Virtual learning and working have presented several challenges for everyone over the past seven months, but many students, including myself, have struggled with finding a way to make their new study and work area feel as close to a classroom setting as possible. Trying to focus during a class or while doing homework is difficult for me at times because of the psychological association I have with my bedroom. Simply put, being at home or in my bedroom signals to my brain that work time is over. Yet, now that all of my schooling and work is being done inside of my bedroom, I have to find new and creative ways to overcome and sort of rewire this association.
I know this is something so many of my peers have been struggling with as well, so I wanted to share a couple of ways I have managed to make my workspace a bit more inviting and effective for completing my school work. It’s not the classroom, but it’s better than nothing!
Make It As Personal (Or As Private) As You Want
An often overlooked and ignored reality for many students is the fact that their place of residence is a private one that holds a lot of value or insight into their personal lives. Not every student is necessarily ready or willing to share this part of themselves with their peers and professors. This is where personalization, or lack thereof, can help students feel a lot more comfortable in their eLearning setting. If whatever is in your background is not a concern for you, have fun with personalizing your space to the max! I am more productive in a bright and organized space, so everything on, next to, and around my desk area is very neat and full of little pops of colors, prints, and textures that I have positive associations with.
But if you’re uncomfortable with inviting people into your home on screen (because that is essentially what eLearning is) I recommend trying to find a productive yet secluded spot to participate in classes from. If a spot like this doesn’t already exist, no worries because you can easily create one! Move any items on your walls and in the background of your camera out of sight by doing a little room rearranging so that only what you want people to see will be visible. If something hung up is a bit too much work to take down, invest in a tapestry that you like and wouldn’t mind others seeing. Inexpensive ones are abundant as well which you can buy and use to cover any wall hangings that you don’t want to be seen.
Model Your Workspace Around Your Organization & Work Style
Last semester, I began thinking about what were some aspects of virtual learning that I could control and how my desk was set up was one of them. I then realized that I was only productive at my desk if I was comfortable, had good lighting, and my desk had as little clutter as possible. I also thought about how I approach my work in a very “Type A” manner, with lists, multiple notebooks, calendars, highlighters, and books EVERYWHERE so that I don’t miss any steps that I want to complete. Thinking about my organization and work style helped me rearrange my desk area for this semester so that I could be as productive as possible. For me, this meant removing clutter and distractions from my desk (my makeup towers had to move to a different location at home :/), having a comfy chair or pillow to sit on, a bright lamp and opening my blinds during the day to let in natural light.
Your workspace doesn’t have to feel sterile if that’s not your vibe; comfort is just as important when it comes to productivity. Think about the spaces you usually get the most and your best work done and what you like about those spaces. Also, think about the things that normally distract you. Try to recreate the things that you like about your favorite study spaces and remove those distractions as well to have the perfect mix of comfort and efficiency in your study area.
Natural Light Is Your Best Friend
This might seem like a random and ineffective way to make a space more productive, but ever since I began opening my blinds whenever I sat down at my desk, I have been able to focus so much better. The natural light makes me feel like I’m outside or at a cafe looking out the window which also helps me a lot with the Zoom fatigue that I’m sure many of us are battling every day. It’s like an easy way to feel like you’re going outside without actually doing so.
Virtual learning also can take a toll on your brain and emotions after a while as well. Sitting in the same spot for hours and hours shortens my attention span and heavily distorts my focus, so having the sights and sounds of the outdoors really helps me regroup. Natural light also can help combat the mental toll virtual learning can have on our mental state as the sun rays pouring in through your window act as a natural mood booster. Being in a positive headspace is one of the most important ways you can be more productive so open those curtains and let the sunshine be your natural pick me up for the day.