A famous 1975 study asked scuba divers to memorize random words while underwater and on land. When the divers were tested on these words, researchers found that the divers were more likely to remember the words they’d learned underwater if they were asked to remember them underwater. Conversely, they were more likely to remember the words they’d learned on land if they were asked to remember them on land.
This study taught generations of students that it’s best to study in the environment where you need to recall the information because your memory gets anchored to that environment. It’s also why if you’re scheduled to speak publicly, it’s crucial to practice on the stage you’ll be performing on.
Unfortunately, we don’t always have access to the testing environment – but we can make sure that the places we do learn and study in are as helpful to us as possible. That’s why this Kwik Tip is to set up your environment.
Clearing off your desk is just the start of what you can do. Don’t have access to the testing environment but know what it looks like? See if you can mimic certain elements of it. You can also decorate your desk with positive messages that are associated to your new learnings – try clean and clear photos or inspirational phrases.
Finally, pay attention to the lighting. Research has shown time and time again that natural light is much better for your body, brain and productivity than fluorescent light. So sit near a window if you can! At the very least, make sure you get some indirect light so you’re learning in the best possible environment.