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Nov 12 2017
by Jessica Vuong

7 Ways To Limit Distractions While Studying For Exams

By Jessica Vuong - Nov 12 2017

In a world of smartphones and social media, it's extremely easy to get distracted by a simple notification on your screen. As much fun as it is to scroll through Instagram and try out new Snapchat filters, it's hard to let go of these distractions when it's time to get down to studying for our exams. So here's a handy list of tips for you to limit your distractions, prioritize your tasks and get those A's!

1. Leave your phone in another room.

If you're going to have your phone right next to you when you're studying, you're making it way too easy to get distracted by every notification you get. Instead, leave your phone and any other distracting devices in another room so you won't be tempted to look at them. According to a study at the University of Texas at Austin, your cognitive capacity automatically becomes lower when your smartphone is within your reach. So even if you're not using your phone or if it's off, your phone still has an effect on you, which really makes you think about how attached we are to our phones! Depending on your study schedule, you can always take a break every 30-45 minutes and check your phone then. If you think about it, most text messages or phone calls don't require an immediate response, so just focus on your studying and allow yourself some screen time during your breaks.

2. Temporarily block distracting websites.

Sometimes you'll get ready to finally do that research paper you've been putting off, only to realize that you've spent the last 40 minutes scrolling through your Facebook and Instagram. If you know you're going to need to use the Internet for your studies, but you don't want to be distracted by Facebook or YouTube, I suggest using a distraction blocker like StayFocusd, Cold Turkey or SelfControl. These are extensions/websites that will temporarily block time-consuming, distracting sites. Simply enter in the websites you want to prevent yourself from going on, set the time limit and carry on with your studies. 

3. Spend some time planning your study schedule.

Have you ever sat down to start studying only to realize that you have way too much to do and don't know where to start? Then you get so overwhelmed that you end up not doing anything except wasting more time? You can easily avoid this problem by allotting a chunk of time to plan out your study schedule before you actually begin studying. Spending time planning will help you save time later on by letting you know what tasks you need to focus on so you don't get distracted. List out all the tasks that you plan to get done in a day (and be reasonabledon't overload your plate), then estimate how long each task might take you and give each task its own time slot. When you finally see your schedule for the day, you'll feel more in control and ready to take on your assignments. 

4. Have everything you need right in front of you.

If you're going to have to dig into your backpack or go into another room every few minutes to get a textbook or paper, you're going to be distracted along the way. Spend some time before your study session to gather everything you need for the topic you're studying. When I say everything you need, this includes snacks, coffee, tea, headphones to listen to your study playlist and anything else that will make you leave your desk. This will leave you with no excuse to exit the room to go do something else. 

5. Don't overthink. Just do.

Walt Disney once said, "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing," and I'm sure you all have heard of Nike's "Just do it" campaign. It's easy for us to look at the clock and tell ourselves that we'll start working in five minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour, etc., when we know that we should just start studying now. A study by Timothy Wilson and Jonathan Schooler shows "that experts, when performing at their best, act intuitively and automatically and don’t think about what they are doing as they are doing it, but just do it." Instead of overthinking and overwhelming yourself with thoughts of studying, just go ahead and study. Once you get yourself to start opening your textbooks and reading your notes, you'll gain some momentum. Getting yourself to start studying is usually one of the hardest parts of studying but once you start, it gets easier. 

6. Choose a study environment that works for you.

You know what your study habits are like, so think about the type of environment in which you would study best. For example, some people study better in public at a library because they feel motivated by people studying around them. Others study better with a focused study group, where everyone keeps each other on track. Some students study best alone, where they can have a quiet environment to really focus on the material. Think about your study habits and figure out which environment would be most beneficial and least distracting for you. Other factors in study environments, such as temperature, lightning and the physical feel of the atmosphere, can also affect your study habits so it's best to understand all your needs before choosing a location.

7. Download apps to help you prioritize tasks.

If an old-fashioned to-do list isn't cutting it for you or you want to have all your tasks on the go and ready on your phone or laptop, then downloading to-do list apps will help you prioritize and organize your life. Some popular ones are Todoist and Wunderlist. Todoist works on Android, iOS and desktop devices and allows you to create to-do lists as well as share and collaborate on lists with other people, which makes this tool super useful if you have group projects or study groups. Wunderlist is similar and also allows you to create to-do lists and share them with others. You can create lists for schoolwork, group work, grocery shopping and more and even set reminders too. If you want more helpful apps to assist you in organizing your life, then take a look at this article!

With these tips in mind and (hopefully) those website blockers set up on your browser, you should be well equipped to get down to business and ace those exams! 

Lead Image Credit: Nick Morrison via Unsplash

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Jessica Vuong - University of California, Davis

Jessica is currently attending UC Davis and majoring in Managerial Economics. She was vice-president of teensReach, a community service organization, and has competed in several SJPL art & design contests. She loves coffee, sarcasm, and rainy weather. Follow her on instagram: @jsscvng | pinterest: jessvjess | VSCO: jessvjess

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