migrating back to that saved shopping cart every time you get stuck.
  • Declutter your desktop. If you don’t already have an organized filing system, make a point once a week to archive documents you might need later and trash any you won’t.
  • Restart regularly to keep your computer and applications up to date and running smoothly.

Lesson 2: Scrub Your Schedule

Meaning: Clear the part of it you’ll use for studying. Organize your calendar like you would a shelf or a cabinet, with everything in its place. Schedule your study time allotment in whatever cadence you decide you need, ideally not back-to-back with another brain-consuming task so you’re not thinking ahead to the next task and you can stay present with your study. 

Here are some tips for scrubbing your schedule:

  • Go through your calendar and delete any recurring commitments that have expired.
  • Block off dedicated study time. If you can, save the time of day you know you’re most productive.
  • Keep your study time like you would any appointment. Be on time and ready to work.
  • Track your time. (You can get an app for this.) This will help you stay accountable, and you’ll also enjoy the emotional reward of having a record of your efforts.

Lesson 3: Spruce Up Your Surface

“Whatever you’re using for a desk, this is your sacred study space. It should be comfortable and functional, and you can set it up for efficient study sessions by following a few rules for maintaining an organized and clean study area.

Here’s how you can improve your optimize your space to help you get settled, stay settled, and study:

  • Don’t let loose papers colonize your space. We recommend a small tabletop file holder where you can consolidate the important stuff. Clearing out worksheets and notes you no longer need can actually be pretty satisfying.
  • Place everything you need within arm’s reach. This can include textbooks, your glasses, a beverage, a snack, and anything else you might want like tissues or eye drops.
  • Keep your computer charged and make sure it’s plugged in so you won’t have to get up and search for your cord mid-session.
  • Place a small waste bin nearby so you can toss any rubbish instead of letting it build up on your study surface. You might also want to consider a small paper shredder.

Lesson 4: Outfit Your Area (and Yourself)

This one applies especially to morning-study types–those of us who keep our laptops on the bedside and pull it onto our laps first thing. Instead of going straight for the keyboard, consider completing your morning rituals and get ready for the day. 

Below are a few tips to follow:

  • Shower and brush your teeth before you get into the books. Taking care of small morning tasks will clear your brain for learning.
  • As tempting as it might be to study in your snuggie, get dressed. Not to the nines, but put on something you’d wear to the store. 
  • Hang a “study sweater” or “study sweatshirt” on the back of your chair so you can layer up or down for temperature control without getting up.
  • Consider investing in a pair of comfortable “house shoes” (not slippers). There’s some evidence that when you have shoes on, your brain kicks into productivity mode. 

Lesson 5: Quiet, Please

When it comes to study time, silence is golden (exemptions made for ambient noise or study-friendly tunes). Clean up your noise pollution. Ringtones and notifications are designed to steal your attention. Figure out the settings on your phone and computer that control your notifications–once you know where they are, this will only take a few seconds per session. 

You can reduce noise and other environmental distractions by doing the following:

  • Turn off any message or email notifications that will pop up on your screen.
  • Silence your phone and place it face down so you won’t see it light up with messages or calls.
  • Consider a white-noise machine if you have a lot of ambient noise outside or indoors.
  • If music helps you work, keep your playlist instrumental so the words in your books don’t compete with the ones in your ears. And try to stick to an album or playlist so you won’t be interrupted by radio commercials.

The tips above shouldn’t add more than a few minutes to your routine, as long as you keep up with your study-time “housekeeping.” 

Want to learn more about the ins and outs of study time? Visit our 5 Study Types post to see what type of learner you are. Happy studying!

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