Death to distractions

Distraction student study
Chatterbox roommates and Angry Birds are no excuse for not getting anything done. / Colourbox

Twitter, Angry Birds and intramural volleyball, oh my! Distractions have never been so ubiquitous on college campuses.
This college generation is “wired for and thrives on a constant interrupt cycle,” says Caroline L. Arnold, author of “Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently.” But trying to shut down all of the interruptions to eliminate distractions may actually be counterproductive. Instead, students need to learn to manage distractions differently.

Arnold, managing director at a leading investment banking firm, recommends limiting the duration, frequency and type of interruptions by making small changes, instead of overhauling habits completely. Students should examine their own distraction patterns to find the “microresolutions” most likely to have a positive impact on study habits. “A microresolution must be easy, specific and measurable to succeed,” Arnold advises.

For instance, Arnold recommends taking a 10-minute walk every two hours. “The walk will refresh your head with a change of scenery, exerting physical energy,” she says. Plus, walking is meditative and good for problem-solving.
Another option is taking a short break to get your groove on. “Getting up to dance to a couple of numbers every hour is also a great body/brain refresher,” Arnold says.

Another self-imposed behavior includes watching the clock regarding social media. One “like” here, one comment there, the next thing you know an entire hour has vanished. Arnold recommends limiting social media to five minutes per session. “Distracting yourself with social media and/or gaming apps actually could help break study impasses and stimulate new thoughts,” she says. So instead of eliminating social media altogether, Arnold suggests making a pact prior to starting digging into work to determine the length of the break and how many breaks you’ll give yourself each hour. “Commit yourself to living within those limits,” she says. “The limits will actually help you enjoy your breaks more, because they won’t feel furtive and guilty.”

Tips for success

1. Change your study location every hour. New research shows that moving locations — even from the desk to the bed or from the bed to kitchen — helps keep thinking sharp.

2. Stick to your task online when performing research. Getting sidetracked is inevitable — if you let it. “If you are looking up the year the British quit India, carry through your search with single-minded purpose,” Arnold says. Only allow a distraction after that task has been completed.

3. Turn off your smartphone for 15 minutes every hour and see how it affects your productivity.


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