If you are anything like me you will be easily distracted. Before you start typing up that TMA you will permit yourself a quick five minutes to check Twitter, Facebook to respond to a text or e-mail. One hour later…..oh dear it’s happened again. I remember chatting to an Open University student who had been learning with the organisation since the early 1980s. She insisted that it was a good deal easier to study and revise back then because all of the work was writing with a pen and paper. It’s true that the more computer-based work, the greater the temptation to wobble off task.
Even these days if we did adopt the pen and paper strategy it is still likely that a phone message will pop up anyway so no joy there either. Apparently not only are we susceptible to distractions through our own technology but through the very presence of technology being used by others. Check out this article in The Canadian Globe and Mail that details such a study:
“Laptops have replaced pen and paper for many post-secondary students but a Canadian study suggests using computers during lectures could be hurting their grades and lowering their classmates’ marks.
“Faria Sana, who co-authored the study with fellow doctoral student Tina Weston, said she expected lower test marks for students who were asked to multitask during the experiment, or were seated near other students using laptops. But the distraction effect was stronger than she hypothesized.”
So just how can we stay on track? To make a start here is a list of ways to help stay on task and keep technology at bay. These problems are not exclusive to Open University students but seeing as we are an unofficial OU blog all of the content is based around the Milton Keynes distance learning organisation.
1) Enhance your focus and manage your time more effectively by zoning your efficient bursts into 25 minute chunks. Try the Focus Booster App which is a cross-platform tool that comes with a free desktop version before moving through the “freemium” model into a paid service if you wish to use any other features. This idea comes from the Pomodoro Technique which is, “…a productivity methodology that helps you to stay focused on a task by breaking up your day into 25-minute work stints (called “pomodoros”) followed by five-minute breaks. It’s named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that its inventor Francesco Cirillo used for timing pomodoros, but in reality, any countdown timer can be used.”
2) If, like me, you are usually being attacked by a tsunami or e-mails then something like “Inbox Pause” could be the answer for you. When you are trying to summon up some much-needed creativity and a frivolous video link, spammy message or GroupOn offer comes rumbling in through your inbox then the temptation is there to have a sneaky peek. Inbox Pause adds a pause button to your Gmail accounts. This simple Chrome extension then creates a neat barrier that allows you to stay on task. And, I might hear you say, what about other email providers like Hotmail, AOL or Yahoo? Sorry, I’m afraid the only current option with those might be to sign out or hide your phone in another room!
3) Pull the cable out of the WiFi box! Yes, I’ve even had to resort to this. My PC does run without an internet connection and if it’s just Microsoft Word I need open and my pile of textbooks and paper documents then why would I need to ever be online at all? Simply pull the cable out or disconnect the internet connection until you are where you need to be. Basic but effective.
So even though my Open University studies were initially in danger of being blighted by the curse of technology I managed to pull through and become more effective in my output. With a little dedication you can also brush aside the technological temptations.
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