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8 Tips to Avoid Study Distractions

Studying is an art, not a science. And while what works for one person may not always work for another, there are some common ways to help minimize distractions and maximize motivation. Whether you’re prepping for a big exam or trying to finish up that research paper, these eight tips can help you overcome the obstacles and achieve results.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Student Tips
8 Tips to Avoid Study Distractions

Studying is an art, not a science. And while what works for one person may not always work for another, there are some common ways to help minimize distractions and maximize motivation. Whether you’re prepping for a big exam or trying to finish up that research paper, these eight tips can help you overcome the obstacles and achieve results.

1. Get Comfortable

Picture of room design for male student

While the words “comfort” and “studying” may seem mutually exclusive, the fact is that the more comfortable you are, the better you’ll be able to focus on the task at hand. Everything from a plush chair to pleasant lighting can promote a sense of relaxation while simultaneously fostering productivity. Even a clean room can make a difference: research from Princeton University links a cluttered space with a “cluttered” brain.

Still struggling with finding calm amidst your surroundings? Deep breathing techniques are an effective way to clear your mind and regain focus.

2. Silence is Golden

Young woman wearing headphones and studying

While some people insist that music helps them focus, research indicates the opposite. Why? Because listening to music is a form of multitasking, and multitasking -- AKA “mental juggling” -- is linked with declines in efficiency.

If you are in the “must have music” camp, keep in mind that all tunes are not created equally. Loud, fast-paced music is more likely to distract, while classic music such as Bach, Brahms and Mozart may actually reduce stress and improve performance.

3. Develop a Routine

Marking important interview in calendar with red marker

While student life can be challenging, time management can help you navigate these demands. One recommended tactic? Get into a daily routine. Set aside specific time every day for school work. This can help you make incremental improvements while also deriving a sense of accomplishment as you go.

Prioritize your responsibilities, schedule each task, be specific, and do not allow yourself to deviate from this routine. Write down your tasks and track your progress so you’ll have a record of your work. While doing so can initially take effort, it will eventually become a habit which will serve you well -- not just in school, but throughout your life.

4. Set Goals and Targets

While the power of positive thinking is widely extolled, it takes a bit more than that, according to research. Whether your goal is to eat more vegetables or perform better in school, science suggests that the key lies in identifying goals, considering the best possible outcomes, assessing the obstacles, and coming up with an actionable plan toward the desired end.

Remember that all goals are the same. By breaking your objectives into short-, medium- and long-term categories, you can not only assess the means to achieve them, but also gain a “big picture” viewpoint of how all of these pieces come together.

5. Tackle the Tough Stuff

Promotion concept. Business hand go up to the painted staircase with draw in the wall. Business draw.

Do you devote the bulk of your study efforts to the tasks which are easiest for you? If so, you’re far from alone: Procrastination is human nature. Unfortunately, the odds that you’ll return to the hard or boring stuff -- or give them adequate time when you finally do -- are low. By prioritizing the most challenging tasks and scheduling them for the time of day when you’re most productive, you ensure that you’re best prepared to take them on while you’re at your very best.

6. Electronics Are Your Enemy

technologies in office

Sure, electronics make life easier, and you’d be lost without your iPhone or tablet. But that doesn’t mean they’re a benefit when it comes to your study habits. Researchers at Stanford have determined that media multitasking detrimentally impacts cognitive control. Not only do multiple information streams interfere with users’ attention spans, but they also interfere with their ability to complete tasks.

A primary offender? The internet. While you may think you’re just clicking over to scroll through your Facebook feed or watch a YouTube video, these “quick” redirects can easily spiral into hours of wasted time. For best results, make study time complete internet-free. If you truly can’t conceive of life without the internet, incorporate hourly internet breaks into your study schedule as a reward.

7. Eat Well

young student girl eating

The term “brain food” is anything but an exaggeration. In fact, eating the right foods can help you overcome stress, power through difficult study periods, and enjoy enhanced cognitive function. Conversely, poor nutrition not only impacts your school performance, but also your long-term health and wellness. Seek out foods rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, including eggs, peanut butter, oily fish, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Staying hydrated is also important, so be sure to drink plenty of water. And while caffeine can help you power through, it can also have detrimental effects so use moderation when imbibing.

8. Get Distracted

Woman yoga trainer demonstrating to student different positions

“All work and no play” not only makes Jack a dull boy but can also lead to diminishing returns for students. Because studying for hours on end may inhibit your ability to concentrate, make sure to build study breaks into your routine so you can refresh and recharge. Whether you grab a cup of tea or take a brisk walk around campus with a friend, stepping away can actually help you stay focused.

Another reason to take that walk? Research shows that physical activity can have an immediate effect on your ability to process information.

While studying may still not top your list of fun things to do, these eight tips can help you keep distractions at bay. In doing so, you’ll not only find the process much less painful, but you’ll also reap the rewards of sharper study skills.

Joanna Hughes

Author

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.