concentration techniques 2
Equipment for Studying
More ink and more words have been wasted extolling the virtues of a straight-backed, hard-seated hickory chair than any other single piece of equipment. I would like to consign this cure-all chair to the same place where now resides that old hickory whacking-stick. Instead, use a comfortable, well-cushioned chair. Keeping awake or falling asleep does not depend on the type of chair; rather, it depends primarily on the method of study, as well as on one’s attitude, selfdiscipline, light, and room temperature. A hard, straight-backed chair can hardly be expected to take the place of these basic requirements.
An extremely practical piece of equipment is a bookstand. I don’t mean a bookshelf or bookends; rather, I mean a stand that is placed on your desk to hold the book in a tilted position with the pages held down so that they do not flip over. It can work for you in many ways: first, and very important, it can give you a feeling of readiness to study-a feeling of being a scholar in the traditional sense. This alone is worth many times the price of a stand. Second, the stand provides physical freedom. It eliminates the strain of continually holding the book open, pressing down on two sides to keep the pages from flipping over, tilting the book to avoid the glare, and trying to find something heavy enough to hold the book open as you free your hands to make notes. It permits you to sit back with arms folded, to contemplate and reflect on the meaning of what you are reading.
Other basic equipment should include an up-to-date dictionary and other reference tools such as books, calculator, clock, and calendar. Some students struggle along without small-but-necessary items like paper clips, cellophane tape, rubber bands, erasers, an ample supply of note cards, and so on. Keep your desk well stocked so that you don’t have to make unplanned emergency trips to obtain small items.
How About Light?
The quality of the light by which you study is of crucial importance. Researchers report that a poor quality of light can cause eyestrain, general tension, dull headaches, and sleepiness. Worst of all, these irritations interfere with concentration. Lighting engineers find that there are three steps in creating a good quality of light.
1. Eliminate glare. Glare may come from the bulbs themselves or from shiny surfaces that reflect the light. So cover the bulb with a good shade, and put a light-colored blotter on your desk. An important way to reduce glare is to use indirect light. Indirect lighting is almost as good as daylight, which is, of course, best. Indirect lighting is light that is bounced down onto a lower reflector which, in turn, directs the light to an upper reflector or ceiling which, in turn, bounces the light down onto your desk. Two researchers found that studying by the light of an unshaded light bulb for three hours can cause an 81 percent loss in clear vision. Glare must be eliminated!
2. Eliminate contrasts between light and dark areas in the room. Contrasts and shadows on your book or paper also tire your eyes. Indirect light on your work area helps, but the best way to eliminate shadows is to have two light sources in the room. Having a floor lamp or a ceiling fixture to supply general light, and a desk lamp to light your study area can do this quite easily.
3. Eliminate flicker. An incandescent light (regular bulb) is a steady and constant light source, but it may flicker because of a loose connection. A fluorescent bulb has a constant flicker (strobism), but by using a double-bulb fixture, the synchronization of the two bulbs eliminates visual flicker. With a single bulb, flicker cannot be eliminated. What kind of desk lamp should you use? Most people like fluorescent lights. I swear by them. Single-tube fluorescent lamps, however, are not adequate. They flicker so badly that I tire within a few minutes; but with two-tube fluorescent lamps, I’ve worked many times for a straight twenty hours without undue tiring effects to the eyes. My fluorescent lamp is a draftsman’s type with extension arms that permit me to position the light exactly where I want it. In this way, I just about eliminate all glare, and at the same time regulate the intensity of the light by bringing it closer or farther away. A good investment! I bought it as a freshman 25 years ago.
A few people prefer incandescent light. If you are one of them, make sure that the bulbs are shaded from your direct view. You can diffuse the light somewhat by using “soft-white” bulbs, but even these should be shaded. Draftsman’s lamps are available that take incandescent bulbs instead of fluorescent. And some companies manufacture study lamps with an intricate arrangement of reflectors and filters, so that even with an incandescent bulb you get a high quality of indirect light. Finally, if you have tried to study under good light, and your eyes still bother you, it would pay to have them examined by an oculist or ophthalmologist. Clear and comfortable vision is essential to good studying.