Organising your study space

You are much more likely to be productive if you can find or create a space where you feel comfortable working. For some students, this may be a temporary space – for example, a space in the Library or the Reading Room – while for others, it may be a more permanent, dedicated study space, either on campus or at home.

Wherever you study, consider the following when designing and organising your study space:

Clutter: The less of it the better – clutter can interfere with your ability to concentrate and can create stress. Try to keep your workspace as clear as you can. This also applies to noticeboards, shelves, and so on. You can minimise clutter by paying attention to…

Storage: Ideally, you will have bookshelves or cupboards for neatly storing books, folders, hand outs, and so on. If you can’t manage shelves or cupboards, get some sturdy boxes. If most of your studying takes place in temporary spaces on campus, consider renting a locker. Ensure that you have access to all the stationery and any other materials that you need.

Noise and other distractions: Keep them to a minimum if you can. Some students like to study while listening to music, but do make sure that you won’t need to hear the music in order to recall what you learned while listening to it!

Light: Natural light is best, but as this is limited in autumn and winter, you will need a source of artificial light as well. A flexible, dimmable lamp is a good option and, depending on the task, your eyesight, and your personal preferences, you may need to complement this with overhead lighting too.

Inspiration: If you can, surround yourself with objects that inspire you and that personalise your space: for example, inspirational quotes and pictures that will help to keep you focused on your goals, houseplants to provide oxygen and greenery, works of art, photos of your loved ones (including pets), pictures of favourite places or scenes, and so on.

Comfort and ergonomics: Make sure that the room temperature is not too hot or too cold and that your space is well ventilated. If possible, invest in a good desk and chair, and ensure that your chair is comfortable, discourages slouching (a ‘straight-backed’ chair), and supports your lower back. Your desk and chair height should be adjusted to ensure that you can sit straight up with your feet on the floor. If using a computer, the screen should be at eye height. 

the ideal posture and position when using a computer

Image source:

If you don’t have the luxury of your own study space, ‘shop around’ on campus until you find a spot that works for you. No matter how humble or magnificent your study space, remember that studying when you are tired, hungry, cold, worried, thirsty, or distracted is a waste of time.

It’s best not to study in bed if possible, as if you associate your bed with intensive brain activity you may find it hard to switch off and sleep when it’s time to do so. Try to avoid studying at the kitchen table – it’s a nuisance to have to keep moving your study materials at meal times and, as with studying in bed or on the sofa, it tends to blur the lines between study and home time. Having a specific study space helps to you to draw a line between study time and other time, and it is important for your wellbeing to achieve a balance between your studies and your other activities. 

Organising your stuff

Keeping track of your stuff as a student can be more complicated than you would think! If you have just moved away from home you’re probably getting used to managing your laundry, your dirty dishes, your clothes storage, and so on (sorry, we can’t help you there). You may also be dealing with an ever-growing pile of books, papers and notebooks, along with a bulging email inbox and a long list of Blackboard updates.

Organising your learning materials

Most students, through trial and error, eventually develop systems for organising their physical or ‘hard copy’ learning materials (such as hand-written notes, assignments, hand outs, and so on) and their electronic or ‘soft copy’ materials (such as materials downloaded from Blackboard, the Library or the internet, electronic notes, and so on).

If you’re not used to managing large volumes of paper or electronic materials, try to put some sort of systems in place for keeping track of everything. You can refine your systems as you go.

Hard copy materials

You could use large ring-binders with file dividers to store your paperwork for each module. You can organise by topic, or you may prefer to organise your lecture notes, assignments, past papers, and so on, in separate sections. Buy pre-punched, perforated notebooks if you use this system so that you can easily transfer handwritten notes into the correct folder. 

Electronic materials

Try to organise your electronic materials into folders as well - perhaps by year, semester, module and topic. Only you will know what works best for you and for your course. A crucial piece of advice is to back up your electronic data. You can use an external hard drive, OneDrive (or other cloud-based systems), USB sticks, or the U:Drive on the NUI Galway network to save copies of your data.

Organising your materials in some sort of coherent way can be a great stress-reducer, especially as exams draw near. Consider devoting a couple of hours each week to filing and organising your learning materials. Whatever systems you develop or use, make sure that they enable you to quickly and easily find what you need, when you need it. 

Organising emails

See IT and Digital Skills for some tips on getting the most out of your student email, including how to organise emails.

Organising your belongings

The Students’ Union rents out lockers for the academic year (and during the summer) and if you have a lot of books and notebooks, you should consider getting one. There is huge demand for lockers and they 'sell out' fast, so book yours as early as you can. It can save you carrying large amounts of learning materials every day, and having access to a locker can help you to plan your week’s study.

The Students’ Union also operates a cloakroom (open on Fridays only) where you can store coats and luggage rather than carting these items around with you all day. The cloakroom does not accept laptops.

There is no offical lost & found on campus, however, if you have lost something please drop by the Student Enquiry Centre for assistance.