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How do I recognize and reduce distractions?
To improve the effectiveness of the time you put into studying, work at recognizing and getting rid of distractions.
- External distractions are the things around you that can affect your ability to focus on studying:
- study location
- your laptop
- Internal distractions include your ability to control distracting thoughts and motivate yourself to work.
External Distractions Strategy #1: Manage Your Phone/Laptop
The #1 distraction for most students is probably their phone or laptop. Resistance is not futile – try some of these ideas:
- Use an app to block or limit the time you can spend on specific websites. There are many available apps; search under "procrastination blockers."
- For texting, see the section on “People.”
- Turn off all notifications on your phone.
- Create a "sticky note" that opens every time you turn on your laptop to remind you to study.
- Set a timer to remind you when it's time to get back to studying.
External Distractions Strategy #2: Manage People
- Let your friends and family know if you’ve got a busy day or week. Ask for their help in keeping to your study plan.
- Put a “Studying: Do Not Disturb” sign on your bedroom door and ask your roommates or family to respect it–
- Stay on campus and work in the Library or some other academic building where your friends don’t congregate.
- Set aside specific times each day to check and respond to texts. Let your friends and family know you’ll respond only during these times.
External Distractions Strategy #3: Manage Your Study Space
If you're having difficulties getting work done in your usual study spot, try a new one:
- Lounges or study areas in other buildings
- Public library
- Café off campus
- If you study in your bedroom:
- Study at a desk with a comfortable but firm chair
- Remove visual distractions from your desk
- Never study on your bed – it’s an invitation for naptime.
External Distractions Strategy #4: Manage Noise
- In almost any location there's the possibility of too much or not enough noise
- If you’re bothered by sounds you can't control, listen to soft, soothing music to provide a calming background to drown out unwelcome noise
- Listening to Mozart, with its complex patterns, can foster higher cognitive functions, according to research done at Stanford
- Invest in noise cancelling headphones rather than using ear buds. You can also use them without music to control noise
- For those who can't work in silence, listening to music can help with locations that are too quiet
- If you require complete silence to work effectively, consider well‐made, heavy-duty earplugs (check at the pharmacy)
Internal Distractions Strategy #5: Manage Your Physical and Mental Health
- Irregular sleep, exercise and eating patterns can be the unsuspected cause of concentration difficulties. Finding a regimen that works for you and sticking to it can help to maintain your brain at its physiological peak.
- Knowing how medications might affect your concentration is also important. Visit Student Wellness if you have a concern about this.
- If you’re experiencing a mental health issue that is impacting your academic work, the University has a wide range of services to help. The Mental Well-being website is a good place to start, or check out the list of Mental Health Resources from Counselling Services.
Internal Distractions Strategy #6: Manage Self Talk
- Many people are not aware that, as they perform tasks, including studying, they talk silently to themselves.
- Overly critical self talk can have a negative effect on concentration or may contribute to writer’s block.
- With some coaching, you can learn to manage a lot of this distracting internal chatter.
- For more information on the services available, contact Counselling Services.
Internal Distractions Strategy #7: Manage Your Motivation
- Sometimes difficulties with concentration come from uneasiness about a course, a major, or just being at university.
- Your Program Counsellor can provide valuable guidance in course and program selection.
- Co-operative Education and Career Services help you clarify your work and career goals.
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