It’s time to study! You’ve prepared for this moment, and you are determined to work hard for that target score. You’ve found a quiet space to review your notes in comfort. You’ve selected some tunes to keep you in the zone. Plenty of snacks and water are within reach to keep you fueled and energized. Not even low-blood sugar can stop you today.
You’ve got everything you need: Study guide, check. Highlighters, check. Notebook, check. Your favorite pen, check. Sticky tabs, check. You are ready to rock this study session.
And, then, just as you enter concentration level one, your roommate comes barging in, as if on cue. “Hey, let’s go shopping for this year’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Party!”
Unfortunately, finding the motivation to study is only half the challenge. The other half is avoiding or managing the myriad of distractions that are hurled at you – especially during the holiday season – while you try to maintain clarity and focus on your studies.
Ideally, you could enter a distraction-free bubble when it’s study time. Or, you could slap a large “Studying: Do Not Disturb” sign on your door, and everyone around you would magically leave you alone and respect the quiet you need while studying.
In reality, though, our lives today are full of external distractions, and it takes great effort on our part to minimize the noise and constant barrage of interruptions. Worse, when no one else you know is studying, it’s hard to find support when you designate time to prepare for your exams.
So, how do you stay motivated and focused without shunning your friends and family? Here are a few tips to keep you on task without losing friends.
1. Announce your goals
Once the semester begins and you’ve established your weekly study schedule, tell your friends and family that you need their support. They’re more likely to offer their support if you ask for it. So, instead of saying, “I need to study, please leave alone,” phrase the command as a request for their help.
Try saying, “My goal is to study 8 hours each week before my test so I can hit my target score. I really need help to stay on task. If you know I’m studying, can you help make sure no one distracts me?”
Also, make declarations about your goals using “I am” sentences. For example, say, “I am studying regularly this semester so I can earn high scores and finish my degree.” Saying “I am” instead of “I want to” gives your statements more conviction and authority. This will help you focus on what you’ve set your mind to, and your conviction will let your friends and family know you are serious about studying responsibly.
2. Make it a habit
Have you ever seen a friend start a new fitness routine? When they first start, you wonder if they’re really going to stick with it. Once working out becomes part of their regular schedule, you realize they are committed to getting fit, so you stop inviting them to skip the gym and join you at Cheeseburger Palace.
You can do the same thing. Make studying a regular part of your routine, and your friends and family will quickly become accustomed to your consistent studying sessions.
Making study time a habit will also help you increase your concentration, which means you’ll be less likely to get distracted by every day interruptions like noisy roommates.
3. Find a quiet place
The best way to minimize interruptions from well-meaning roommates or friends is to find a quiet place where you can’t be reached. Though it may be inconvenient, it’s probably the most effective way of avoiding any pressure from Grandma Dot who keeps asking you when you’re going to show her how to use Snapchat.
But, let’s be honest, there’s really no point in finding a quiet place to study if you’re going to keep checking your phone for texts, social media posts, or updates on the Gwen Stefani/Blake Shelton romance. Turn off your phone – or, (gasp) leave it at home. Let me say that again: turn off your phone – or leave it at home. Before you accuse me of being cell phone-phobic, just remember, the goal is to help you stay focused on your … wait, I just got a FB notice. Twenty-three people liked my cat video!
Now, what was I saying?
4. Reward yourself
It’s easy to get so caught up in studying that you forget you also need to have a life outside of the GRE, GMAT, or LSAT. So, be sure to schedule social time with your friends and family as a reward to yourself for all of your hard work. Obviously, make time for friends and family when it doesn’t interfere with a big exam. And, don’t forget to thank them for supporting and encouraging you along the way. You might need their help again in grad school.
About the Author:
Jennifer is here to help you navigate college and grad school while still maintaining your sanity. She is a graduate of the University of Florida (Go Gators!), with a major in Journalism and Communications and a minor in Psychology. She’s also a certified Montessori instructor and once witnessed a four-year-old correctly label all 54 countries on a map of Africa. She prefers to sing when not in the shower, and she’s not afraid of heights as long as she’s standing on something that is less than 15-feet tall.