Everything You Need to Successfully SFH (Study from Home)!

The situation

I don’t know about you, but last spring (which happened to be my last semester in college) when COVID-19 came around and left us all stuck at home, I was in big trouble. No longer being able to learn in the classroom and study in the library or at a coffeeshop left me, and I am sure thousands of other students, feeling uninspired, unfocused, and far less motivated to learn and succeed. I found that I had to radically change the way that I learned, studied, and lived at home in order to successfully adapt to the changing circumstances. 

Revamping my workspace

So, one of the first things I did, in order to put myself on the path to success, was to revamp my work station. Depending on the type of worker you are (if you like a constant change of scenery, ignore me!), you might find it more or less difficult to work from various spots around your house or apartment. Since attending classes from home, I found that it was incredibly distracting for me to keep moving from one room in the house to another. 

To combat this, I made it my goal to set up a more permanent and designated study/work area for myself. I found a desk that a family member was no longer using and hopped on the opportunity to move it straight into my room. If you have a desk area that you can use, that is great, but if not, no worries, because luckily, kitchen and dining room tables can get the job done just as well. 

Time to organize

Now that I had my desk set up, I decided the next step was to organize it in a way so that my study materials, resources, notebooks, and folders were all visible and easily sortable in their own little areas. Doing this helped to ensure that no assignments, ideas, or notes would get lost, neglected, or forgotten under random folders and sheets of paper. You might find that organizing your desk or work area by ~thing~ like what I did (folders in one area, assignments in another, to-do list somewhere else) is easiest, or you may decide that organizing your area by subject keeps things tidier. Try experimenting with both to see what works best for you! 

While I like to ~spice things up~ every once in a while, I am the type of person who loves having a routine, so when it came to creating my ideal workspace, my thought process was no different. Early on in my study from home days, after I had my desk organized and my routine down to a science, I came up with a list of everything featured in my study area that has helped me to be successful. So, without further ado, here are my SFH (study from home) essentials + tips

Study area

Like I mentioned, finding a space that you can call yours is important when it comes to SFH. While it doesn’t have to be a desk specifically (it can be any table), I have found that I prefer sitting at a desk as opposed to my kitchen table (being in the kitchen = major excessive snacking). A few tips that I have in terms of your study area are: 

  • Refrain from working in your bed or on your couch. As comfortable as it sounds, it is a surefire way to getting minimal work done because, at some point, it is likely that you will fall asleep. Not what we’re aiming for here! 
  • Try to find a chair or working position that will help, not hurt, your posture. This is so important, and another reason why you should ditch your couch for those long study hauls. Sitting in spaces or using chairs with minimal support will eventually (if it hasn’t already) lead to uncomfortable pain in your back and neck. Some recommendations for ditching the discomfort are to place a pillow behind your back while sitting in your chair, make sure your feet touch the ground in whatever position you are sitting in, take regular breaks to get up and walk around, and to alternate between sitting and standing while you work if possible. 
  • Don’t overestimate the importance of natural light. Unless you are the type of person who gets super distracted by whatever is out the window, I recommend trying to set up your work station near some natural light. Not only will this reduce your eye strain as you work, but it will likely make you less drowsy (hence more productive) too!

Technology

In terms of tech, I personally always keep my laptop set up on my desk and I have my charger easily accessible in case I need to plug in. I will usually keep my cell phone behind my computer so that it is out of view. This is a good start to warding away those temptations if you have a tendency to get distracted by your phone easily (don't we all these days?). However, if you find that your willpower is lacking, I suggest either putting your phone in a different room altogether or downloading an app such as Forest that will help you stay on task. 

Pro-tip: Check out our Resources page for more recommendations on our favorite apps and software you can download (for your phone and your computer) that will help you stay focused!  

Aside from my computer, another piece of technology that I have grown to greatly appreciate is my noise-canceling headphones. I originally bought these from Amazon to use in the library (I am very sensitive to certain noises) but they have also proven helpful since I have been at home because they keep out all of the distractions, yelling, and various noises that come from around my house. If you are like me and are highly sensitive to noise (or just easily distracted by sounds), a pair of these might be a good investment! 

Planner/Desk Calendar

While not everyone may feel the need to have a planner or desk calendar, I have found both of these to be super important additions to my SFH setup. I like my planner because I can look at what I have to get done on a particular day, and my virtual calendar is good because it gives me a better view of the more long-term assignments and tasks I have coming up. 

Of course, there are definitely apps and other downloadable resources that you can use for tracking your assignments and plans (I use Any.do and Google Calendar), but I think there is something nice about having everything written out in front of you so I tend to utilize both digital and non-digital options. 

Notebooks, Flash Cards, Etc

If you are in a lot of classes that require you to remember terms, keeping a stack of flashcards in your work area is probably a good idea! I prefer to use Quizlet for learning terms and definitions because there are multiple options for testing yourself, but if you need to have your terms written down then keeping some flashcards or even just a notebook on hand is probably helpful. 

Additionally, from my experience last semester taking classes and studying from home, it became a lot easier to neglect taking physical, written notes because professors sent out all of the material after lectures for us to study from. Despite this, I highly recommend having a notebook where you can write out your notes as your class is going on or afterward. This will help to ensure that you are actually internalizing the material as opposed to simply memorizing it! 

Pencil holder

 I suggest finding a pencil holder to hold your pens, pencils, highlighters, etc in order to reduce the clutter of having pens and other writing utensils scattered all over your desk or work area. For me, this is a homemade ceramic mug, but for you, it could be anything from a solo cup to a legitimate pencil holder. Feel free to makeshift this however you like! 

Accessories 

Last but certainly not least, we’re at the fun part! I honestly think that one of my favorite parts about studying from home was actually taking the time to personalize my study spot with personal items and some ~flair~. Here are some of the extras (but still essentials in my opinion) that I have set up in my space:

    • Photos - I love getting photos printed and posting them up or framing them around my study area! It’s a great way to personalize your space because it is relatively inexpensive and will do a great job of allowing you to reminisce back on normal times and good memories. 
    • Plants - I used to have a very cool plant on my desk that I got from Trader Joes for less than $5. Although I haven’t gotten around to it yet since I moved home, I will definitely be purchasing another one for my new space because having some greenery is nice and refreshing! If this is something you’re into, I would check out either Etsy or Amazon for cost-effective options. 
    • Mantras - There is no doubt that adjusting to working and studying from home hasn’t been easy. In fact, it has been quite the opposite, and I know I’m not alone when I say that studying from home has brought on some new anxieties and worries. So, to help myself combat this anxiety, I have a post-it note taped to the window (directly in front of me) with my mantras and reminders to help keep me sane. While you will likely find your own that work best for you, I will share what’s on my post-it note to give you some inspiration! 

At the end of the day…

It's important to remember is that your study spot needs to be set up and designed with your needs in mind! To sum it all up, here are the key takeaways from what I discussed:

  1. Ditch the couch - your back and neck will thank you for it.
  2. Keep distractions away! 
  3. Organization is key, especially if you are working in a small area.
  4. Have your mantras and reminders in clear view to keep you on task.
  5. Personalize your space to make you happy! 

With that, I will leave it to you. Happy studying!!

My study space! ~Ayden
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