Whether you're a freshman noob, a gray-haired grad student, or even a long-term member of the professional elite, you most likely have trouble focusing on your tasks at times. Modern tech is lovely, but it's also a nonstop parade of distractions that can tear down the resolve of the strongest wills. Here are some tricks to help you overcome electronic distractions as you study or work.
- Wear headphones. This is especially true if you have to work around other people, but even if you're on your own, this helps you focus (as long as you have the right music playing, of course). Not only are people less likely to bug you with trivia, you should find that your sense of space narrows to a small shell around you and keeps your attention focused on whatever is right in front of you. Even white noise can help if music is in itself a distraction for you!
- Turn off anything you don't need. Be ruthless! Unless you have a family member at the hospital or someone who needs a ride from the airport, you can turn off your phone. Same goes for e-mail, instant-messaging apps, Facebook, and anything else that might ping you. Even if you ignore it, the signals are shaking up your attention. If you can turn off your Net connection entirely (for studying or some writing tasks, for example), so much the better.
- Monitor your time-wasters.RescueTime is a great, free service that will keep track of the sites and apps you use over time, then tell you about it in excruciating, possibly embarrassing detail. (Don't worry, your information is all kept strictly confidential.) This can be enlightening, as you might not realize how much or how little time you spent on any given distraction. Some may be harmless!
- Block distracting sites. If you need the Net for research or communication with study buddies, you can still keep yourself from wandering over to Reddit or that one Tumblr with pictures of animals wearing socks. LeechBlock is a Firefox add-on that lets you set up sites to block and times to block them. StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that does much the same thing. You may feel weird spending time setting it up, but you are almost certain to save time in the long run.
- Use multiple machines or desktops. Not all of us can afford multiple computers, but if you have some extra cash, buying an inexpensive computer (maybe running Ubuntu Linux for extra savings) that is dedicated to work can pay off. Load it only with the apps you need to get your work done, then take it somewhere nice and quiet for work. A cheaper, but less effective, trick is to use multiple desktops. Macs have Mission Control built in, and Windows users can use the free Dexpot app to run multiple desktops.
- Use multiple accounts. Another great, cheap trick is to log out of your computer, then log back in as a guest. You won't have nearly as many distracting bells and whistles, and it's so easy that pretty much anyone can do it. Of course, you'll need to keep yourself from just logging back in every few minutes, but inertia is the best friend of willpower.
- Set up a reward system. This is somewhat advanced and requires extra willpower, but is also completely tech-independent. Set up a system that lets you goof off (or plow through e-mail, or tag your music files, or whatever) for 10 minutes following an hour of uninterrupted work. Of course, you may need to vary the times somewhat to suit your needs, but try not to let your work period fall much under a half-hour or so, especially if you're working on a large, complex project. If you try it and still find yourself checking Twitter every few minutes, this one isn't for you, so scroll back up the list until you find something that works.
Some combination of these should help you channel your inner monk and get that big project done on time. Good luck!
Recently, a SOAR® subscriber asked for tips to help her daughter stay on-task with her homework. Just last night, a student in my Homework Action Group complained of the same problem. “I have a hard time staying focused on homework. It takes me forever to do it!”
I also remember, as a young student, sitting at my desk, wriggling and squirming.Soon, I would need a drink, or snack, or pencil… After getting lost in the kitchen and sucked into a TV show, it would be another hour before I returned to my homework.
It would get so late, I finally had no choice but to do my homework. By that time, I was irritable, annoyed, and impatient. (Don’t laugh, Mom!) That made homework even worse.
Why did I do this?
I didn’t like homework. Obviously. I didn’t know how to do it efficiently. I didn’t have the discipline to do it quickly.
But, I’ve learned a lot since then…
There isn’t much I can do to help anyone “like” homework. I can teach strategies for completing it faster, but that takes 150 pages. So, this article will help you improve your self-discipline.
“Self-Discipline Does NOT Sound Fun!”
Yes, I know… self-discipline sounds dreadful. But, it’s time to change your perspective. Just past the point of resistance is an amazing feeling of accomplishment and a big pay-off.
Self-discipline is what motivates athletes to win championships and wealthy people to earn their riches. One of the world’s most successful marketing campaigns was created on the concept of self-discipline; NIKE inspires athletes to “Just Do It!” Apply that attitude to homework, and great things will happen.
Action Plan for Staying Focused on Homework
“Just do it!” is a little easier said than done, especially when it comes to homework. However, the following tips will help you get started:
- The hours between 3-6 p.m. are typically the most wasted of a student’s day. Make them your most productive by doing homework within one hour after school, when possible. You’re most alert at this time, so homework will be easier than doing it later.
- Find small sections of time for homework before you get home… on the bus, before basketball practice, or even during school. (There is a lot of “down-time” in classes, such as when teachers take attendance.) The less homework you have when you get home, the more motivated you will be to finish the rest quickly.
- Reward yourself. Challenge yourself to do all of your homework before a specific time. Then, you’ll have plenty of time to watch Netflix, play video games, text friends, etc.
- Fill a basket with supplies you need for homework: pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, stapler, paper, scissors, markers, glue, ruler, etc. Keep the basket next to you so everything will be right at your fingertips. One trip across the house for a stapler can cost you hours when you get sidetracked by the refrigerator, TV, or computer. Every sibling should have their own basket. If you live in two homes, keep one basket in each house.
- Eliminate distractions. It’s tempting to watch TV, listen to music, and text friends while doing homework. However, the human brain is only capable of focusing on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your attention constantly shifts back-and-forth. Sometimes that shift happens so rapidly, you don’t even notice it. However, you will be:doubling your homework time, increasing errors, and completely destroying any learning that might happen while doing homework.
- Use an electronic timer. Before you begin an assignment, determine how much time it should take to complete. Add five minutes and set the timer. Challenge yourself to finish before the timer goes off. This is great way to develop motivation (a.k.a. self-discipline) because it becomes a game to play against yourself. For younger students, parents can offer small rewards for each assignment that is done before the timer goes off.
- Parents: Do your “homework” while your child does their homework. You have bills to pay and school papers to complete. Do those chores during “homework time.” It helps them feel like they aren’t “missing out” and keeps them focused.
Homework is usually NOT fun. But, you can make it much easier if you follow Nike’s advice and “Just Do It!” Your evenings will suddenly have more free time.Your grades will improve as you learn information while doing homework.
Before long, you’ll develop a much better attitude towards homework because you will have taken control of it, instead of your homework taking control of you.
To get more simple ways to easily “Just Do It,” check out our dynamic and interactive app for students.
To your success,
Filed Under: StudentsTagged With: homework, students