Searching for school

—Jordan V.*, University of North Dakota

(*Name changed)

As I write this response, I’m listening to a radio station, checking Facebook (for the news, really), and monitoring my email for…well, in case I can find something urgent that needs a response. (By the way, there were no urgent emails when I just checked. I guess I need to finish this response.)

This is all to tell you that I, probably like you, am a distracted person. It has gotten worse as I have found more entertaining things to do to keep my mind off my work. I mean, cute cat videos are fun, and they make me feel better when I’m procrastinating. However, we all have deadlines and work to do, which is why I have created a list of tips to help you stay focused.

1. Acknowledge you have a problem

This is the first step to making a change. If you know you get easily distracted, you will more likely change your behaviors. How do you know you have a problem? One sign: Completing tasks takes you much longer than you think it should. Another: You find yourself completing assignments with barely any time to spare (or late), when you’ve actually had plenty of notice.

2. Set a time and place for distractions

Yes, you need to treat distractions as you would your work, instead of letting them “show up” whenever they want. Just as you schedule time for studying or writing a paper, you should also schedule time for checking your Twitter feed or Snapchat. For example, set a timer for 45–50 minutes to work on a task or study for a test. Then take a timed break for 5–10 minutes.

3. Fake it till you make it

Sometimes distractions lure us away from our work because we aren’t that enthusiastic about what we must do. A 20-page paper on the economy of an ancient civilization? Hmm…that may not shout “exciting activity,” which is why, by contrast, our diversions are welcome. If you find yourself faced with a task that is important—such as studying for a final exam—tell yourself, whether you believe it or not, “This task will be interesting,” or “I can improve my skills by completing this assignment and that will help me in the future.” Repeating these claims can motivate you to keep going when you want to find something else to do.