Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you? You try to read and get distracted by Snapchat. You’re doing your math homework until you’re little sister comes barreling through the kitchen. The new BuzzFeed quiz sounds way more appealing than starting your French paper.
Research shows that even a 3-second interruption (like the time it takes to glance at your buzzing phone) has the power to completely derail the task you’re working on and makes you more likely to mess up.
Want to defeat homework distractions once and for all? Here are nine interruption busters to help you concentrate on what you need to do to reach your goals.
1. Make homework a habit.
You brush your teeth before bed; it’s just what happens. Same with homework. You do homework after school. Or, you do homework after dinner. Your schedule might vary from day to day, but in general being consistent about when homework will happen assures that it will become second nature.
2. Find your perfect study space.
Doing your homework in roughly the same place every night will help cement the routine. Whether it’s the public library, on your bed, or at the kitchen table, find a study space to make your own.
3. Get rid of unnecessary interruptions.
Distractions are often electronic but not always (rowdy younger siblings definitely count!). Wear headphones. Silence those enticing app notifications. You probably need your computer to do research or type up your lit essay so consider using a browser extension like StayFocused to block chronically distracting sites (like your favorite blog or Instagram).
4. Plan ahead.
Take a look at everything you have to do and gather up ALL the gear you’ll need to do it. Have a trig quiz? Grab your calculator. Reading a chapter for biology? Make sure a highlighter is handy. Going on a search for supplies is a surefire way to derail homework.
5. Big projects? Start small.
If you’ve got a big assignment looming, like a research paper, stay motivated by completing a small piece of the project every few days. It’s easy to get distracted if the project seems too complicated or has a distant due date. Even writing just a few sentences a night will keep your essay on track.
6. Give your brain a break.
Our brains and bodies aren’t wired to do the same thing for too long. Attempting to complete a complicated geometry problem set in one sitting could end up frustrating you and make you want to give up. Make sure you are allowing yourself plenty of breaks—walk the dog, have a dance party, scan your Twitter feed—to get the blood flowing and get the brain moving.
7. Shift subjects.
You’ve got homework from lots of different teachers across multiple subjects. Who says you have to finish your Spanish dialogue before moving on to chemistry? When your mind starts wandering or you’ve just had enough, it’s ok (and often very productive!) to move on to something else. You may end up shifting subjects a few times before your assignments are completed.
8. Get loose.
Your study routine doesn’t have to be monotonous, especially if you are “actively” rather than passively involved with homework So take notes on passages as you read them. Or, create flashcards for vocab words. Don’t just study the biology diagram; try to replicate it. The more senses that are involved in the work, the more you will retain and the less likely you will zone out and read the same thing over and over with no comprehension.
9. Still can’t focus? We can help!
Sometimes an “outside force” can be very motivating. If you’re stuck, our online tutors are available 24/7 and can help you get back on track in just a few minutes.
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Q: Students often have trouble keeping all their notes and handouts organized. Do you have tips for kids of all ages when it comes to studying and completing homework?
A: In my house, we keep to a strict routine. After school, everyone comes in after school we spread out their agendas and make a list of what tasks need to be completed for the week. Due dates are written on the family calendar and homework is prioritized based on due dates and importance. We complete homework prior to moving on to free time. With all three kids doing their homework together, they encourage and help each other complete their task.
Q: Sometimes homework and studying can just be plain boring to children. What are some ways students can make studying fun or rewarding at the end so that it’s worthwhile?
A: Find practical ways to incorporate their studies into real life (i.e., teach fractions with baking cookies, etc). My kids love electronics, so the way we encourage them is to find apps that help them complete their studies on a tablet. One example is spelling test preparation. We use an app that allows us to input his current spelling list. Then he plays the games (fill in the blanks, unscramble etc.) all week to get him used to the words. Then he does the practice exam to prep him for his test.
We work on [learning] together. My kids and I love spending time together. I find they work better on their assignments when I am beside them. I get them to take an active role in explaining the assignment and how they got to their answer to me.
Use a calendar and plan ahead
Q: Sometimes students leave studying, homework, or projects to the last minute and can become overwhelmed when they start to pile up. Do you have any tips or words of advice for children and/or parents in making their workload more manageable?
A: We lead a very busy life with sports, clubs, etc. Leaving homework or projects to the last minute can spell disaster, so we try to avoid it from the outset. What we have found works for our family is to have a big family calendar with all of our obligations written on it, including due dates of projects. We use a different colour for each person in the family which makes it easy to read quickly. Then, as parents we sit down with our kids and look at the big project and break it into more manageable bite sized pieces. It allows us to figure in our other time constraints and put more time towards the schoolwork on a night or weekend where we are less busy, and less time on a night that has other obligations and could cause stress or a late night. The other big benefit of this has been the reduction in harried trips to the store for supplies we don’t have on hand. By planning it out ahead of time we are able to get the items we need before we actually need them.
Another tip I would suggest and one that has worked well for our family is to have scheduled homework time every day. This means that the kids are already prepared that they are going to sit down and do some work but it also gets us ahead at times. For example, if my kids don’t have any homework, we’ll do a worksheet on math, spelling, or another subject that they are working on at school. The internet has so many resources available to print for free. What this does is reinforce what they’re learning in the classroom and reduce the amount of “cramming” time they need before a test. As a parent I’ve found it invaluable because it has highlighted for me areas that my kids are strong in but more importantly, areas where they are struggling a little. This has allowed us to find extra help through the teacher, ourselves or an outside learning centre.
— Susannah Findlay from Creative Mama On A Dime
Split the work up in sections
Q: During long homework or studying sessions it’s hard for students to maintain focus and stay productive. In your experience, what are some ways that parents can keep their children motivated and focused when they start to lose interest in their schoolwork?
A: Staying focused is really hard for kids, especially when they are studying for a test or have a big assignment. Just the thought of it often makes them the wiggliest kid you’ve ever seen. If we have managed to spread the assignment out over a couple of days, we try to chat about the topic casually in the car or at dinner to get them thinking about it when they’re not feeling stressed and pressured. This often allows them time to really analyze and reflect so that when it is time to sit down and do the work, they have already got their thoughts in order.
We also have found that breaking up the work into smaller chunks throughout the evening is very helpful. We sit down after school and do a section then let the kids go off and play. This gives them a concrete “finish line” which for many kids is necessary. It also re-energizes them and allows them to burn off energy. We slot in another short work session before dinner and then dinner becomes another break, another chance for your child to stretch their legs, laugh, talk, etc. A third chunk after the dinner dishes are done usually does the trick and gets the kids in bed on time with their work done.
A big tip for helping your kids get through the stress of a big assignment or studying is setting them up for success. This means providing them with a space that is clear of clutter, has the materials they need for their project, is away from a television, radio or tablet and even siblings who are playing. These are all distractions and can cause procrastination, frustration and tears (yours or theirs). While we are all busy and it can seem like we’re in a huge rush all the time, taking 5 minutes to sit with your child as they’re starting their work and making sure they’re on track can save hours later. Check in periodically. Ask questions to make sure they’re comprehending and try to be as positive, calm and level as you can because they will draw from your energy.
— Susannah Findlay from Creative Mama On A Dime
Help Your Child Succeed With These Distracted Studying Tips
Developing the right study skills and finding the perfect study routine takes some trial and error, but in the end it’s worth it. Distracted-free studying will allow your child to achieve his or her academic goals more easily and with less stress.
If your child needs help with studying or with improving his or her study skills, Oxford Learning can help. Our study skills program helps kids develop strong time management, organization, note taking, study strategies and more. Contact us today!