Balance, General, How-to, Student Life

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Tips for Avoiding Distractions

A perfect study nook inside of Emmanuel College. Unfortunately, setting up the tripod to take this photo did not make for a productive study session!

A perfect study nook inside of Emmanuel College. Unfortunately, setting up the tripod to take this photo did not make for a productive study session!

Everyone has a kryptonite, whether it be friends, Netflix, or demanding siblings, that can completely derail productive plans. In university, being responsible for determining so much of your day’s content exacerbates the struggle of staying focused. Unless you’re an engineering student, you will probably spend only a small fraction of the week in class. This leaves it up to you to devise a schedule that will facilitate academic goals, and leave enough time for your social life!

A diagram stating that college students can only choose two: good grades, social life, or enough sleep.

With the right productivity strategies, it doesn’t have to be this way!

The first step I take to avoid distractions is setting up a game plan. It’s hard to get things done without knowing what needs finishing in the first place. I like to ask myself what I have to do today, and out of these tasks, which are most important. Prioritizing is essential, because, even with the most thought-out plans, it’s tough to check everything off your to-do list. After all, according to the Planning Fallacy, people tend to underestimate the amount of time something will take them to finish 67% of the time. I am definitely one of them!

Another essential element of avoiding distractions and upping productivity is your work environment. What works as a great study place is widely varies from person to person. While some people love studying in their dorm room, I can’t sit in mine for five minutes without noticing the laundry behind me, or the peanut butter crackers in the fridge. Personally, I prefer libraries or cafés, where you can work without interruptions (as long as the sound of someone periodically shouting “hot venti mocha soy latte!” in the background isn’t distracting to you).

No twenty-first-century productivity advice would be complete without some technology-orientated suggestions. While we are lucky to be living in the Internet age, the same tool giving us access to limitless information provides an equally infinite quantity of distractions! I’ve come to enjoy a Google Chrome plug-in called Timewarp . Unlike many other productivity apps, which block you from accessing distracting websites (ie. StayFocusd), Timewarp’s primary goal is making you cognizant of the amount of time you waste. With the help of a small timer in the corner of your screen, Timewarp shows you how long you’ve spent today on websites of your choice, like Facebook or Twitter. While I thought that I cut down on my time on social media, Timewarp provided surprising insight into how much time distractions truly consume!

Another productivity rule I abide by is making sure my phone is out of arm’s reach while trying to get work done. “Out of sight, out of mind!” It’s all too easy to let a momentary lapse in judgment result in a mile-deep trip to the Instagram page of a best friend’s aunt’s cousin. Instead, putting aside a designated amount of time to be on my phone has helped make sure I don’t get derailed from daily goals.

Last but not least, the University of Toronto offers many resources for helping to improve study strategies and productivity. Be sure to check out their Academic Success Workshops, with topics including transitioning from High School to University study habits, to improving your concentration and memory! Also, for more study tips be sure to check out this previous post!