Have you ever stopped writing a paper to check your email and end up an hour later staring at a blank Word document? Do you use Angry Birds to avoid making angry discussion posts? How about that time you fell down a Facebook hole so deep you thought you’d end up in Wonderland?
Staying focused is hard. Plain and simple. It’s even harder now, living in a world where we carry an awesome distraction around in our pockets all day long. How do we turn off the phone, close all the browsers, and focus on our weekly work? Below are some tips and tricks that work for current Excelsior students. Leave a comment telling us what helps you avoid distractions.
Set up a work space
I don’t know about you, but when my desk is a mess I cannot focus. Before sitting down to study, make sure your area is clear. Gather all the materials you will need for your session before starting work. This will keep you from having to get up every couple of minutes to grab a new book or sharpen your pencil. If you think you will want a snack or drink, stop by the kitchen before you boot up the laptop. Once you have a clean space and everything you need, you will be ready to tackle your work.
Turn off the phone
It sounds like common sense but if you find yourself checking your phone every couple of minutes during a study session, you might just have to turn it off. Trust me, your bestie isn’t going to hate you if you take an hour to respond. If turning the phone off isn’t an option, try to disable the parts of the device that keep you most distracted. If Facebook messages keep pulling you away from your work, shut off the notifications for an hour. If you can’t help but check your fantasy football scores, turn off the browsing access for a bit. This will allow you to be available for emergencies but keep you from losing focus.
Sometimes the need to peruse the web is too high. For those suffering from this overwhelming desire, I suggest working completely offline. Print out readings and questions and take them to a place where there are no screens. One of my students takes all her materials to the library and hand writes her posts all at once to keep herself focused. Another brings his laptop to the park where there is no Wi-Fi so he can write in peace.
“This has to get done…”
When you find yourself getting distracted by all the World Wide Web has to offer, take a second to remind yourself what you are working for. Make a goals list to remind yourself why you are earning your degree in the first place. When you are tempted to stray from your work, take a look at your list and tell yourself, “This has to get done so I can ______” and fill in the blank. Reminding yourself why this seemingly tedious work is important will help you stay on track. Some goals my current students have are “To get a better job,” or “To show my kids anyone can earn a degree.” My own personal mantra was, “I have to get this done so I can finally take a nap!” Whatever your goal is, make sure you remind yourself of it often.