Finding Your Study Spot

by Holly Brause and Sonny Hakuani, CAPS Learning Strategists

We all have a favorite place to study, but sometimes it either isn’t available or we might just be feeling like something new. This blog post suggests some of our favorite places to study and includes some helpful tips about how best to study in each of them!


There are many benefits to studying from home. You can roll out of bed, keep your PJs on, not brush your hair, have easy access to the refrigerator, etc. Plus, many of us live far from campus or don’t like to work in public spaces. But working from home has its own set of challenges. Many students find that they get too distracted trying to work at home. This can be because of interruptions from family, kids, roommates or pets.

But, even if you live alone, some people find that there are too many easy distractions in their living environment: you start noticing that floor really needs to be swept, get up to start that load of laundry that has been on your mind, or you decide to take a little break and watch a TV show and get sucked into an all-day marathon.

If you know from experience that you really don’t focus well working from home, it’s okay! You can seek out other places that help your focus and productivity, but a few suggestions might help if you want to study more efficiently from home:

1. Designate a study area – If you have the room, try to make yourself an area that you use just for studying by converting a small room into an office, or by using some kind of barrier to separate your sleeping area from your working space. This can help you to mentally prepare to study by physically entering a separate space.

2. Set a schedule for yourself – Decide on a length of time that works for you, like an hour or two hours depending on your ability to concentrate, and decide to do nothing but study during that time. I keep myself from getting up to do other things by just keeping a little to do list on my desk. If I feel tempted to get up and water my plants because I remember it needs to be done, I just jot it down on my list of things to do after my study hour is up.

3. Tell your family or roommates your schedule – Ask them to avoid interrupting you (except in case of emergency) until your study time ends and post that time on your door. Clearly communicating when you need uninterrupted study time, and especially when you will again be available, encourages your roommates to save that hilarious meme they wanted to show you for another half an hour, and lets you work in peace.

Coffee Shops

As an introvert and someone who is easily distracted, I find it very difficult to work in public spaces like coffee shops, but many of my friends love it. Being away from all of their distractions at home but not being in a stuffy library really helps them concentrate on their studies. Plus, easy access to copious amounts of caffeine! But even more than the caffeine, many of my more extroverted friends say that they can feed of the productive energy of other strangers also reading, writing, of studying quietly (or not so quietly) around them. One of my friends even loves working in airports will all of that human energy buzzing around her. If this kind of environment suits your study needs, great! Start exploring your local coffee shops and stake out your favorite corner somewhere.

My advice for this kind of study setting is simple: coffee shops are mixed social and study areas, so bring a set of headphones! Even those who love to study around others can get derailed when someone sits right by them with their BFF they haven’t seen in AGES and need to loudly recount every intimate detail of their life. Be prepared armed against such intrusions with your favorite study music!

UNM Library Group Study Rooms

Did you know that you can reserve group study rooms at four of the libraries at UNM? Zimmerman, Centennial, Parish, and the Fine Arts Libraries all offer group study rooms that can be reserved online here.

There is also information on the website that shows which ones have flat panel screens, DVD/VHS players, projectors and more so that you kind easily find one that suits your group’s needs. I personally prefer the Fine Arts rooms because their huge windows face the Sandia Mountains, and you can gaze out jealously at everyone playing in the sun on Johnson Field. When you reserve a room online, you can see how many people each room can accommodate and select one appropriate for your group size. Each reservation can only be made for up to two hours, so if you know your group will need more time, work with another member of your group to reserve the same room starting right after yours expires.

A tip for studying in the group rooms: Studying with your peers and friends can be great for so many reasons, but there is a risk of it turning into just social time. To keep yourself and your group on track, try to structure your time between social and study. For example, communicate with your group that the first half an hour you will share snacks and catch up, and then dive into work for the remaining hour and a half – and stick to it! Or, use the Pomodoro App and divide your study session into 25 minute quiet study time, punctuated by 5 minute breaks for chatting. Whatever strategy you develop, make sure you communicate with your group and hold each other accountable for doing the work! That is the beauty of group study!

The SUB Balcony

This study spot is perfect for people who prefer some ambient people, but still at a distance. It is located on the third floor of the sub and can be accessed from the east wall glass doors that are between the conference rooms. Some things to consider:

1. It’s outside so it’s subject to weather!

2. It’s kind of a pocket-like area and it catches the wind even if it’s just lightly breezy

3. You can hear everything that’s happening outside the east side of the sub. It’s faint most of the time but if there’s an event and you like it to be quiet, it might not be the best spot at the time.

4. If you don’t mind a little breeze, make sure you have some paper weights or your thesis could become a paper airplane.

Hidden Spots Outside of Zimmerman Library

Looking for a spot outside so you can write your paper in the weather that is finally getting warm? Well, outside of Zimmerman Library, on both the north and the south sides, there are two wonderful spaces that are perfect if you’re looking to study with some fresh air. The location on the south side of the library is a relatively isolated area with benches circled around a small fountain. The spot on the north side, which is just outside the north exit to the left, has nice shade trees and does a good job of blocking the wind if there is any.

Things to consider:

1. The spot on the south side has no tables, just benches. The wifi is as solid as Lobo wifi can be on any given day but there are no plugs if you are running low on battery power.

2. The spot on the north has wood tables and the area itself is slightly fenced off so if you would like to study with a little more peace and quiet than say, the duck pond, this could be the place for you.

And of course…

Study at CAPS!

Regardless of what your major is or whether or not you need help right away, CAPS is one of the best places to study on campus because there are so many resources available to you all in one place. Whether you need help with time management, chemistry, or figuring out how to make a study plan for an upcoming exam, you’re never more than a few feet away from a CAPS peer tutor. Located on the third floor of Zimmerman, you can get some exercise on your way up the stairs and have a productive study session all in one go.

Tips for studying at the CAPS Drop-In Lab:

1. It can be a busy location so bring headphones if you need to listen to music and focus.

2. If you would like a little more quiet, on the same floor, there are desks that line the walls around the book stacks and you can study there until you want to work with someone in person over in the drop-in lab.

3. If you don’t like to walk around with a heavy laptop but still need one for your homework, you can check one out with a resource representative or use one of the computers set up for students.

These are just a few of our favorite places to study that many students not always think about when they need to be productive finish an assignment. Want to help us build the list? Share your favorite study spot!

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