Now that you know how to prepare your mind for learning, let’s take a look at preparing an optimal learning space. Where you study may not seem like a big deal, but it can actually have a significant effect on how well you learn. Here are few things for you to consider when designing your optimal learning space:
If at all possible, your learning space should be a place that is just for studying. This will create an association in your subconscious mind between your learning space and studying. You want your brain to know that every time you sit down at your learning space, you are there to work and you mean business. Contrast this to studying at the kitchen table, a place that most of us associate with eating. My guess is that if you sit at your kitchen table to study, you often snack while studying. Similarly, the association between our bed and sleep often makes it difficult to read or study on our bed without feeling tired. Distractions caused by studying in the wrong place are a major cause of concentration problems.
We have a basic human need for natural light. In fact, the decreased amount of light in winter months can lead to a form of depression in some people called Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is often treated with light therapy. Whenever possible, chose natural light over artificial light. Ideally, your learning space has large windows that allow plenty of natural light. When you must use artificial light, incandescent light is better than fluorescent light (energy considerations aside). Place the lamp so the light is uniform and does not cause glare. This will reduce eye strain which can decrease your overall productivity.
As humans, our brains are hard-wired to respond positively to natural elements in our environment that we find nurturing. Studies have shown that work performed under the calming influence of nature is performed with greater accuracy than work done in an environment devoid of natural elements. Placing a plant or two on or around your desk can help create a calming environment and have a positive impact on your learning. If you do not have a green thumb, you can always use a fake plant. While these can be expensive, I have had good luck finding nice, inexpensive fake plants at thrift stores such as Goodwill.
It should go without saying, but the more organized your learning space the better. Place frequently used items such as paper, pencils, books, highlighters, and index cards so they are within easy reach. Every time you need to stop studying in order to get up and retrieve one of these items, it will take your brain time to get back on track. This will decrease your overall efficiency and make it less likely that you will recall the information at a later time.
Note that this is not an exhaustive list but just a few pointers to get you started. Other things to consider are music (Baroque is best), temperature, peripherals (such as pictures, posters, and affirmations), aromatherapy, and basic ergonomics. I will write more about designing an optimal learning space in future posts.