Selecting the right study environment (by Sam Coten)

Sam is a first year law student from Perth, Western Australia.

I’m passionate about what I do– I’m not sure how many people feel the same, but I like to learn. Sometimes though, the monotonous repetition of slaving away at my notepad and textbooks, trying to force more and more facts into memory can get just the slightest bit dull.

I only study when I feel like it– that was the advice my careers counsellor at school gave me. And I know that some people might view this as ludicrous, but it’s been working just fine for me. The logic is relatively simple: if I can’t focus my eyes on the words across the page, there’s no chance of me taking any of it in. If I’m spitting words out onto a document, there’s no chance they’re going to make any coherent sense if my mind is distantly ruminating. Studying distracted, edgy or tired does not achieve anything.

So how do I overcome the inevitable slump that couples with study and an endless to-do list (something I’m sure we’re all too familiar with)? I break it up with things that make me happy. It’s cliché– arguably a romanticised and pathetically positive view, but it works. For me, that means a jog, a coffee, a breakfast out by the beach, or a quick catch up with a friend. These are my jump-leads– they get me on track with what needs to be done, and at the very least, make me feel like I have my life somewhat together.

When I have a mammoth task on my hands, I never tackle it from my desk, or even the kitchen table– I take it outside. Some of my most focused work has come from some of the most whacky locations– I did my best year 12 history essay on the flight from Sydney to Perth, studied for my WACE psychology exam from Cottesloe beach, and smashed out my most recent law school assessment from the bar stools of a hipster cafe on the Swan river. These environments are refreshing– I find that switching up my study environment is the easiest way to regroup and refocus.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to finding a place you’re happy to study in– because when you’re happy, focusing is remarkably simple. So why not give a change of routine a try? Have that mid-morning meeting while strolling along the quay, go for that quick kilometre jog before hitting the books tonight, or scratch out your afternoon, grab a friend and go for a coffee– give yourself a break, refocus and regroup.

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