The Battle for Your Brain: Ways to Avoid Distractions

Finishing the last few weeks of the spring semester is like running a medieval gauntlet. Even if you follow your syllabi and know exactly what to expect when, the combination of multiple assignments with springtime distractions can be tiresome at best and threaten your grade point average at worst.

There are multiple contenders for your attention- email, text, Twitter feeds are the usual suspects, but family, friends, coworkers, and even pets can pull us off task.

Staying focused takes practice. Here are four easy things you can do to combat distractions and finish the semester strong:

Set SMART goals.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely – ex: Today I will write my outline, practice guitar for an hour, and complete chapter 7 in my statistics study guide.

Setting SMART goals for each day helps you move items off your “to-do” list and achieve what you set out to achieve. If you need to go so far as to break up your day and set goals for each part, so be it. Do what you need to do to help yourself stay on target.

Identify your weaknesses.
Can you resist a text message? What about a Facebook notification? If your web browser is open, can you ignore it or must you surf?
Knowing what distracts you will help you form a strategy to avoid straying from your target. Be honest with yourself, and make a list of every potential threat to your focus. This leads us to number 3...

Use your resources.
When you know what you want to achieve, and you’ve identified potential obstacles to achieving your goals, the next step is to figure out what you can do to help yourself stay focused.

Is noise is a distraction? Wear noise-canceling headphones or put in ear buds and listen to ocean sounds. If email or text notifications are a problem for you, adjust your phone’s settings and turn them off, or put your phone in a drawer across the room while you’re working. For some people, shutting down Outlook and closing their Internet browser is the only way to get things accomplished.

If you have kids or pets that distract you, ask a friend, family member or neighbor to keep them occupied so you can work. 

Stay alert.
Things happen. Phones and doorbells ring. Babies cry. Distractions happen. The key is to recognize when it happens and correct it quickly. Don’t beat yourself up about it – just get back to work and stay on target.

You can win the battle for your attention. It’s possible. The key is to set goals and be self-aware enough to recognize when you stray so you can get back to work. 

Do you have a plan to counteract distractions? What works for you?  Let us know in the comments below.

By Christine A. Shelly


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