Today it is harder than ever for students to focus during class or in the library. Smartphones and social media have made it almost impossible to avoid distraction. Arguably, multitasking has become the norm.
Research has shown that distractions can be incredibly costly, taking people up to 23 minutes to get back to the task at hand after being distracted. You can see how fast this can add up — and how much time can be lost — when the average person is interrupted every 10 minutes by instant messages, tweets, and Facebook updates.
Here are five ways you can fight the battle against constant distractions and get your school work done in record time.
1. Wake up earlier
Your best opportunity for distraction-free study time is early in the morning, before the buzz of your cell phone and email begins. As Shane Parrish of Farnam Street says, “Not only do we think better in the wee hours of the morning, but because everyone else is still sleeping, we’re able to focus on what we want to do rather than what we have to do.”
2. Minimize or eliminate phone distractions
Maybe the best way to have the biggest impact is to remove Facebook from your phone altogether. Besides that, make sure you are only signed up for social sites that you regularly use. That way you won’t get random notifications from social media platforms you never use. When you’re ready to sit down and work, remember to put your phone on vibrate and turn off your notifications.
3. Use the Pomodoro Technique
A “Pomodoro” is a 25-minute block of time when you are hyper-focused on working on one task, followed by a five-minute break. After completing four Pomodori, thre is a longer break of 15 minutes. If you have an iPhone, the Pomodoro Timer is the best app on the market because it allows you to customize your tasks and track how many you complete each day. If you’re trying not to look at your phone while you study (see above), you can download the Focus Booster app on your computer
4. Lockdown your laptop
Use RescueTime to find where you are wasting time online and use their Focus tool to block distracting sites for certain periods of time. Also, you can buy Anti-Social to block the most distracting sites for a specific amount of time or use the StayFocusd Chrome extension. The creators of Anti-Social also made Freedom, which allows you to block the Internet altogether for up to eight hours.
5. Find more engaging ways to learn
Teachers are now beginning to realize their students are frequently not engaged enough in school, as traditional lectures and textbooks can’t compete with the excitement emanating from phones and social media. As a student, when you get distracted and start procrastinating because you don’t want to read another textbook chapter, look for more fun ways to learn the topic you’re studying. For example, if you’re learning about evolution or photosynthesis, you can sign on to Labster and start a virtual lab that will help you learn the concepts using 3D animation.
If you’re frustrated with how long it takes you to finish your school work, or want to procrastinate less, there are tools out there to help you stay focused and create better habits. And if the culprit is boring course materials, you can find many new and innovative ways to learn if you do just a little bit of searching. Understand that everyone is more distracted these days, so instead of being hard on yourself, use technology to your advantage in creating a study environment that allows you to excel.