There is nothing special about my setup; it just works well enough for me.
It props up the screen, making it parallel to my eye-level so that I don’t have to look down at my laptop, which avoids any potential neck strain. I never considered such stand until I saw someone in the library using it. It was a simple tool yet does make a big difference.
Logitech M330 Silent Plus. Silent. Wireless. Good enough. Don’t be that annoying person using the most clickety-click mouse in the public.
Logitech K380 keyboard. Again, silent and wireless. The typing experience is never comparable to any mechanical keyboard, but it’s quiet enough to be used in the public.
Dell Inspiron 5770. I bought the refurbished version which works perfectly. 17” 1080p screen, i7 8550u, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD. The best “feature” for me is that it draws only 65W power, which is low enough to be charged with a portable power bank since most support only up to 65W. It’s absolutely essential when I’m not near an outlet.
Tips for Long Periods of Concentration
As mentioned in My Biggest Productivity Hack, the set (equipment setup) and setting (environment) of your work/study environment is important. For extra silence, consider getting a pair of earplugs or ear muffs. I have this ear muff. If I want maximum silence, I use a pair of earplugs inside the ear muffs. In this case I won’t hear anything. In most cases however, the library is quiet enough so I don’t such drastic measures.
My Take on Listening to Music While Studying
My take is similar to this article Silence Is Golden? White Noise, Coffee Shops, and the Learning Boost of Habituation:
One perk of working in a coffee shop is the natural ambient noise. I love that murmur of background noise when I study. When I’m at home, I like to use a Chrome plugin called Noisli to simulate the gentle sounds of coffee date conversations, clinks of cups on saucers, and people sitting and scooting. My secret ingredient is overlaying a little rain sound on top of the coffee shop. It makes me feel so cozy and comfortable.
The idea is that your brain becomes accustomed to the white noise in the background. The attenuation of constant stimuli is a process called habituation. Habituation happens with all our senses.
I just listen to the same playlist: background noise with inaudible conversations, just the sound you’d expect in a cafe. I mostly do this to drown out the external distractions: people walking by or any random environment noise.
Why I Don’t Study at a Cafe
Caveat: This is purely personal; your mileage may vary.
I tried studying at a cafe: I didn’t get much done and didn’t like the environment. It boils down to two factors: distracting visual and auditory environments.
1. Distracting Visual Environment
This is the direct opposite of being at an individual study area like this (source):
At a cafe, there are a lot of visual stimuli: people walking and talking. It’s even more pronounced if you’re facing the barista or busy street.
2. Distracting Auditory Environment
I’m very susceptible to noise. The squeaking sound of chairs in the cafe is enough to throw me off of the flow state. Then the biggest culprit is people chatting. I can’t tune out people’s conversations. For one thing they are sitting next to me. I don’t mean to eavesdrop but I always unintentionally listen to their conversations: suddenly I realize someone is traveling next week or someone’s dog is going to the vet. I may be able to immediately re-focus, but this has already distracted me and my chains of thoughts are broken. I tried putting on earplugs on top of ear muffs, but it’s really uncomfortable. Second I can still pick up some noise. My biggest remedy is earplugs with headphones on. But why go through all the trouble when I can just go to the library?
I hope this article has inspired you to optimize your work/study environment. Most noticeably, if you do work on a laptop, consider getting a laptop stand.