According to James Clear (the best-selling author of “Atomic Habits”), the environment is more important than motivation for changing human behavior towards the positive.
The impact of the environment becomes especially clear when you are trying to study.
Before we proceed, allow me to give you a common example of the negative effect a poorly optimized environment can have on your studying process.
Imagine this – you carefully pick out an online course, make the investment, and get ready to immerse yourself in the curriculum.
But, all of the sudden, procrastination rears its ugly head and you find yourself watching cat videos for 4 hours. What’s even more frustrating, the entire process seems to be involuntary! You sincerely wanted to study something new and useful instead of watching those cats get terrified by cucumbers.
The aforementioned scenario is probably all-too-familiar for anyone who has ever tried to become focused in an environment not optimized for doing mental work.
When you study in the comfort of your own home, a dorm, or any other overly familiar environment, there is a strong tendency to become easily distracted and make excuses for not being productive.
Luckily, there is an easy solution – studying in a public place!
Studying in public may seem like a strange concept at first (more people equals more distractions), but it can be very beneficial for your study progress. The science seems to back this up too – for example, did you know that little background noise has a positive effect on mental focus?
But, which environments, in particular, offer the best atmosphere for some truly focused mental work?
In this article, we will be discussing just that – the best public places for studying. Some of these places will be tried-and-true favorites, while some will take you by surprise. I suggest you try out several of our suggestions to see which one will give you the best results.
Without further ado, these are the 10 best public places for studying:
Public Places for Studying
When you think of public places suitable for some brain gymnastics, chances are that a library is the first place that pops up in your head.
True, studying in a library has a fair share of benefits – you (usually) have access to great WIFI, it is quiet, and you have massive amounts of quality data available at the snap of a finger.
That being said, not any library will automatically be a great place for getting some intense studying done. For one, you need to forget about the cliché of a dark, dusty library filled with cobwebs.
What works in the Harry Potter franchise is not all that great for academic success in the real world.
Instead, what you want is a library that is spacious and, even more importantly, filled with natural light.
Also, be aware of how the interior design of the library affects your mood. These details might seem small, but they can make all the difference in the success or failure of an individual study session.
The benefits of fresh air for the brain are well-documented. Thus, having a study session in a public park is a great idea. Your mental work is supported by calming background sounds, a steady flow of vitamin D, and the beauty of greenery.
Of course, you are also going to have to get lucky with the weather. Studying in NYC’s famed Central Park might be a great idea during the summer months (you even have Wi-Fi!), but an awful idea during most of the average academic term. You will simply not be able to focus well if your mind and body are busy keeping you from freezing.
Still, for those lucky enough to live and study in a warm climate, a public park is one of the best public places for mental work.
School or college lounge
Some students need an academic environment to stay motivated and be in their best mental form. In that case, a school or college lounge would be a great choice.
Student lounges are usually open for long hours, offer reliable internet access, and provide a study-oriented atmosphere.
Speaking of atmosphere – it would be especially useful to study in close vicinity to high academic achievers. Whether you personally know these students or not is irrelevant. The benefits of positive academic peer pressure will be there anyway.
Let’s continue with another crowd favorite.
Many coffee shops have one table taken by a focused student – usually accompanied by a laptop, a pile of books, and a warm cup of latté.
Studying in a coffee shop has several benefits – a mellow atmosphere, availability of comforting warm drinks, and a reliable internet connection.
It is worth emphasizing, though, that not any coffee shop will do. A Starbucks, for example, might be a bit too crowded and noisy at rush hours.
Look for smaller, locally-owned coffee shops. These places provide you with a relaxed, intimate atmosphere so suitable for intense studying.
Plus, the baristas of smaller indie coffee shops probably won’t mind you keeping the table occupied for long hours.
Choosing the beach as a place for doing intense mental work might be slightly controversial. After all, we associate public beaches with leisurely activities like swimming, catching a tan, or playing volleyball.
But, a beach (provided that it is not too crowded) can be a great place for concentrated mental activity.
Just think about a beach for a second – the warm breeze, the sound of waves crashing softly, the vastness of the sea. This kind of atmosphere is very relaxing for the mind. And, as any student will tell you, a relaxed mind is an efficient mind.
Rental or a cabin
Renting an apartment or a cabin for a day or two of intense studying might sound like a bad idea at first. After all, you are going to have to spend some money.
Well, you might be surprised to hear that this is precisely what makes renting a study zone such a great idea.
Allow me to explain with an example not related to studying.
What is the easiest way to motivate yourself to go to a gym regularly? Buy a gym membership! The money you spent makes you forget about your justifications for not going.
You can use the same principle for motivating yourself to study – invest some money in a rental dedicated ONLY for studying. The investments made will make you put your best effort toward your mental work.
Sure, it is a somewhat sinister trick (you essentially scare yourself into studying), but it seems to work on even the laziest of students.
Coworking spaces are seemingly popping up everywhere these days. And, no wonder. A diverse array of people working under a shared roof seems to do wonders for the motivation of everyone in the group.
And, the selection of people found at a coworking space truly is diverse – remote workers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers are just some examples of people that are thriving in shared professional settings.
Coworking spaces are great for learning sessions as well – they offer flexible payment plans, have reliable Wi-Fi, and most importantly, there is the aforementioned community aspect.
Yet another slightly unconventional idea. Due to memories from high school, most of us associate the idea of an after-hours classroom with something negative like detention. But, an empty classroom is actually one of the best places to study.
For most, studying comes easier in an environment designed for mental work. And, a school is the very symbol of mental self-improvement. Naturally, your brain will be hardwired for greater-than-average concentration levels in such an atmosphere.
That being said, you are going to have to use a bit of diplomacy to gain access to a classroom after hours. Not all professors and teachers will be open to the idea right off the bat. But, if your relationships with the teachers are solid, it is very likely that they will let you use the rooms for a good cause such as studying.
Perhaps you need access to a large number of books and some peace and quiet, yet find the atmosphere of a library slightly too rigid. If so, the bookstore can be a great alternative to consider.
The clerks usually gladly let you use the books (provided that you don’t hoard!), and some bookstores even have tables and light refreshments available.
If you want a library environment with slightly more background buzz (scientifically proven to benefit concentration), try studying in your local bookstore.
Physical activity has numerous proven benefits for the brain. That being said, you will not be able to literally combine studying with exercise. Studying in a gym not only looks weird but is also ineffective.
Combining physical activity with studying is still possible – try visiting your local community center and see what opportunities they offer. A lot of community centers have areas dedicated both to physical activity and mental work.
Thus, you can use your study breaks to get some exercise.
At the end of the day, you will feel fulfilled both physically and mentally. A great 2-in-1 in my book.
Hopefully, the aforementioned places provided you with plenty of inspiration to experiment with studying in public.
Keep in mind that not every public place works the same for everyone. Finding the ideal spot takes some experimenting. So, feel free to test several of these spots out which will suit your study topics and preferences the best.