Working Environment

Your choice of working environment will have a huge influence on the types of interruption you are likely to experience while studying, as well as how often they occur.

You have direct control over certain distractions, such as whether to use your phone while studying. Others are more difficult to control, such as the noise made by other people around you. A good working environment must therefore do two things:

  1. Minimise the temptation to give in to the distractions within your control
  2. Minimise the impact of any distractions outside of your control

Your working space should be tidy, with potential distractions out of sight. Physical mess leads to mental crowding. Your bedroom or home are great choices because you have a lot of control over the space. Logistics are kept to a minimum: no travel is required, all of your study materials are available, and food and toilets should be nearby.

However, many people find it difficult to transition to a working mindset at home and seek an alternative location. If this sounds like you, pick somewhere with a low likelihood of interruptions and few temptations to procrastinate. Libraries are the classic such destination.

Cafes are popular, but personally I am very wary of them. I don't know a single cafe-student who experienced significant exam success. The noise, movement of others, smells, and lure of food and drink are all very distracting.

Unless you are studying the same subject as each other, working with friends is also generally a bad idea. It merely introduces an additional collection of potential distractions.

Your Body

Make sure your working environment minimises the impact that your body's requirements will have on your productivity. You will need to go to the toilet, eat, exercise, and get some fresh air. But none of this changes the fact that these necessities are still interruptions just like anything else. They will still take you out of the Zone.

When you do these things, you have to be extra careful to keep other distractions at bay. For example, you may be tempted to switch on your phone and use it on the way to (or while sitting on) the toilet. This will almost certainly lead to mental crowding, which remains long after you return from your toilet break.