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Studying from home? Here’s how to create the perfect desk setup

The University of Law provides advice to students on how to set up the perfect home office space

The current health pandemic means university students have had to leave their campuses and study from home, a challenge for many up and down the country.

To help those currently studying from home, Sarah Hall, Study Skills Coordinator at The University of Law, offers five tips for students to create a productive and effective home study space, as well as sharing real students’ own home study setups.

1. Make sure you have the right equipment

You can’t set up a proper study space without the right equipment, and making sure you have a suitable desk space is the first thing you should do. If you don’t have a proper desk at home, a kitchen or dressing table will suffice. Make sure you’re sitting on a chair with good lumbar support too, to help ensure you’re both comfortable and protected while you work. Try to use this space only for study – that way you should be more focussed.

Look to decorate your desk with things that make you happy, such as photos of loved ones, pets, scented candles or plants and flowers. These little things can help create a more positive environment, and make you smile during your days of studying. Also try to keep your study environment tidy. This will not only help you find what you need for your studies and therefore save you time and help you avoid procrastination,, but it will also make you feel more in control and therefore more ready to get down to effective study

2. Ensure you have good lighting

When setting up your home study space, it’s incredibly important to make sure you’re working with the right lighting. Natural lighting is paramount to an effective workspace, so try and work by a window or open door if you can. If not, then a floor lamp will help create a warm glow, or a desk lamp can add some extra brightness. The most important thing is that you’re not working in dark conditions, as this will make you feel sleepy and increase eye strain from looking at a bright screen, such as your computer.

3. Take set breaks

When studying, it can be easy to forget to take breaks, but doing so regularly helps maintain concentration, and can improve performance. In fact, a study by the University of Illinois1 that asked participants to perform the same task with and without breaks, found that the performance of the groups who were asked to work non-stop for 50 minutes progressively declined, while the group who could take a break remained sharp for the entire duration of the task.

Begin studying at a specific time each day, say 9am, taking an hour’s lunch between 12 and 2 pm and ceasing work for the day at 5 or 6pm, making time for at least a couple of 15-minute breaks throughout the day as well. However, you structure your day, make sure you set yourself regular breaks and stick to them. When you break, try to do something active to stimulate the flow of oxygen to the brain, so run on the spot for a couple of minutes, run up and down the stairs, or pop outside for a minute to get some fresh air. This will make your study more effective when you return to it. Don’t just sit and look at your phone.

4. Maintain communication

While studying from home it can be easy to feel isolated, especially if you’re out of your usual lecture and seminar schedule, and not seeing your flatmates or coursemates every day either. It’s really important to keep in touch with people while you study from home, so make sure you take time to chat with your friends and coursemates at least once a day if you can.

Most universities have replaced lectures, seminars and tutor-pupil meetings with a conference call option, which will help you keep up to date with your studies and maintain communication with your peers and tutors. Setting up a virtual study group is also a great way to keep on top of your studies and maintain a sense of normality while working from home.

5. Stick to a revision schedule

Setting up a revision schedule is an effective way to keep on top of your studies and maintain focus. Write out a revision schedule (with breaks included) and make sure it’s in view while you’re working to help keep you on track; you could pin it on the wall behind your desk or keep it up on your computer if your schedule is virtual.

Timeboxing works incredibly well while studying from home. This method involves using an app such as Google Calendar or Hourstack to block out specific time periods for a certain task, and is a great way of keeping on track with your studies and making sure you complete everything you need to do.

Considering the tips, students at ULaw have shared their own advice on how they’re staying productive whilst studying remotely: “Maintain a routine as much as possible as you did before. The more routine you have, the less panicky you will feel about this uncertain situation” said one student. Another unveiled: “the no PJ and not being in bed between certain hours of the day is working like a treat for me - it helps keep my mind focused on studying.”

Sarah Hall adds: “The whole world is facing unprecedented changes at the moment, and it can be especially hard for students who are studying from home. Hopefully these tips will help students who have been thrown out of their routine to set up the most effective home study space, so they can feel confident and productive with their studies during this uncertain time.”