Distractions hurt grades, studies show

By on June 27, 2013
ForumOpinion

You sit down and turn your computer on to finish a paper for your American History class. Before you can even open up a blank document to scribble the rough draft, you decide to check your e-mail.

Checking e-mail turns to checking Facebook or Twitter, glancing at the news. And before you know it, an hour has passed and you have made no progress on your assignment. It’s 11 PM and you are really going to crack down and finish…after you check your text messages, of course.

The description above applies to more and more students. This generation tends to be quite distracted while studying. They cannot seem to focus on just studying or completing an assignment.

Rather, they engage in other activities as they study, such as texting, listening to music, checking Facebook, watching television in the background and having several tabs open on their computer screen.

Even after reading through several studies on the impact of being distracted, I continue to juggle back and forth between tasks. In fact, as I write this article, I cannot help but drift my focus to the Google Chrome window where Facebook and CNN are open. This multi-tasking has become a bad habit that I just cannot force myself to stop.

While students may feel as though they are finishing everything with the efficiency mandated for the task, they fail to realize that they are not only hindering their productivity but also not absorbing the maximum amount of information possible when they are trying to read or study.

Experts point out that students who attempt to study or complete an assignment as they engage in other activities versus students who shut out all distractions take longer to finish assignments and may absorb less information when reading or studying.

These distractions may even cause their grades to suffer if they have waited until the last minute to finish an assignment. Some students are capable of “multi-tasking” and still writing a fabulous paper, but most, like me, are not. It takes us longer to finish assignments, which sometimes are not the quality that we would like them to be.

To counter this new trend and to help students achieve higher productivity, experts recommend fifteen minutes of distraction-free studying with two-minute breaks after each study session. During this time, students may check their phone or Facebook.

This strategy yields better results in studying and in completing assignments because students are focused for a constant period and are not switching between several different tasks in a short span of time.

They remain focused and then reward themselves with a short break to catch up on whatever they may have missed.

Future studies will more specifically delineate how students can best manage their time and reach their maximum efficiency. For now, however, parents and educators should focus on advising students to study in the absence of their cellphones and after exiting out of all internet applications on their computers.

As students, we have to try to change our habits. After all, they will only help us achieve more in the future.

Natasha Mehra
Staff Writer
nmehra16@uab.edu

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