Assignment: Your Physical Environment

Option 1: Factors Influencing Study Spaces

Many factors impinge upon or promote the effectiveness of a study space. In this activity, you identify and reflect on factors that are part of your regular study environment.


  • Identify factors that impinge upon or promote effective, distraction-free study spaces.
  • Examine how the factors are relevant to your personal study spaces.


  • Mark your preferred answers in the table below.
Your Study Environment
Music: Background music is generally “easy” on the ear and can enhance study productivity, as well as drown out other distractions. Depends on your personal tolerance, though. Headphones negatively impact memory and information retention.
Background noise: Volume of noise and persistence can be major distractions. Try out other environments.
Smells: Any smell, delightful or otherwise, has the potential to pull your attention away from your work. You may want to change your spot.
Lighting: Good lighting is essential. Without good lighting, you may strain or squint, get a headache, or tire. Be aware of the lighting conditions.
Temperature and humidity: If either is too extreme, it can make you uncomfortable and get in the way of effective studying.
Facebook, email, smart phone: Distractions come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. What draws your attention away from the task at hand? Remove all distractions.
Comfort—too much or too little: Too much of a good thing can be counterproductive. Best to study at a desk in a good chair, sitting up straight, rather than in bed, lying down. Be aware of how you feel.
Associations with other activities: Make sure that you associate the environment you’re in with schoolwork, study and concentration. Try new spaces if the associations are not supportive.
The clock: You may wish to set time goals for your studies. But avoid “being a slave” to the clock. Be clear about what you intend to accomplish and how much time you want to devote.
Other people: Depending on who the people are, they can help or distract. Study groups can be very helpful, but housemates all around can be distracting. Know your limits and your weaknesses.
Feng shui: This is the art of placement in your physical environment. Nurture your thoughts, emotions, and senses with good organization of furniture, knickknacks, etc. Avoid feeling cramped. Create a clean, neat workspace.

Does this exercise give you any ideas for ways in which you might change where you study? How might you alter your physical environment to better support your schoolwork? Write a 1-paragraph summary of your conclusions.

Option 2: The Perils of Multitasking


  • Examine the aspects of multitasking that modern society experiences.
  • Take stock of statistics about the perils of multitasking.

The Perils of Multitasking. People who multitask feel like they're accomplishing more, but they're actually cutting down their own productivity. Studies show that only 2% of people can actually multitask effectively. For the remaining 98% of people, multitasking can do more harm than good. Technology is encouraging more and more fruitless multitasking. 89% of people with smartphones use them at work, even though 45% of U.S. workers already believe they have to work on too many things at once. And on average, employees who use a computer for work are distracted once every 10.5 minutes. Studies show that students multitask while they learn, too: 62% of web pages students open on their laptops during class are unrelated to the subject. And on average, they generate 65 new screen windows per lecture. Even when people are relaxing, the urge to multitask takes over. While average Americans watch TV, 42% browse the Internet, 29% talk on their phones, and 26% text or IM. Smartphones make it hard not to multitask. When it comes to checking email or the Internet via smartphone, 67% will do so on a date, 45% will at the movie theater, and 33% will in church. You may feel like you're accomplishing more, but really trying to focus on more than one thing causes a 40% drop in productivity, the equivalent of missing a night of sleep and twice the effect of smoking marijuana. Multitasking lowers IQ. And studies show that while working, being distracted by incoming calls or emails lowers a person's IQ by 10 points. The average desk job employee loses 2.1 hours a day to interruptions or distractions, adding up to 546 hours annually. If you're trying to study, students who do homework while IMing or texting are more likely to report academic impairment. And if you're trying to multitask in the car, using a cell phone, handheld or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as have a blood alcohol content level of 0.8%. Multitasking confuses your brain and slows things down. Concentrating on one task at a time will get the job done much faster. Next time you're tempted to multitask, just say no.


  1. Read the infographic on The Perils of Multi-Tasking.
  2. Take notes on the information highlighted on the infographic.
  3. Write a 1-2 paragraph response to this infographic. What are your current temptations when it comes to multi-tasking? What habits are possible for you to change to concentrate more fully when necessary?

Interested in learning more about this topic? Check out 11 Ways Your Study Environment Affects Productivity (And How You Can Improve It) from Western Governors University.