17 August 2009 11:13 AM

Avoiding Distractions in Class

by rbavaria

It’s the time of year when the smartest among us are setting their goals for the new school year.  Improved study habits and grades, ambitions for sports teams or extracurriculars, personal objectives like reaching one’s potential, discovering new talents and interests, even hanging out with a more supportive and helpful crowd – all of these are typical of the goals students have told me about over the years.


The new school year also brings with it new distractions that threaten to keep students from their goals.  New teachers, new responsibilities, new friends, new demands on our time, new entertainments – we are never lacking in distractions.


How to fight these distractions?  How to keep on track to meet the goals you’ve made with the help of your parents and trusted friends?


Recently one of my favorite New York Times columnists, Gail Collins, wrote these thought-provoking words:

“It’s hard to be great without the ability to concentrate.  The more distractions we’ve built into our culture,

the harder it is to develop serious thinkers and planners.  And over the past 50 years, our span of attention

has collapsed to about that of a hyperactive gnat.”


If your attention span is “that of a hyperactive gnat” and you have a hard time avoiding the endless distractions that come our way every day, here are a few tips to consider and a few goals to aim for.

  1. Commit.  Determine that you’re ready, willing, and able to take control of your learning and success in school.  Make “avoiding distractions while I’m studying” one of your academic goals for this year.

  2. Take action.  Turn off the TV, your cell phone, the video games, the radio.  Clear your desk of junk. Do what you can to eliminate as many distractions as possible.  Find a quiet place to do schoolwork.  Quiet is better than noise when you’re trying to concentrate.  Really.

  3. Know your best study times.  Everyone’s different.  What’s the best time of day for you to study?  Some students like to come home from school and immediately hit the books so they’ll have the evening to themselves.  Others like to forget school for a while, expend some energy, and then do their homework later, after they’re refreshed.  Some find that early mornings are peaceful and best for studying.  Are you a “morning person” or a “night person”?  Establish a study routine that will provide you with the organization and structure you need.

  4. Select the right place.  You should study in a comfortable place that’s free from as many distractions as possible.  Ask the folks at home to respect your goals and routines.  Parents, support your kids by providing them with the space and encouragement they need.

  5. Organize yourself.  Keep a planner, have your supplies nearby, break up large assignments into smaller, more manageable ones.  Parents with younger students, know when report cards are coming, when major assignments are due.  Check out the progress your children are making.  Nag when you must.  I’ve written extensively about this in previous blogs.  Click on “Archive” above to check them out.

  6. Don’t try to multitask.  Studying for tests, writing book reports, reviewing geometry and history notes, or learning the lines for the lead in the school play is not the time to multitask.  You can’t give 100% of your attention to more than one thing simultaneously.  Physically (and mathematically) impossible.  Don’t even try.  (See my blog of 25 November 2008 for an extended discussion.)

  7. Have a study buddy.  If you have trusted friends whose opinions you value and talents you respect, study with them.  Study buddies can keep each other on track, answer each other’s questions about the subject or the assignment, compete with and challenge each other.  I’ve often written about study buddies, also.  Check out the topic by clicking on “Archive” above.

  8. Ask for help.  Eliminating distractions is hard, so don’t be discouraged if you hit a rough patch or two.  If you’re having difficulties with the content of a subject, get help right away.  The longer you put off getting help, the greater the difficulty.  If you need help organizing yourself, ask your parents, a trusted teacher or other adult for their support.  It’s always good to have a mentor to share wisdom and experience with you.  Then, when the time’s right, return the favor or pay it forward by being a role model to someone else later.

  9. Stay positive.  A positive attitude is much more helpful – and more fun – than a discouraged, cynical, or defeatist one.  Choose to recognize the good things that happen to you every day – there are plenty – rather than focusing only on the bad.  We humans, for some reason, often get this backwards.  Go figure.

  10. Stay strong and balanced.  Believe in yourself.  And why shouldn’t you?  You’ve set your goals, you’ve taken steps to organize yourself, study more efficiently, and keep a positive frame of mind.  If you have a setback, learn from it.  Give yourself plenty of fun time with friends and family, away from the pressures of school.  Balance is important, enabling you to return to schoolwork refreshed and with renewed vigor.

Good luck!  Share your successes and what you’ve learned from your mistakes with us here at Dr. Rick’s Blog.  We’d love to hear them.  Click on “Comments” below.




9/23/2009 11:24:15 PM

Very nice post and guide for students. I hope lots of student read this post, learn from it. They need it so they have idea what to do keep their mind in their study and avoid distraction.    

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