In the era of Marie Kondo, everyone seems to be tidying their lives up. 



But new research suggests that Marie Kondo-ing your study environment might actually be the best motivator for getting into a regular study habit. even goes so far as to argue that your environment actually overpowers your willpower. In other words, you’re much likely to complete a task if you’re in the right environment for it – whereas relying on “pure determination” alone will oftentimes fail you.


Rao writes:


“Designing your life begins with the designing your days, and designing your days starts with designing your environment. By designing the right environment, all of our desired behaviours become automatic”.


So in this article, we’ll explain exactly how to design your study space for excellence.



1. Clear everything


Wherever you usually study at home – a desk, a table, your room – it’s time to Marie Kondo it. (and by that, I mean, pile up everything you own somewhere else in your house and then feel shame at how much you consume).



Get rid of those old papers you’ve had sitting there for years. Take those dirty dishes to the kitchen and wash them out. Dig out all the crap sitting under your desk, chuck all the non-working pens, rip down your posters. Vacuum underneath your desk legs. Move it around, wake it up.



I’m talking literally clean-slate level clear, so that there is nothing in or around your study space. You’ll probably end up with a pile of junk at your bed, which you can thoughtfully re-donate at a later time.



2. Get some inspiration


  Once you’ve gawked in horror at the consumerist trap of living as a first world human in the 21st century – it’s time to get back some inspiration for a study space that genuinely does “spark joy”.


There are heaps of cool ways to make your study space somewhere you actually want to be. You might love the classic “fairy lights and polaroids” look – which there are plenty of examples on Pinterest for. If this is you, go off.



You might be less white-girl-esque and prefer a low-light “serious zone”, or a minimalist look, or football posters everywhere if that tickles your fancy. There’s no judgment on what might keep your study-fire burning.  



Just make sure that your space is made up of things that work for you, and make it an environment that you will want to spend your time in the future.



Studies also show that having a plant on your desk results in higher creativity – and having good lighting in the room will free up precious headspace for better brain cognition.    



3. Think about the habit


it’s time to start thinking about what you actually want to achieve in your study space. First, think about your current barriers holding you back from study: 


  • You probably don’t have superhuman discipline, or the best willpower in the world.


  • You’re probably a bit crap with your time-management (like the rest of us).


  • You probably have a short window of time where you can actually achieve study (after school).


So, now your job is to make your study space a place that these barriers don’t exist.  



Want to study everyday? Make your study space a place you actually want to be. Put a comfy chair in, have a candle there ready for a flame, set up a nice lamp for some soft but bright lighting.


Want to stop procrastinating? Put a study schedule above your desk, that reminds you exactly when things are due, and gives you a clear map of your entire year.


Struggle with motivation? Print out some motivational quotes reminding you about the “bigger picture”. Better yet, make your own quotes that personally resonate with you and your own goals: “at the end of the year, it’ll all be worth it.” “do you want to go to med school?” “Work hard, play hard,” etc, etc. 


Can’t stop getting distracted? Make your study space a screen-free zone. Use some quality textbook resources and a good ol-fashioned notebook to take your notes. You’re learning more without screens anyway.



4. Reduce your own “activation energy.” 


Bear with me here.



Every action you take in your life has “activation energy”. In the case of studying, your “activation energy” might involve:


  • Finding the right pens
  • Getting out your books
  • Finding your chapter of your book
  • Working out what you need to study
  • Getting out your headphones
  • Tidying up your space


Activation energy is draining. Well, giving energy to anything is draining, let’sbehonest. However, when you reduce your activation energy, you can be sure that 100% of your energy is going into the task at hand: studying.



To reduce activation energy into menial tasks –  make sure they’re already done well before you sit down to study.


Every time you finish a study session, prepare for the next time down to the finest detail.


Re-tidy your desk, charge those headphones, book-mark the page you were up to in your textbook, put your bag down at your desk, lay out some comfy clothes on your chair, and have a bunch of working pens or sharpened pencils sitting on your desk ready for action.


By reducing the activation energy for any desired habit or action, you increase the likelihood of following through on that habit or action.



Studies also show that having a plant on your desk results in higher creativity – and having good lighting in the room will free up precious headspace for better brain cognition.    



5. Have a progress tracker


One of the main reasons we lose motivation to keep studying is because we don’t track our progress: “measurement doesn’t just improve performance – it increases your motivation”.



Having a progress tracker within sight of your study space is a fantastic way to keep up your study habit. You could make a progress jar, and put a stone in the jar every time you complete a study session. You could simply cross off the calendar dates, green meaning “study day completed” and blank meaning that was a chill day.


Forest is also a great app for tracking your own progress AND stay focused. It allows you to grow digital “trees” for as long as you don’t touch your phone (you set a timer for however long you intend to study for) – and then you can build your own virtual forest with all the focus-trees you grew!





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