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“Nationals October 2019

A Guide for Students on How Not to Fall Prey to Distraction

| May 13, 2021, 08:00 AM

Every student has been there. You tell yourself, “I should really do my homework now”. But then you end up scrolling your Instagram feed or watching a YouTube video, even though you meant to study.

These distractions are counterproductive, no matter how long they last. The human mind isn’t designed to multitask. So, it’ll take you several more minutes to get back on track with studying even after you glance at your notifications for a second.

The good news is, you’re not alone in this. Getting distracted is an issue as old as the world, especially among students.

The even better news is, that also means there are plenty of tips and tricks on how to remain focused while studying. Here are 8 time-tested ones that have been helping students excel at their study sessions for years.

Understand What Your Distractions Are

You’ll need to develop new habits to counter old ones, and that requires preparation. Identify those bad habits – and external distractions that you have no control over – first.

The best way to do this is by having your study session as usual, except for one thing. Be mindful whether or not you’re concentrated on the task at hand. When you get distracted, write it down in a notebook or a text document.

Bonus tip: Use RescueTime or another tracker to see which websites draw you in and how much time you spend there.

After several such sessions, you should have a detailed list of all major and minor distractions. Chances are, at least a couple of these will find their way there:

  • checking email;
  • texting and calling;
  • browsing the web, including social media;
  • socializing (with a roommate, a family member, etc.).

Rewards During Breaks

You know that you need to take breaks while you study, right? So, why not combine the breaks with a bit of controlled procrastination as a reward?

In a nutshell, here’s how you can organize this process:

  1. Set a small goal for yourself, like finishing the chapter or writing an outline for an essay.
  2. If you find yourself about to get distracted, remind yourself: “I’ll have time for it after I finish this”.
  3. Once you achieve your mini-goal, set a timer for the duration of the break and enjoy your social media feed (or something else)!

Install Impulse Blockers

The internet – the tool you’re supposed to use for research – is also full of distractions. But you can’t just unplug your laptop, right?

This is where impulse blockers come in. These are either browser extensions or full-fledged apps that will deny you access to the websites you list. Here are the three most popular ones:

  • Cold Turkey;
  • Anti-Social;
  • Forest.

Put Your Phone Away

If your eyes drift to your smartphone too often, put it somewhere you won’t see it. Not in your pocket, though – you’ll want to place it somewhere harder to reach, like inside of your backpack. It could even be another room if you think it’ll do the trick.

Bonus tip: To make sure you won’t be tempted by notifications, turn on the silent or “Do Not Disturb” mode. 

Find Your Perfect Study Space

Location, location, location. It’s everything. 

First, if you have a dedicated study space, once you move there, it’s a clear signal to your brain that it’s time to get focused. It’s a conditional reflex.

Second, by choosing the location wisely, you can eliminate – or at least reduce – the possibility of distractions.

For example, if you know that you might get distracted by someone trying to chat with you at your place, go out. Find a café if you don’t mind the noise, or opt for the library in case silence is your cup of tea.

Put Up a “Do Not Disturb” Sign

If you often have your attention drawn away because someone goes into your room, a handmade sign will tell them to come back later. It’s a good idea to warn potential “intruders” about the sign and explain why you found it necessary.

In case it’s your roommate who disturbs you, you can just tell them in advance that you’re going to be unavailable for this amount of time. (It’s not like you can build a wall within a room you share.) 

Tighten Up Deadlines

Ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? It states that if you allocate more time for a task than needed, you’ll find ways to stretch that work for longer and fill the time with procrastinating.

You’ve probably experienced it already. Think about it: when you know you have plenty of time to finish that essay, you take more time to do it than in the case when you have a pressing deadline.

What’s the solution? Setting shorter time frames for your tasks. It’s tricky, of course: you don’t want to subject yourself to unnecessary stress with a deadline too tight. But practice makes perfect. 

Deal with Nagging Thoughts

Sometimes, the biggest distraction isn’t an external one. Sometimes, it’s the thoughts that keep nagging you that draw your attention away. 

They could be about some issues and worries in your daily life, random thoughts like “I’ve run out of pasta”, or just plain daydreaming.

Here are three ways to deal with distracting thoughts:

  • Take several deep breaths. If these thoughts aren’t useful in any way, do this short breathing exercise to clear your mind. Focus on your breathing.
  • Write it down. If you remember you need to buy milk, for example, writing it down will get it out of your mind. You won’t have to proactively try not to forget it.

Dedicate a break to these thoughts. If the first two solutions don’t help out, take a break to think about whatever is nagging you. Set a timer for the break. Once it runs out, imagine closing that door for now and resume studying.

Category: NEWS

About the Author - Stephanie Maris

Stefanie is a local blogger and social media content marketer from Maryland and most recently a wife and a mother. She has an unhealthy obsession with puns, sarcasm and caffeinated beverages.

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