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A whole lot of nothing going on: How to limit distractions early on this semester

By Grace McCabe, 5th-year English Literature major/Religious Studies minor

With the school year in full swing, it is common for one to become easily distracted by all of the new and exciting things going on around campus. Between the lingering warm sunny days of summer turning into fall, meeting new people and getting reacquainted with old friends and classmates, there are many things that can distract you from the task at hand, which for most of us is a fresh slate of courses, volunteer activities, sports, and work. Distractions are everywhere; however, with these tips and tricks, you can try to combat these distractions and get yourself on track early on in the semester.

First thing is first: you need to find yourself a great study spot for the year. This is a spot that is going to where you get your best work done. If you are a person who likes background noise while you are taking notes or reviewing your lecture slides, try to find a place that has an appropriate noise level, such as the Tea Room or Common Ground. If you are someone who requires total silence, then Douglas Library, Bracken Library or the upper floors of Stauffer may be the best place for you. Try to imagine your most ideal setting for getting good school work done and find that place on campus. Do you want people around you? Do you want to be with a friend? Do you need access to food to fuel your brain? Ask yourself these questions to try and find the ideal study spot that is distraction free and make that space yours!

From there, you’ll want a few tricks that help limit internal distractions while you are working. One great tool to fight internal distractions is called a distraction pad. Distractions come at us from all directions, whether it’s from other people or within your own mind. These types of distractions can be anything from thinking about doing laundry, getting groceries, calling home or paying a bill. In order to combat those inner voices telling or reminding you to go do something else, you can use something called a distraction pad. A distraction pad can be any piece of paper or a notebook where you write down any thoughts that come to mind. By doing so, you are getting that nagging thought out of your brain and putting it somewhere for later, which will allow you to continue to focus on the work you are doing in that moment.

Finally, when you are surrounded by distractions and find yourself beginning to give into them, implement the 50-10 rule to optimize your concentration and then reward yourself at the end and perhaps accomplish one of the tasks on your distraction pad, like answering an email or text message. Studies show that you concentrate best during the first and last 20 minutes of a task. The routine of focusing on one thing for 50 uninterrupted minutes will help you to slowly ignore distractions all together during that time and do the best work you possibly can, while also retaining the information in front of you.

Combating distractions is all about getting to know what works for you. The sooner you get on track and begin ignoring the distractions, the better. Combine ALL of the tricks and tools I’ve mentioned and I am confident you’ll find that your study sessions in your go-to study spot transform from a whole lot of nothing to a whole lot of something!

Photo courtesy of Chris Dlugosz under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.