Dealing with Distractions

Mondays are busy days for me.  Unfortunately, they are also the days that I am most prone to distractions, with the possible exception of Fridays.  When you work in an office, distractions like funny websites and coworkers to chat with can be a problem.  When you work at home and can technically do whatever you want without anyone knowing, distractions can become a disaster.  Students find themselves in an awkward place here: they are constantly asked to do work at home — and they aren’t even getting paid for it!

When I was in school, there were certain things I had to do if I wanted to get any real studying done.

1) Listen to music without words. On the other hand, I knew a lot of people who could only study in complete silence.  Whatever works.

2) Find a place where you have to be productive. For me, this was either the library or my desk at work, which involved a lot of down time.  At either of these places, distractions were at a minimum for me, and the more I got used to studying in these places the more natural it felt.  Find these places for yourself.

3) Silence the phones. How much studying are you going to get done if you’re chatting?  Remember, the sooner you get things done the sooner you can catch up with people.  Let that be your motivation.

4) Schedule your day. I had to plan when I would work and when I would take a break in advance.  Trying to “catch as catch can” always led to forgotten assignments.  I used (and still use) daily to-do lists to keep myself on track.

5) Only work when you’re productive. Some days I know that I’m not going to get much done.  So I take care of the bare minimum and do some rescheduling to be more productive the next day.  This way I’m not fighting my own inertia.  I also try to work/study only during the day, because after dark I am completely useless and would much rather goof off.  If you’re better at working during the night, try scheduling your personal time during the day and your work time after dark.

Remember, the habits you make now will dictate how you work in the future.  If you spend four years getting used to procrastinating and scraping by then those will be hard habits to break.

If you want some more concrete tips, here are two excellent articles I found (that pretty much say the same things but differently).  The first states things more generally (take short breaks, limit inputs, start the day off right, etc. etc. etc.) while the second has some great tips with a more specific “business feel” to them.  I recommend them both.

To close, I’d like to bring up an idea that I first learned from a high-school history professor.  He was diagnosed with ADHD as a child but his parents didn’t believe in medicating him for this.  So instead, they taught him to meditate.  He learned a number of quick meditation techniques that he would use before (and during, if necessary) every test he took to help him stay focused.

So arm yourself against distractions with some of these basic tips while finding what works for you alone.  Then you’ll be ready the next time they strike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>