The internet has opened so many doors for us all — including the ability to take online classes and studying from the comfort of our homes. Unfortunately, however, it can also be a very easy place to waste time. How many times have you sat down to write a paper, study for a test, or watch a video of a lecture and you find yourself once again browsing social media or visiting another one of your favorite time-wasting sites? Chances are, if you counted up the number of hours you spend wasting on the internet, you’d be shocked.
This can make it difficult to study for your intended degree. Something we see often at ACU Online. That’s why we came up with a list of 6 tips that can help you focus on the task at hand. See which ones might work for you.
1. Use an app to block your favorite time-wasting sites
A number of apps exist that can help you block your favorite time-wasting sites. You can add them to the computer or to a specific browser. Sure, you might be able to find other sites where you can waste time, but most likely, it will at least prevent you from going to the sites mindlessly. You will have to consciously decide you want to waste time, and for many people, that will be enough to convince them to get back on task.
Many of these apps also have settings that allow you to set predefined work times. Thus, you can schedule your breaks where your favorite sites once again become accessible. On some apps, this feature may be only available on premium versions.
Some apps you should check out include:
2. Ask a friend to help hold you accountable
Having someone else hold you accountable can also provide great motivation. Tell your friend about your goals and deadlines. Set up a bet or arrangement with them, that if you fail to meet your goals, then you will owe them money or a similar type of ‘pain point.’ For example, you might have to tackle one of their chores or take everyone out to dinner. Giving yourself that external, financially encouraging motivation can help keep you on track when your mind starts to wander.
3. Set strict times for work hours
When you leave your entire day open-ended with the simple goal of finishing your assignment or studying, it becomes easier to start browsing the internet because, after all, you have ‘all day.’ The task can also start to feel insurmountable as you realize you could still be studying well into the night. This helps you feel justified in taking ‘just a few minutes’ to distract yourself online.
To combat this source of distraction, set up a strict schedule of work, study, and free time. For example, you might spend three hours in the morning studying for an exam and then allow yourself an hour break. In the afternoon, you will spend an hour listening to a lecture, followed by two hours doing assignments. Then allow yourself another break.
Setting up this type of schedule helps you know when your break will come. When you feel tempted to jump online, you can remind yourself that you have a break at your preset time, helping you to remain focused.
4. Practice sticking to your schedule
It might sound funny but practicing sticking to a schedule can also help. You can begin to slowly train yourself to remain more focused on your activities. Start by forcing yourself to stick to a task for just 15 to 20 minutes, and then allow yourself a small break for 5 to 10 minutes. Little by little increase the time you spend focusing by a few minutes until you work up to a schedule of working and studying for a few hours and then having an hour break.
5. Have a school-only computer
Many online students also find it helpful to have one computer dedicated exclusively for their schoolwork. With this type of arrangement, none of your common time-wasting bookmarks will be available on the school computer, making it harder for you to distract yourself. You will also have to exercise some willpower and not allow yourself to add sites. Since the sites will not be as easy to access, it will be significantly easier to remain focused.
If you do not have more than one computer, some students use computers based in a library or computer lab. This type of environment is quiet. And, thus, it’s conducive to studying.
6. Hold yourself accountable by accurately tracking your time
In addition to apps that allow you to block certain sites, you can also get apps that allow you to track how you spend your time. An app like RescueTime will let you see exactly what percentage of time you spent on various websites. When you see the amount of time you end up wasting on social media and similar entertainment sites, you will likely feel embarrassed by your time wasting and feel inspired to make some changes.
This can also be a great way to see your progress as you start to implement some of the other tips above. You can compete with yourself to see how high you can get your percentage of focused time.
The amount of resources that the internet offers us is incredible. Anyone who has ever taken an online class knows the advantage of being able to attend class from their home or find sources for a research paper in their kitchen. Learning to get work done in the face of these distractions requires skills. Try some of our tips here to help you stay focused. If you want to learn more about how you can pursue an advanced degree online, visit acu.edu/online or call us at 855.219.7300.