Even if you’re not in the real estate business, you may know the three most important things about real estate: location, location, location.
Some new research shows that similar results could be said about studying, although in a bit of a different way. A recent New York Times Article, Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits, discusses some findings from recent psychology studies that show that your study locations matter, but not how you thought they did.
Common knowledge suggests that the best way to study is set a great environment where you are focused intently on your school work and then get to work. Distractions should be minimized. You should be cloistered away at a clean, organized, well-stocked desk. All of your materials should be present. You should be absolutely consistent with studying at this same time and place.
But science may disagree.
The study shows that students who study material in two different locations retain material better than students who study the same material twice in one location. So, if you’d like to decrease time needed to memorize your Spanish vocab words, try memorizing them once inside and once outside.
Yes, it would appear that it really is that easy. Really. Scientists say so.
Now before you abandon all hope and change everything you’ve done, a couple of clarifications should be helpful here. First, setting a good environment is crucial. Too much distraction will result in an unfocused and therefore unproductive study session. You’ll be spinning your wheels if you are unable to focus. Do not neglect finding the right location to help hone your mental focus.
Second, your mind needs consistency, and recurring habits to improve your focus as well. Maybe you’ve had the experience of waking up slightly before your alarm so that it never actually goes off. Why is that? You have a habit built, and human beings are undeniably creatures of habit. Consistency in your study sessions will help you become a more focused student, which anyone who has taken our online courses will tell you is crucial to academic success. However, don’t think that consistency requires studying in exactly the same place every time. Although I do have a particular place where I study at home, I also have two or three additional places I will visit on a regular basis to study. My experience confirms the New York Times article – studying material in different settings helps retention.
Third, don’t let your mind wander away from you as you change locations. The danger of changing locations too much is that you may lose the “get’r done” attitude that student success requires. Sometimes you just have to buckle down and do work. Changing locations may help your brain create (in the words of the NYT) “more neural scaffolding” for ideas you’re learning; but don’t let a possible benefit from moving study locations draw you away from productivity.
If you have a minute, I’d love to hear where you like to study. Do you have two or three places you find helpful for studying?