Organising your ideal study space

By Alex Burden, Student Blog

14 January 2019

Self-directed study is key to completing your ICAS qualification and associated modules, but even for the best of us, this can be a difficult task to achieve in a structured matter. We investigate approaches for organising the most effective study space.

Why you should sort your space

Physical clutter (as well as mental clutter) can prove distracting for the learning process and how we focus on new information. Research by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute backs up the well-known saying of a ‘tidy desk, tidy mind’, stating that visual stimuli, such as piled up notes and scattered stationery, is disruptive to our learning process.

Have you ever opened your notebook just to end up vacuuming the curtain rails? Taken your work to a lovely, quiet park only to spend most of the time people-watching? An unfocused mind leads to procrastinating activities such as embarking on new chores and activities, rather than reading your textbooks.

Setting the scene for study

Let’s start with your location and hardware: you will need a comfortable chair and an appropriate flat surface such as a desk, as these are most amenable to and to avoid any physical stress-related (studying in pain has never been helpful for anyone!).

The key is finding that Goldilocks ratio.

You will preferably need an ambient room temperature: no-one wants to be too hot or too cold when trying to commit information to memory and expound ideas. Same goes for lighting; the key is finding that Goldilocks ratio to keep those peepers relaxed but alert.

Turn off the TV, radio, and your phone. Studies have shown that certain types of music are amenable to studying, as explored in our article on study music, so if you can’t stand the silence, investigate an ambient, light classical, or white noise mix.

Noise-cancelling headphones are not a great idea as this interrupts your concentration, but if needs must due to surrounding noise, try to keep the volume at a limited level.

Take down any distracting wall coverings or posters. Ideally, we would love to see your study space covered in our helpful infographics, but if that diverts your attention, choose something that will help motivate you. Green and blue shades promote productivity and calmness.


Before you start studying, make sure you have a clutter-free area to work on, even if that’s just temporarily gathering up any unrelated artefacts into a plastic bag or box for sorting after your session.

You want clear access to all your materials, calculator, any other digital equipment, and notes. It’s also a good idea to maintain a dedicated study space as this provides clear activity boundaries for yourself.

Shops such as Tiger and Ikea stock all you could ever need in the way of desk tidies, paper and media organisers, and shelf boxes to keep your stationery and study hardware in a neat and accessible fashion.

The more dedicated organisers who take this advice into all areas of their life will appreciate the YouTube channel by self-proclaimed ‘Creative Organising Expert’, Alejandra Costello – instructional videos entirely devoted to labelling, separating and organising your material items (down to individual batteries by size!).

Stress-releasers and safe-ty

Own a pet? Several studies have proven that an owner’s stress response decreases when they are present in the room or nearby for a quick pet, so it’s possible to integrate Fido into Financial Reporting.

Our phones constantly chirp for attention, and some of us can actually detect the ultra-high frequency signals of incoming texts or phone calls before they register on the phone (ever picked up your phone a few seconds before a new message? It’s not psychic power!). Unless you need it on for emergencies, switch it off.

In extreme situations, get a kSafe. This time-locking container can take your phone, gaming controllers or any other distracting stimuli, and keep them sealed for a selected period of study time. When the timer ends, enjoy your newly-freed equipment (or snacks) without feeling guilty! Studying is tough enough without trying to manage extra self-discipline.

Finally, take short study breaks every thirty minutes to take a stretch and rest your eyes.

Got any ideas to add? Tweet us @ICAS_students or email and we’ll feature them!


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