Dealing with Distraction

(C) Julie Boyd 2012


Many young people find it difficult to manage the myriad distractions which can take the focus away from their work. Managing multiple forms of technology; needing to respond to friends immediately they text or call, can lead to procrastination when it comes to getting schoolwork done, and getting enough sleep. Studies in the fields of sleep deprivation and neuroplasticity suggest that we need to learn to treat our brains well in order to be both productive, and well rested.  Some strategies which may be worth considering include:

1. After school, change your routine at home. Instead of going straight to social media or relaxing immediately, which will make it hard to get back into work mode later, go for a run, take your dog for a walk, have something to eat, then tell yourself (and your family) you are going to work.

2. Act as if you are at (employed) work. Find the best place for you to be productive. It may be the dining table at home, the school library or local library or a friend or relative’s home. Wherever you choose, make the space as technology free as possible and be clear to your friends and family that you need the space between certain hours e.g telling them  ‘Please call me after 5pm’ is perfectly acceptable.

3. Turn Technology Off. Many students will keep social media pages (eg facebook and twitter) open on their desktops while they are completing other work. Closing these sites down may help avoid the temptation to keep checking every few minutes. Stick a note onto your computer to say ‘Do Not Open until work is finished’. Training yourself to see social media interactions as ‘treats’ to be enjoyed after you have finished your work is far more productive that having them constantly open.

4. Manage Mobile Phones.  If it is possible to do so, switch your phone off while you are studying. If this is not possible, and you don’t want to be seen as rude to your friends, put a message into your drafts which says something like ‘I’m working. I’ll get back to you after 5pm’, click send when necessary, then get back to your work.

5. Make a list of what you need to do. Break the listed tasks down into bite-sized pieces so that you have more to tick off.

6. Set yourself a time limit in which to complete your work and tell yourself you will get your work done in that time frame. Start with one and a half hours so you have a finite goal. Take a five minute break every half hour to have a stretch and a drink (stay away from social media). Don’t start a conversation with anyone, go straight back to work.

7. At the end of your designated time, check what you have achieved. Tick as much as you can off your list. Make a plan to either go back to your work for another half hour to complete unfinished work, or begin your task list for tomorrow.

8. Try to find relaxing activities that do not involve brain stimulation e.g do not use games or social media for at least an hour before bedtime. Your brain needs to rest as well as your body for you to have a good sleep. Turn all your technology completely off before you go to bed, don’t just put it on hibernate or sleep.