Every college student knows how difficult it can be to sit down and study. Your friends want to hang out. There’s a party going on. You’re tired. Your roommates are loud. Or sometimes you just want to watch your favorite TV show. You know you should study, but distractions can prevent you from doing so effectively, and so you tell yourself you’ll do it later.
How can you beat this cycle? You have to know what you’re up against. With that in mind, to help you identify and know how to respond to the typical issues that make studying a challenge, here’s a breakdown of common distractions. If you’re like many students, these are the things that keep you from hitting the books.
- Noise. Ever tried studying in your dorm room while your roommate was laughing on the phone? While some people can tune out noise without much trouble, others have a hard time focusing in an area with loud voices, music or other commotion.
To overcome this distraction, find a quiet place. It could be the library, an empty dorm room, a peaceful café, or another spot on campus during off hours. Whatever the case, eliminate noise to help yourself stay focused.
- Entertainment. If you’re studying in the same place where you watch TV, play video games, flip through magazines or keep your Blu-ray player, you’re setting yourself up for distraction. The minute your worksheet starts to feel difficult or you’re bored working on an assignment, your eyes will notice the all-too-tempting entertainment at your fingertips. Likewise, when a space — your dorm room, the rec hall, the living room or an entertainment room — typically is used for relaxing, it can be difficult to shift your focus to work.
To overcome this distraction, remove yourself from the temptations. Find a place where there are no entertainment options nearby. When movies and TV aren’t available, it’s a lot easier to resist them.
- Relationships. It doesn’t matter if it’s your chatty roommate or your longtime best friend, when people are around as you’re working, it can be tough to ignore them. Your significant other might want your attention. Your friend might want to goof around rather than study for a test. Before you know it, instead of going over test prep, you’re laughing about a good story or the latest embarrassing moment suffered by one of your friends.
To overcome this distraction, study alone — or with studious friends. Tell everyone else you’ll hang out later, when your work is done.
- Surfing Online. You know how it goes: You go online to do research for an article, and you figure you’ll just check Facebook for a quick second. A half-hour goes by before you realize you haven’t completed a single academic task.
To overcome this distraction, unplug from anything not related to school. If you can work without Internet access, turn off Wi-Fi. Open up a Word document in “focus” mode. When you’ve finished your schoolwork, the online world will be waiting for you.
- Text Messages. Whether it’s your mom checking in, or your buddy inviting you to hang out later, text messages can disrupt your study zone in a heartbeat. Even worse is when you’re getting multiple messages, one right after another, producing a constant dinging or buzzing while you work.
To overcome this distraction, check out of texting for a period of time. Get your books out, put your phone in airplane mode, and enjoy being a little less reachable for an hour or two. When you’re done, you can simply check back in and catch up with what you’ve missed.
If all else fails, make studying a game. Set a timer for specific time increments — 15 or 20 minutes — and force yourself to do nothing but study until the timer dings. When you finish a chunk of work, give yourself a reward, whether that’s a look at Facebook or a snack from a vending machine. Whatever you have to do to get yourself motivated, it’s worth the extra thought and trouble.