New year reset: How to refresh your study space for a productive Semester 2

During my time at Surrey I have learned how important my study space is for my productivity. Personally, I have always preferred working at home, but, now more than ever, as we are all staying at home due to the pandemic, it is important to make sure we are able to work well at home. Here, I’ll be sharing some tips which have helped me to create a space which makes me not just productive and focused, but also happy.

My two makeshift whiteboards

#1 Whiteboards

This has to be my number one tip. I find using whiteboards a really good way of organising my day as they allow for flexibility. If you’re like me and like to be organised and plan ahead, but also understand that (often) those plans need tweaking as your day fills with other small jobs, or you spent a little too long in bed that morning, this may be for you. It’s also very satisfying being able to rub off your completed tasks as you go.

I have used whiteboards for multiple things, such as listing my deadlines, just jotting things down (particularly when I am beginning an assignment and need a space to scribble down some ideas and erase others as I go), for planning my day, and for organising the specific piece of work I am concentrating on at the time. The final option is particularly helpful for big projects, such as a dissertation, and could include things like your current word count and your specific goals for that day.

Top tip: I use photo frames with a sheet of plain paper in it as a cheaper alternative! This gives the whiteboard a nice frame, too, and also means you can draw a template on the paper which won’t rub away, such as the days of the week.

#2 Split up your university work and your personal belongings

If you have space, try to keep your university work and your personal items separate. This may be as simple as keeping the books you read for pleasure at the opposite end of the shelf to your university books, but it means that you can switch off from work and still use your space as a home without having to stumble across your uni work all the time. Likewise, you can remain focused on your work without the distraction of your own things. I find having this separation in my room, and therefore in my life, is essential for me to be productive.

My university work is kept on the top shelf, and personal on the bottom. I also have a picture of my niece here that sits just above my laptop

#3 Something that brings you joy

This is a simpler one, but it’s always nice to have something in your workplace that makes you smile in those times of struggle. This could be a photograph of friends, family or a place that you love, a cuddly toy, or perhaps a pot of your favourite tea. After all, you are at home and, particularly if your bedroom is also your study space, it’s important that it’s a place you feel happy and comfortable, not somewhere that you only associate with work.

#4 A distraction

It may sound strange to purposely add a distraction to your study space, but I find it very helpful to keep something nearby that is completely unrelated to my work and does not involve reading, such as a colouring book, which I can reach for in times of frustration, boredom or brain fog. Having this on or near my desk means that I am less likely to procrastinate or sit staring blankly at my screen. I set myself a 5 to 20-minute timer to focus purely on my colouring and then I am able to go back to my work refreshed. If you’re not a crafty person, this could also be a playlist or perhaps a short walk.

My French and English keyboards

#5 Technology

Everyone has their own preferences with technology, but one tip that I have for the multilinguals among us is to invest in a keyboard for each of your languages. As a language student myself, I find this extremely helpful and it really speeds up my work. Also check your screen settings to protect your eyes!

#6 Emergency Kit

Finally, I like to have an emergency stress box in my room. Don’t worry, you won’t need it all the time (maybe never at all!), but having things in a physical place that you can always turn to in times of stress or upset, university-related or otherwise, can usually stop the vicious circle of worrying about worrying. Some ideas for this may be a playlist (you could make a note of it to put in the box), some photos, some positive affirmations on cards, a face mask, or a nail varnish. Something that allows you to escape for a short while.

My jar of positive quotes

I hope you are able to take something from my tips, and good luck with Semester 2!