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Three ways for students to deal with distractions
  • Calendar May 09, 2019
  • User Jared Wells
  • Category In Uncategorized
  • Comments 0 Comments

How many times has your son or daughter gone into their room with the intention to study, spent hours there, and come out having little to show for it? Does this back and forth sound familiar?

“What were you doing in there for 2 hours?”

“I was studying!”

“It doesn’t look like it. It doesn’t take 2 hours to get this little work done!”

Surely your son or daughter must have been spending the time playing Fortnight or chatting with friends, right?

That might be true, but what might also be true is that, what happened in the room, in the student’s mind, was studying. Oh, there might have been a couple distractions here and there (don’t you deserve a couple breaks among two hours of work?) but the student was focussed! This may be the sincerely held belief of your son or daughter.

The truth: The student likely spent much more time than they think on distractions, and the time that was not spent on directly on distractions was much less focussed than it could have been as a result of the distractions.

The result: an unproductive study session and a student who insists they were working hard the whole time and feels frustrated with how little they got done.

The solution: The student needs to
-understand how devastating “small” distractions can be to focus
-know how to recognize and be conscious of when they are off-task
-learn strategies for getting back on task
-experience a truly focussed study session and see what can be accomplished when focussed.

Small distractions have a big impact.

According to psychologist Gloria Mark , it can take up to 25 minutes to reach a flow state (a state of mind of high focus and engagement), and that distractions as small as 30 seconds long can reset that timer. Which means that “checking insta real quick” might mean 30 minutes of unfocussed, less productive work. Understanding this might help students to realize the importance of pre-emptively avoiding distractions by doing things like

-turn phone off (or on DND mode) and putting it out of sight

-working in a quiet place where they won’t be bothered

-putting anything that the student does not currently need out of sight (including materials for other classes and assignments

-turning off computer if the computer is not needed, and if it is, closing all browser windows not related to the task.

But despite the best pre-emptive efforts, distraction will inevitably pop op. Here are three ways to nip distractions in the bud!

Have a notepad nearby for writing down distracting thoughts.

Every notice that when you sit down to do a task you aren’t thrilled about is when you remember all the other things you need to look up or do? Those distracting thoughts can feel like flies buzzing around your head. As you try to work, they keep buzzing, trying to get your attention. And maybe some of these thoughts/ideas ARE important!

Have a notepad out as you work where, when you have distracting thoughts, you can write them down. That way, your mind doesn’t need to work at trying to remember these things. It can trust that once the task at hand is completed, the necessary information is written down and can be accessed later instead of “I have to look it up now or I’ll forget!”

Create visual/audio cues to prime you for the task and remind you when you are off task

Training yourself to recognize cues that put you in the mindset that “it’s time to work” can help stay on task, and help you notice when you aren't.

Here are some ideas

-A sand timer for the amount of time you are committing to focus (or an app like Forest that can play that same role and occupy your phone...bonus!)

-An egg timer ticking softy (as long as it is not itself distracting)

-Working in a place that is devoted SOLELY to homework

-A ritual at the start of a study/work session, like clearing off your desk, sharpening pencils, turning off phone and putting it in a specific location, etc. Doing something the same way every time you start a study session will train your brain to be ready for a study session after the ritual is complete.

-A ritual every time you realize you’ve gotten off task (when I realize I’m distracted, I do 10 squats!)

Have an accountability partner

It’s much easier to break commitments to yourself than it is to break commitments to other people. So get another person to commit too! Here are some ideas:

-A study group (of people who are actually serious about studying

-A teacher’s office hours (often times student will come in to study there)

-A sibling that you can help/can help you with homework

-A parent. Parents have paperwork, reading, planning, and other things they need to do. Work together, as long as it is in a quiet, distraction-free area!

If the student is looking for the support in staying on task, working in a place that a parent can very easily see that the student is or is not on task can help. A parent can also check in on the student periodically to make sure the student is on task.

Helping your son or daughter experience what is possible in a truly focussed study/work session can give them more confidence and help them see the power of removing distractions.

How do you or your son or daughter deal with distractions while working? Let me know in the comments!

Another great way for your son or daughter to get distraction-free work done is to schedule a session with one of our instructors. Give us a call at 858.551.2650 to schedule a session today!

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