As you can imagine, it is necessary to determine what distracts you to improve the efficiency of your schoolwork. If you find yourself easily distractible, irritable, and/or deeply unhappy while studying, or if other thoughts tend to keep your mind busy and wandering, this article is what you need. You will learn how to be completely aware of the factors that affect your studying negatively, and grasp 6 (or more!) easy yet powerful techniques to prevent them from arising and forge effective study habits. And you may well end up enjoying studying!
In an age where everything is interconnected and technology is very advanced, it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to focus on one thing for long periods of time, yet the current educational and work systems tend to deeply favor people who can achieve such a thing. However, it does not have to be that way. You can actually take advantage of your wandering mind and redirect it in a way that may serve you.
0. No devices
Despite all this, an unquestionable thing remains: smartphones and social media will not help you. And it is up to you to say “no” to them. The good news is, parting from your favorite devices is not as hard as it sounds. Just watch the following steps:
- Put your phone (or tablet, or whichever device you use) in silent mode and turn off the vibrate mode.
- If you cannot be bothered to do so, simply turn off your phone.
- If turning off your phone daunts you, you do not necessarily need to. Just turn on the flight/airplane mode.
- Push your phone away, or ideally, move it to another room. At the very least, flip it around. This will prevent your wandering eyes from stumbling upon a wicked notification on your lock screen.
- You may object that your technological device is a working tool, for example, if you are studying from a computer, or that you still need to be informed in case of emergency. If this is the case, do the following: turn on the “do not disturb” mode and go to your settings to manually select which notifications to silence and which ones to allow.
With this out of the way, let’s continue with our top tips on how to free yourself from distractions and study better.
- Prepare your environment for studying
Making your environment suitable for studying is a no-brainer but often neglected aspect. It is probably one of the easiest parameters you can have an influence over, and the results of having this aspect sorted out may surprise you. We have prepared a checklist for you to begin with:
- Make sure you have a clear desk with at least some level of order. Having a space in your room specifically allocated for studying, as opposed to where you relax and play, can help. You should only keep what is necessary for the time you will be studying, that is your study and writing materials, but also water and snacks in order not to let yourself starve. And again, keep your electronics away.
- Make sure the lighting is sufficient, as this will prevent your eyes from tiring too quickly. A desk lamp can play a useful role, so long as it does not cast a shadow on your desk. If you don’t have one, try to move closer to a window, since daylight is usually ideal for your eyesight.
- Find a quiet spot. This one is obvious, but not always easy to achieve, especially with the recent restraints of the pandemic, where many students found themselves confined with family members in a limited space. There are some factors you will have no control over, but try having at least some degree of influence on the people around you by explaining how they can avoid distracting you in these moments and why it is important. You may also want to seek another studying spot outside with fewer risks. Something as simple as changing scenery can be impactful. Your school library or allocated study room can be a good start, but if school is a place you dread, you can also try finding a seat in a public library or even a coffee shop.
- Study when you are mentally ready for it
To be mentally ready to study, you may begin by thinking about what you are studying for, whether that be advancing in your studies, graduating with a meaningful degree, or just learning new things. This will make the fruit of your work more valuable and rewarding.
Whenever possible, make sure you have enough headspace before starting anything. Being productive after long school hours can be challenging, but you can try to find other moments in your day when you feel more fresh and ready. If evenings are your only opportunities to study, you might want to have a break to unload after your last class, for example, distracting you with something you like or even taking a nap.
Speaking of sleep, having enough sleeping hours is crucial. Only a rested mind can properly absorb information and learn. Working on your sleep habits can have a drastic impact on your efficiency and results.
- Plan out your tasks
If you feel overwhelmed with your load of schoolwork and responsibilities, laying down and scheduling what you have to do can help with relieving your stress. You may not be the kind of person to plan things, but a little planning cannot harm you. Of course, you do not have to plan extensively, because a weekly or monthly schedule can intimidate students and be counterproductive as a result. However, you can do something as simple as jotting down what you want to achieve in one day or even sitting, ideally deciding how much time you need to devote to which lesson. You may also tell yourself that as soon as you go to your desk to study, you will not leave the desk until you complete a task or have sufficient understanding and knowledge of a subject. Breaking the tasks down into smaller chunks is something you should also consider. It will make your assignments less daunting and more rewarding once done.
- Stay hydrated and healthy
Drinking water has an unexpected impact on learning. Its necessity is often dismissed by students. Even if it is a few sips, drinking a little water every 45 minutes contributes to both your health and study efficiency. Your body and brain need it to ensure sufficient oxygen input and function in the best possible way.
Caffeine is frequently used as a performance booster, but be careful not to abuse it. One or two cups of coffee (or tea) per day should be your limit. Otherwise, excess caffeine can cause your brain to wear down quicker later on.
Other important points to remember: eat healthy food, sleep well, do at least one physical activity per week, and…
- Take 5-minute breaks when you feel distracted
You are not a robot, and your brain has limits, so it’s normal for you to be distracted at times. If you catch yourself reading the same sentence 17 times while stressing the words to make them stick, it might be a sign that you need some slack. A 5-minute break can be enough to get some fresh air or change your physical or mental environment. When you return to study after a break, you will often see that you can focus better than before you stopped. The only thing to watch for is the duration of that break. Escaping for too long can cause difficulty transitioning back to your work.
Generally speaking, it is advisable to divide your study plan into smaller sections by working in small intervals with short breaks rather than trying to concentrate for several hours straight.
Additionally, occasionally changing subjects even when you are not completely done can help your brain catch some rest. It may vary from student to student, but focusing on only one thing can be a distraction factor in itself. This is where you might grasp an opportunity to harvest your mind’s tendency to jump from one topic to another. In fact, this study style may well be all you need to study better and faster. At the very least, introducing some variety can prove very effective in reducing boredom and making the whole studying process more enjoyable.
- Evaluate and reward yourself
After doing the things we mentioned above, something rewarding you can do is look back and take notes of what you have studied and done during the day. If you realize that you are missing something, just conclude that you need to repeat that part in your next study session.
Generally speaking, if you see studying as a compulsory task, it makes it feel more unpleasant and strenuous. To prevent this feeling from arising, you can put more emphasis on what you have learned. There might even be things you could share with your surroundings as a way to open new conversations.
Once you have done that, you can move on to rewarding yourself. Nothing feels more satisfying than having a fun or relaxing activity when you have fulfilled your responsibilities.
And most importantly, be lenient with yourself. We tend to judge ourselves much more harshly than we would judge others, and sometimes have unrealistic expectations about what we want to achieve.
To sum up, you have learned 6 (actually 7) simple yet powerful habits to fight distractions while studying. We do not doubt that you have heard of most of them before, but implementing them is the next step.
Feel free to try them out and test how effective they are. At the very least, you will be able to tell us whether it worked. After testing our suggestions, you can share your ideas and tell us which of the ones on this list or outside this list have a positive impact on your studying.