Without knowing how to avoid distractions, some minor interruptions can have major impacts on your attention span. In cases like that, taking a quick break may seem like the best solution. But a 15-minute break can easily turn into 30 minutes, then an hour… and voila! You’ve been spending hours on something completely unproductive – and you’re still not re-energized for your original task. If this happens to you – you’re not alone! But these suggestions will help you avoid distractions and stay focused on your studies.
Your Brain When Distracted
Ever wondered what happens to your brain when you are sidetracked? According to Daphne Leprince-Ringuet, “During those periods of distraction, the brain pauses and scans the environment to see if there is something outside the primary focus of attention that might be more important. If there is not, it re-focuses back to what you were doing.” However, if you do find something in those moments that hold your attention, then you’ll stay focused on that thing instead. If that new object of your attention is simpler or more enjoyable, then your tired brain may choose to lock in on it for a longer time instead of going back to work. This is because you found something your brain deems “more important” than your original task.
For example, when working on a long research paper, you may get stuck thinking of what to write next. So your eyes wander and land on your Nintendo Switch by your pillow. You may tell yourself that you’ll only play for 15 minutes to give your mind a break. But hours later you realize how preoccupied you were and how much time you wasted. Here are some tips for how to avoid distractions and stay focused, especially when you are studying or working on an assignment.
1. Choose the Right Environment
Finding the ideal place to work is a key aspect of maintaining concentration. Maybe you focus best in the comfort of your home, or maybe you work better at a library or cafe. Keep in mind that whether you’re at a private or public location, you can still be easily distracted by your phone or the goings-on around you. So, if possible, turn off your notifications. Sit in a quiet location away from others so you’ll be able to best engage your brain for your studies.
If you’re more comfortable with studying in your own house, then be sure to keep your workspace tidy so it’ll be less likely that you’ll face diversions. Have all the materials you need easily accessible and clear your space of anything that could get in the way. Choosing the right environment when working on a task is an important first step. This is because it helps you avoid the wrong mindset.
2. Get Into The Right Mindset
If you’re overworked or stressed, you are more likely to be easily distracted. To get yourself in the right mindset for studying, you can exercise first to jumpstart your brain. Go for a run, have a gym session, or try some quick Brain Breaks videos. When your body is slightly tired, it can feel less jittery and anxious.
Another thing you can do before you start working is to make sure you fully understand what you need to do and how to do it. Consider the instructions, how long you have before the deadline, how much time it will take to complete it, and what materials you need in order to get it done. Lay out your plan of action in easy-to-follow steps, breaking down large tasks into more manageable parts. And if you are confused or stuck, ask a peer or your teacher for help. Getting your body and mind fully prepared for the task ahead helps you to stay better focused on its completion.
3. Pay Attention to Your Body
Remember to keep your basic needs in mind: food, water, and sleep. Eating healthy snacks can improve your focus. According to snack nation, some good snack foods to try are almonds (for protein and healthy fat), dried fruit (for natural sugar), and dark chocolate (for antioxidants and natural stimulants). Make sure to also drink the recommended amount of water, which is four to six cups a day according to health.harvard.edu. To help you remember to regularly drink water throughout the day, consider using a water tracker app to send you reminders.
Adequate sleep is also important to brain function and memory. According to Kelly Cappello, “Researchers found that the group that napped between learning sessions learned just as easily at 6:00 PM as they did at noon. The group that didn’t nap, however, experienced a significant decrease in learning ability.” That is, lack of sleep has been shown to lead to difficulty with concentration and cognizance. Furthermore, if you sleep less than the recommended 7 hours, you’ll naturally feel more stressed. Which ultimately impacts your capacity to focus.
4. Better Manage Your Time
Another way to avoid distractions is to manage your time wisely. If you take a step back and look at what needs to be done you can better focus on completing those objectives. Luckily, there are tools to help! For instance, you can utilize a daily planner that breaks your day into 15 or 30-minute increments. Use it to schedule all your required tasks, such as homework and reading time limits, as well as fun tasks, like watching your favorite show at 7 pm or taking a 15-minute break outside. Then stick to that schedule, using reminder alarms if needed.
You can also try using a Pomodoro Timer, a customizable timer that can be used on desktop and mobile devices. Based on the Pomodoro technique created by Francesco Cirillo, it breaks down time into 25-minute intervals of work and 5-minute intervals of rest. Doing so helps remind your brain to stay completely focused for the short 25-minute intervals and also makes it clear when the 5-minute break is done. This decreases the chances of you losing track of time during your brain breaks. Being disorganized makes life harder, but using the right tools will help reduce that chaos.
5. Listen to Music
One relaxing way you can avoid distractions is by listening to music. Enjoyable instrumental music without words, like low-fi and binaural beats, adds an element of fun to your study session. Music can help keep you entertained while not giving your eyes something distracting to be drawn to. Furthermore, music can also help reduce the stress that is often associated with working on major tasks.
A study performed by Florida National University found that “Music is a way to process emotions and strengthen their resolve with being overwhelmed. People often turn to the music they can relate to as it helps them deal with stress in this way.” So, if you are feeling easily sidetracked or stressed, pull up a music app and pick out your favorite beat to help engage your mind in the task at hand in an enjoyable way.
6. Work With Others
Working with others can break up the monotony of working alone. You can form a study group with some peers, meeting for a few hours each week to work on challenging tasks together. Quiz each other, share tips on note-taking, and keep each other accountable.
You can also seek the assistance of a tutor who is knowledgeable in the topic and can guide you on the path to success. A high-quality tutor, like those at WorldWise Tutoring, can help you learn personalized techniques to elevate your learning and output. Great tutors can break down complex concepts into more digestible parts, while also empowering you with individualized strategies to use outside of the tutoring sessions. An effective tutor can also teach you strategies to improve your organization, planning, and focus. Learning doesn’t have to be an isolating action – make learning fun by working with others!
Distraction happens to us all. But there are ways to avoid and deal with disruptions to your work. Exercise, schedules, timed breaks, and music are some resources to help you stay on track. If you want to take it a step further, then find a tutor at WorldWise Tutoring to help expand your learning and keep you focused on your goals!
Written by Xavien Timoll