Student life can be filled with distractions. There's work, social time, and some students face the challenges of an unfamiliar environment and newfound independence. Occasional difficulty focusing is completely normal, but too much can tank your chances at psychology research topics and if maintaining your focus is an ongoing challenge, here are 10 ways to keep yourself on task:
1. Do one thing at a time
Our culture suggests that multi-tasking people are ultra-efficient go-getters, but very few people can multitask successfully. You lose time whenever you switch from one task to another, and each task is a distraction from the last. Quality suffers, and you may end up spending more time on each item overall.
2. Pay attention to your distraction
Before you get started, take a moment to note whether your thoughts have wandered and try to remember what you were doing when they went astray. This kind of awareness is not natural, and it can take some time to cultivate. Keeping a diary may help. Once you know what situations distract you, you can avoid them. You have to know what triggers daydreaming in order to shut it down and get back to work.
3. Condition yourself
If concentrating is proving to be a real challenge, set a timer at 10- or 15-minute intervals. The buzzer will remind you to get back to work. The more distracted you are, the shorter the intervals should be. If you use this method, you may find that with the time you can set the timer for 20-minute intervals, and then a half-hour, and so forth.
If you can't easily change your study environment, change your habits. If your roommate interrupts you, study at the library. If the lab is chaotic during rush hours, attend in off-hours. Let phone calls go to voicemail. Ignore those texts. Shut the door.
5. Use technology
Wear headphones. Not only can they help block out noise, but they also communicate that you are working on your own. Listening to music while wearing the headphones is optional - only you know how much it helps or harms your concentration.
6. Forget your favorite thing
Everyone has a favorite distraction. If you have a task to accomplish, it's time to go zero tolerance. Remove the opportunity to be distracted. Put your phone away. If a computer game is eating up vast quantities of your time, uninstall it.
7. Schedule email
Limit email access to set times. Otherwise, it's too tempting to dart back and forth from your inbox. Once you've checked it, shut it down. This distraction can be a real-time gobbler, so make email one item on a "to-do" list.
Take a break to stretch and relax. Get your blood moving. Taking short breaks can improve your concentration and your energy, decreasing the likelihood that you'll zone out the further you get into your project.
9. Have a treat
When an assignment is especially tough, make a deal with yourself to have a reward once you have completed it. Coffee, a snack, taking a brief break to socialize - all these counts as positive reinforcement. Knowing that you have some pleasure waiting for you may make the work seem like less of a slog.
Never just leave your work. If interrupted, write down a note to remind yourself where you were. It can be as simple as a post-it that says "Here." This can speed up the time it takes you to get back to work.
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