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student working on a laptop in dorm room
March 13, 2020
3 mins read

Pinpointing and perfecting your productivity zone

We all have different study routines and memorization tricks up our sleeves—but what about the spaces we put ourselves in when it’s ‘grind time’?

A friend of mine gets her work done while surrounded by other chatterboxes, exchanging stories about what happened Friday night or coming up with wild acronyms to memorize course content.

I have another friend I barely see, because, well, he dashes straight to the nearest library after class and hunkers down at a cubicle.

Both these individuals, despite their completely different working styles, are highly accomplished. Everyone has a unique ‘productivity zone’: a space they create for themselves that’s magical for getting things done.

So what’s yours? You’ve already made it through most of the school year—revamping your productivity space can pull you through the rest. Let’s do this!

Exploring the elements

By playing with different elements in your study space, you can create the blueprint for your productivity zone. Before we begin, take out a piece of paper. Jot down your top 3 preferences for each of the following sections:


Perhaps it's the view of a peaceful beach ahead of you, or the sight of 15 other people working just as hard as you. Or perhaps you prefer an aesthetic space decorated with motivational quotes.

When you look up from your laptop, what do you want to see? What kinds of colours, words, and shapes in your peripheral vision give you that extra boost of motivation?


Maybe you enjoy listening to birds chirping in the background, or soft piano music flowing through your headphones. Perhaps you prefer the 'click click click’ of laptops around you...or maybe you thrive on hardcore EDM (that's me, don't judge).

When you are deeply focused on complicated calculus questions, what background noise seems to speed up your ability to think? What sounds (or lack thereof) keep you motivated, or help alleviate stress?


Maybe you feel best when your nostrils are blessed with the aroma of essential oils. Or maybe the smell of your mom’s cooking gives you the motivation to finish the last sentence of your report.

How do scents play a role in the way you work? Which smells help you feel relaxed enough to keep moving forward?


Perhaps you prefer to work on just one thing at a time—or you like to have everything laid out, overlapping one another in a way that makes sense to you. Maybe you prefer having leg room to stretch, or you want everything within arm’s reach so you can grab what you need, when you need it.

How do you envision the layout of your ideal space? Or the layout of your work? How much ‘room’ do you prefer to work with, and what does it look like?


Maybe you love bouncing your ideas off of the people around you. Or perhaps you strongly prefer working solo, or with your favourite study buddy.

How social do you prefer to be while you’re at the peak of productivity? Are you someone who needs to talk through your ideas, or do you work best in your own mind?

Defining your zone

With your top preferences listed on a piece of paper, take a moment to reflect on why you chose these elements. What do you value the most when you want to maximize your productivity?

These values can be different, depending on the type of work you’re doing (for example, doing math problems versus writing a creative essay). That’s okay—you can create an ideal zone for different types of work.

With this defined, go back to your lists, and circle the number one item under each element that matters the most.

The result: the characteristics of your ideal productivity zone.

If it doesn’t look right, tweak it a little bit. Make some adjustments here and there. Or, if you feel inspired, add a few more elements—this is, after all, a creation by you, for you.

Bringing it to life

The last step (and the most fun of them all) is bringing your ‘ideal productivity zone’ to life. Do whatever you need to do—buy some sweet-scented candles, create the perfect Spotify playlist, or call up your best study buddy.

Once you’ve put yourself into this zone, ask yourself: how much were you able to get done? Did it work for you? What blew you away? What could be improved?

There’s no such thing as a ‘correct’ study zone—so if your study buddies don’t have the same preferences as you, try communicating to find a balance.

Being productive shouldn’t feel like a chore—it should be something we look forward to! After all, the work we do should be enjoyable (or, at the very least, not too painful)—and it begins with the zone.

Ready, set, go.