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Part of Western Governors University

April 30, 2021

Student Success

How to Avoid Distractions as a College Student

A bored woman sits at a laptop and looks at her cell phone.

Online learners studying from home face unique challenges, not the least of which is learning how to avoid distractions. Studying remotely often means keeping yourself on task—but temptations are everywhere, and it's easy to lose focus.

Figuring out how to avoid distractions as an online learner, though, is a matter of planning and making critical adjustments. Try out these tips and strategies to reduce the distractions in your life as you pursue your education.

1. Change Your Study Environment

University of California, Irvine, study found that people who are frequently interrupted while they work "experienced a higher workload, more stress, higher frustration, more time pressure, and effort."

There's an old saying in the real-estate business that the three most important things are location, location, and location. This is just as true for students. Noisy and busy areas really aren't ideal for studying. If you can, go somewhere where your online work won't be interrupted—somewhere quiet, unoccupied, and uncluttered.

You don't have to be overly neat, but try working at a tidy desk and see if that helps you stay focused. Removing colorful, loud, and distracting decorations from your study environment can also be helpful.

Consider, too, enhancing your home environment with a few plants. Researchers told Time that workspaces with plants saw a 15 percent spike in productivity.

2. Make Technology Your Friend

Tech-enabled distractions are commonplace nowadays. Our phones and laptops can take us away from our studies—but we can't just lock them away, as we often need them to complete online coursework.

Still, technology doesn't have to be a distraction. Unless you need it for a very important phone call or are expecting an important text message, you might want to put your smartphone in a separate room while you're studying or working on assignments. If you can't stand the thought of being away from your phone for a while, you can keep it beside you; just set it on do-not-disturb mode. Overcoming smartphone distractions is all about baby steps.

If you work on a laptop computer, try not to have too many browser tabs open once. If you have your personal email open in a tab, you might be tempted to pause your studies and check new messages when they come in. Simply closing that tab removes that distraction.

You can even use technology to your advantage as an online student. Apps and websites that generate white noise and relaxing, nondistracting music can help you drown out unwanted external sounds.

3. Make a Plan

Success in just about any endeavor requires planning. This is definitely true for distraction-free studying, as interruptions will inevitably pop up if we don't take proactive measures to anticipate and prevent them.

Set aside the same time every day for nothing but your online coursework. A solid two- or three-hour block each and every day, when scheduled from the very beginning of the week, can really work wonders. Coordinate these study times with your roommates or housemates, if you have any, so that they'll be less likely to interrupt you be noisy when you're studying.

Remember to eat right and get enough sleep—it's awfully hard to maximize your online study time if you're tired and daydreaming about food. While you're scheduling study time, set aside some time to eat a meal or grab a quick snack before you hit the books. You might also consider penciling a quick power nap into your schedule if you just weren't able to get a full night's sleep the night before.

Unfortunately, there's no way to completely eliminate every distraction. But if you try these tips, you just might find your study time more focused—and your learning a little easier.

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