There is no parent to nag you until the project is complete, and previous teachers who monitored your every step are no longer looking over your shoulder. It is time for you alone to get the job done. But life in an electronic age and the freedom of college can bring an overabundance of distractions to block your efforts. You need to learn to work around, and in spite of these distractions. Here are six ways to eliminate distractions while writing a paper.
Turn off all unnecessary communication devices like cell phones. Do not Tweet, text, IM, look on Facebook, or check out YouTube while you are working on a paper. Everything will be there when you are finished researching and writing. This does not mean that you have to eliminate your socialization. Simply set aside a specified time for these communications and tend to other priorities outside of that time.
There are other distractions you must deal with when you are working with a computer. You may have email notifications, the distractions of tool bars, or a vast collection of icons on your desktop. Hide your tool bar if necessary. Mute your computer to eliminate the risk of bells and whistles telling you a new and exciting email just came in. There are a variety of electronic apps available to help reduce distractions; some free, and some expensive. They can help you concentrate by performing tasks like freezing internet applications, darkening everything but the window you are working with, or allowing you a full screen without toolbars.
Avoid Research Detours
Research is an unavoidable part of writing a college paper. There are times, however, in the midst of writing a paper when you may need to look up some minor detail or fact to give your paper a little more depth. Instead of making little forays to research for these details, do them all at once. You will save yourself a lot of time and will find it much easier to stay on task. For example, if you think including the number of floors of the Twin Towers could be a good detail to include in your 9/11 paper, but do not know the number, insert a marker (for example, an upper case X) where you will include your fact. At the end of your paper, during your read-through, research and replace any Xs you may have inserted with the appropriate details.
It is difficult to concentrate if you are surrounded by the little mechanical monkey clapping cymbals that your friend gave you when you went away to college or a collection of concert tickets from the preceding summer. You do not have to get rid of them, just move them someplace else.
Pay attention to the environment. If you are one of the very rare people who can easily concentrate, you may do fine sitting in your dorm room while your roommate is watching TV, or at the dining room table while younger siblings argue in the kitchen. If you are like most people, you may have to make some changes. Headphones with music can be invaluable for blocking out noisy distractions, although listening to your favorite tunes may backfire. Sometimes, you may have to relocate to someplace quiet like a library. Other people find working in the middle of a busy coffee shop works, because the voices of strangers do not grab their attention. But be careful to not spend too much time trying to set up the perfect work setting. It can be time consuming and may narrow your options for productivity.
Working for long periods of time can create a situation in which you are more easily distracted. Take small breaks every so often, and set a timer if you need a reminder. Make sure you are hydrated, not hungry or overfull, and wear comfortable clothes that do not pull or pinch.
When writing a paper, it is important to prioritize and make sound choices that will allow you to work at your best. Discovering your perfect mix may be a trial and error process, but you will eventually find the best way to allow you to focus and get the job done and get the most out of your education.
Ryan Ayers is a writer whose focus is in the field of education. These tips were presented to allow for easier and more productive learning habits and to encourage higher education with a Masters in Education Online.