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Monday, April 21, 2014

7 Terrible Study Distractions

To study effectively, you can't be multitasking. Multitasking is one of the biggest study problems for students today. When you're studying effectively, your brain has to be in a certain state. Whenever you leave that state to do something else, you will struggle to get back into the state required to study effectively. The vast majority of students don't even know how it actually feels to study effectively because they've allowed themselves to get distracted too much.

Here are 7 of the most common study distractions and a few tricks to get rid of them.

1. Music In The Background

Yes. Most people hate to hear this one. Most people wildly disagree with it too. This might sound unpleasant but most of that disagreement comes from the an embeded problem with music playing while you study.

The average student listens to music while they're studying to make studying more enjoyable. I completely understand that sitting down with a textbook can get a little bit boring but the fact that turning music on changes that, proves that you're being distracted from studying.

When you're enjoying listening to a song while trying to study, which activity do you think your brain is going to focus on more; the boring one or the enjoyable one?

If you have music in the background then you're not studying as effectively as you could be. It's a major distraction that must be managed carefully.

At the very least, make sure that the music you listen to isn't a style that you particularly enjoy. Also, make sure it does not have a human voice. Words are always distracting. When it's a style you don't particularly enjoy you won't get caught up as much in your favorite parts. While it's best not to listen to any music, this can be a short term solution.

2. Cell Phones

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“But what if there is an emergency?”

That's the most common response to me when I tell people to shut off their phone while they study. My response is pretty simple. “If it's not still an emergency in 30 minutes then it's not much of an emergency. That is, assuming you're not a doctor, firefighter, or member of a bomb squad.” The point is, do you really have any way you could help much in a real emergency?

99.999% of the time you're not going to have an emergency while you're studying. If you're that cautious about long shots then you probably should never even ride in a car, go to the beach, or eat anything you didn't make yourself.

Too many students text through there study session. When you're studying, you can't let little distractions break your thought patterns. Developing clear patterns while studying is one of the most important and unconscious steps. When you hear that buzz of a new message, even if you don't pick it up in the moment, you've lost your train of thought.

Turn off your phone while you're trying to study. The world can wait 30 minutes.

3. Television

NOO!!!! Really... some students still study with the television on. This is absolutely insane. You're getting auditory distractions. You're getting visual distractions. You're getting kinesthetic distractions (with the remote control.) Every time I think about this I just want to drive off a bridge. NO! You're not studying.

The only exception may be... may be... if you're muting and studying during commercials or something like that. Even with that, you're studying badly. You will not be able to focus as well as you should be. Put down the textbook. Watch the show. Shut off the TV after. Then study with focus.

4. People

Studying around people can be rough.

Many people, no matter how focused you try to act, will still interrupt your studying for some friendly conversation. You've got to try and avoid this. Every time they interrupt you, it costs you serious leverage. By the time a conversation is over you may not even remember where you were.

You need to study in a place where people won't distract you. If you have a roommate that bothers you then you need to talk to them about it. If you make it about you needing to not have distractions instead of them being completely rude then they'll probably react well.

If people are distracting you less obviously by picking their nose or listening to music or something, you should still try to find a way to get away from the distraction. Move to a new location if needed.

5. Your Computer...

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Oh... how computers haunt me... They're one of the most useful and dangerous tools for studying. I can spend thirty seconds and learn facts that would have taken months to find out without the internet. At the same time, I can spend two hours looking at pictures of cats when I meant to be looking up something important.

Computers are one of the biggest distractions around because they could just as easily be used as a tool to help your studying. If you're not careful then you'll end up thinking you were studying when you were really just playing on the computer.

That's why I recommend getting away from your computer to study. While I have had some good results studying with a computer, the risk of distraction ruined all of the advantages. If you don't absolutely need your computer to study then don't study with it.

6. Food

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The kind of student that typically eats while there studying usually claims the same problem everytime. They say, “I don't have the time to eat and study separately.” In most cases, I think they're full of it but assuming it is true then the solution is obvious. Study after you eat. Even if it only gives you five minutes of focused study, it's better than ruining your meal and your studying. Food is essential for survival. It should come first.

Eating is usually just another distraction for studying. While you're salivating over all the delicious food you have to eat, you aren't thinking about the study material. Every few seconds you have to get distracted to take another bite or sip. While it's not the worst distraction in the world, it's still just a distraction.

Find a different time to eat. Eat during class if you have to. Study less if you have to. Studying and eating doesn't work well together.

7. Your Brain

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The worst distraction you have during studying can't be controlled, it can only be tamed. While you're studying, you need to actively change what you're thinking about. It can be difficult but you need to learn how to stop your brain whenever it gets off track. I'm sure you've had that problem at least once in your life.

One second you're studying diligently, suddenly, a sentence reminds you of a personal problem you've been having. Then you spend the next five minutes thinking about it. Your brain has officially ruined your study time. You were trying so hard but it screwed you up.

Let face it. Your brain likes interesting things. Your losing focus because you thought of something more interesting. Whenever this happens, you need to discipline yourself to find a real reason to be studying. Tell yourself why the information you're studying is important. Or, at the very least, convince your brain that you need to be studying this information harder.

There are a lot of potential distractions while studying. It can be difficult but with a little practice you can reduce those distractions significantly. That being said, you'll never be able to eliminate all distractions. Don't freak out if you forget to shut off your phone one time or someone breaks down your door to tell you about their day. It certainly doesn't help but with each one you can learn a lesson to focus better.

The better you focus during your study time, the better your grades are going to be.

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