Monday, June 19th, 2017
Studying online is convenient. You have access to resources all in one place, from the comfort of your own home. But how often do you think you study completely distraction free?
You know what I’m talking about. You go online to check Facebook for 2 minutes, and 30 minutes later you’ve delved deep into a friend of a friend’s pics from 3 years ago. A 20-minute break to watch a quick episode of something becomes a full-on binge. Don’t even get me started on the black hole that is YouTube. Or Instagram.
Realistically, this can happen whether you’re studying online or using a book for CAT (or XAT, IIFT, SNAP or any other exam). In either case, if you look at your effective study time, it is far less than what you had planned for in the first place. But why does this happen? Let’s break it down.
Oscar Wilde wrote, “I can resist anything except temptation.” It is quite natural for you to get distracted, so asking why you get distracted is a futile exercise. But if you want to get yourself out of this problem the first thing to do is to classify what gets you distracted.
What distracts you and how to deal with them?
Let’s start with the physical environment. Loud noises, heat, any bodily discomfort, hunger etc. are just a few reasons. To study you need a steady and regulated environment. Here’s what you can do:
Being interrupted by people—if possible, lock your door and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the outside of the door. Tell everyone in no uncertain terms that you need to study and unless it is an emergency, you would appreciate it if they did not interfere with your studying. I know what you’re thinking – it seems a bit rude or awkward to just say you’re studying and don’t want to talk to people. In my case, it had the reverse effect. Now that I had told people I was studying, my mind would actually run out of excuses and since I had made a public commitment, I would feel compelled to study.
Anxiety—You sit to study, look at how much is pending, freak out and then decide that it is too much for now. You get tensed and worked up. You decide to go for a walk and come back 2 hours later (I have done this many a times in college). A similar situation is when you are working at a company and have a deadline approaching but you also have to sit down and study. You open your book and end up thinking about work.
While it is difficult not to worry about some things, worrying never prevented events from taking place. Best thing to do is talk to someone about it – a friend, or parents or you can even write about it somewhere – in a diary or a private blog. Once you write things down, it helps clear your head. The important thing is to just start doing things.
Body troubles – Eating and Sleeping – Humans are compulsive snackers and will snack on available food items even if they are not hungry. If you are distracted by the constant urge to wander into the kitchen when you should be solving problems, try keeping a drink, a bag of chips on your desk so you don’t need to get up and move away from your work. If you have not slept well the last night, rather than lying down on the sofa and watching the course videos, take a nap and then start watching the videos or solving questions later when you are not sleepy.
Month 1 and Month 2:
These are however small issues, the biggest distraction when it comes to online learning is probably the device on which you are earning – your phone or laptop itself. How can you avoid the urge to check Facebook for 2 minutes or look at those 3 unread messages on WhatsApp? Here are some ways:
Use a different browser for online study: My primary browser is Google Chrome. As soon as I open the browser, I can see my bookmarks and my most visited websites. Inadvertently, my mouse pointer will click on these and open them in new tabs. To prevent this from happening, try using a different browser. If I use Mozilla to use handakafunda.com and there are no usual bookmarks, last visited prompts etc. which helps prevent a tendency to open Facebook in one tab just after you open the browser.
Ask your parents/friends to oversee: I hated studying for Geography in school. I used to have the textbook open in front of me and just stare into it. My father, who probably had figured out I was daydreaming, asked me to read out loud while he sat next to my table reading the newspaper. And that was it – game over! No more daydreaming. The digital version of this would be to sit at some place from where your laptop screen is visible to someone sitting behind you. Ask your parents or friend to keep an eye on what you’re doing. (If this is not possible use the apps mentioned below)
Apps/Extensions to help you avoid distraction: Technology can be used to solve the problems it creates. For phone, you can make use of the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode and block out all notifications, or simply put your phone away in the other room or on flight mode while you study. But what if you are studying on the phone itself? Or what if you want to block out distractions on the laptop that you’re using to study? There are a lot of apps you can use to solve these problems.
StayFocusd is a free Chrome extension that lets you specify which websites you can visit and which are off limits. If you need access to the Handa Ka Funda website and Wikipedia but want to block Facebook and Twitter, for example, then StayFocusd is ideal. It’s incredibly customizable: you can set limits based on total time, specific times of day or specific days (such as Monday to Friday).
Month 1 and Month 2:
Forest – Every time you want to focus, you pop into the mobile app to plant a virtual tree. The tree only grows if you can stop yourself from exiting the app within a predetermined time frame set by you. Stay focused, you grow a tree. The tree gets added to your forest. Get distracted and check Facebook – your tree dies. Or to be more accurate, YOU kill it. Apart from killing distracting apps, it also has a feature where it plays ambient sound in the app while the timer is on. So while you are reading, you can listen to sounds from the Rain Forest which will help block out any external noise.
Pomodoro Timers – I am sure you may have heard of the Pomodoro technique. It’s a simple technique where you work for 25 minutes followed by a break of 5 minutes. After two such cycles you take a longer break. There are apps that act like a timer and help you study based on such a timed schedule. TomatoTimer is one such app. It is a Web-based app that uses the Pomodoro technique to help you get things done. It won’t block any distractions for you, but it does help you keep on top of the timings very easily from any browser.
Google Keep – When you are studying, there will some silly thing that comes into your mind. Something that you have to do or check out later, or something you need to search online. Whatever it is, just open Google Keep and note it down as ‘things running around in my head’. Once you write it down, you can get back to study and take care of all these items after your study time is over.
I hope you find these tools useful to avoid distraction while studying. Good luck!