Whether you study the recommended 90 minutes per credit hour or tend to plow through your homework right before class, you will have no doubt spent a significant amount of time at your favorite work spot by the end of your college career. Below are several tips for optimizing that space for maximum productivity.

Tidy up


If you wanted your car, room or closet to look and function better, the first thing you would do is clean it up. You can apply the same logic to your desk and study area by getting rid of clutter to create a more aesthetically pleasing place to work.

Unclutterer suggests cleaning desks, closets and backpacks by taking everything out, putting the items in a box nearby and adding things back into your workspace as you need them. When you reintroduce something, think about how much and for what purpose you use it, then place it accordingly. If you find yourself reaching for the stapler several times a day, you might place it on your desk right next to the printer. If you use it only occasionally, tuck it away in a drawer to ease clutter.

Efficient workflow


One of the biggest problems with a chronically unorganized desk is that items tend to get lost. Optimizing your workflow can increase your efficiency by creating a space that allows work to move along in an organized manner.

What’s Best Next offers an 8-part series on optimizing your desk functionality, centered around a left-to-right flow of work happening on the desktop. The left side of the desk is for incoming work. For a student, this might be an inbox tray of notes and reading material that needs to be studied. The center of the desk is a good place for your computer, and is also where your work gets done. The right side of the desk is like a giant outbox, and includes piles of completed work waiting to be taken to class or otherwise taken away from the work area.

Hang your essentials


Many standard-issue dorm desks are on the small side and don’t have drawers. To conserve workspace and organize often used items (such as headphones, reference sheets, charging cords, clipboards, etc.), use Command hooks and binder clips to keep them in reach. You can even use Command hooks to make a wall mount for your tablet or smartphone.

One way to do this is to use a dollar store shower organizer (the kind that goes over the nozzle). Replace shampoo and conditioner with a pencil cup and stapler, hang headphones instead of a loofah, and mount the entire thing next to your workspace.

Caddy your supplies


If you prefer to study on your bed or in friends’ rooms, you can use a shower caddy to create a portable version of the organizer above. It’s more open than your backpack and can be easily hidden away under your bed or in a closet when not in use.

Add a white board


White boards are extremely useful for planning, outlining, writing notes, and studying. Small whiteboards cost only a dollar or two, but a larger surface tends to be more pricey.

One solution is to purchase a shower board at Lowe’s or Home Depot. You can buy an 8’x4’ panel for under $15, and it can be cut into smaller boards in the store. If you know the dimensions of your desk, get a piece cut to fit its surface, turning your desktop into a handy notepad that can be cleaned and reused.

Organize your drawers


Whether you use cereal boxes, Legos or store-bought organizers, cleaning up your drawers can have a major effect on your productivity and the aesthetics of your workspace.

Try using old candy tins to store small supplies like binder clips, paper clips, and thumbtacks. If the tins are uniform, you can line them up along the side or front of a drawer instead of having various small boxes cluttering up your space.

If you have clear plastic drawers and don’t like how they look, use paper to give them a more tidy appearance. LW Designs has a tutorial for a semipermanent solution (using scrapbook paper and Mod Podge), but if you want something quicker, just cut old essays to fit the front of your drawers and slide them in.

Filing cabinets


Filing cabinets can be purchased at office supply surplus stores and thrift stores and make a versatile addition to any study space. They often lock, which makes them a great place to keep your electronics when you leave for the weekend. Additionally, their magnetic sides act like a second fridge for hanging important items.