4 Steps to Dealing with Holiday Distractions
The shopping. The decorating. The parties. The carolers. Along with the holidays comes a ton of fun and a little chaos. But if you’re a student coming up on the end of your semester, the endless cheer might feel more like one giant, tinsel-covered distraction. For those aiming to have a productive December, we’ve gathered a few tips to help minimize the distractions.
1. SCHEDULE BACKWARDS.
Scheduling is a huge part of getting through the holiday season without feeling too overwhelmed, and working backwards is a great way to do it. Start with New Year’s Day, and work back through your calendar. Ask yourself which days you want to commit solely to friends, family, and travel. Next, see how many days remain, and confirm that those days give you enough time to comfortably study, complete work, and take tests. The key word there is “comfortably”. Given the unexpected pop-ins, late nights, and catching up that occurs during the holidays, it’s best to cushion your schedule with even more time than usual for your school work. If you don’t end up with enough time to work, start cutting back on the days you blocked off for non-work activities. This might mean making some tough decisions, but you’ll thank yourself when you’re staring at that “A” later. And rather than doing the full schedule in your head, actually label each calendar day with its intended purpose and keep it in an accessible place. This will give you a record of your plan, and help you hold yourself to it.
2. GET CREATIVE.
There are a few ways you can think outside the box when it comes to getting work done efficiently around all the festivities.
First of all, don’t be afraid to travel with your books and study materials. Just because you’re spending the whole afternoon at grandma’s doesn’t mean you can’t steal an hour or two to knock out some studying. If you keep your materials with you, your work will remain top-of-mind and you’ll end up with more opportunities to stay ahead of schedule. Don’t forget- it’s all about that schedule!
Next, remember DSST is here to help! If there’s a subject you’ve already learned, you could test out of it and receive college credit. It can save lots of time and money, and may just be the holiday miracle you’ve been looking for.
3. BE A GRINCH WHEN IT COMES TO DISTRACTIONS AND DIET.
As we mentioned in our “Focusing after Failing” entry, removing distractions is crucial. Especially with all the holiday chatter, group texts, and social posts, turning off your phone and other unnecessary devices will help tremendously when it comes to focusing. From there, make sure your study space is quiet, comfortable, and all yours. If you’re staying with relatives, ask if you can take over a low-traffic room for getting work done. Remember that fully recovering from a distraction takes minutes, not seconds. Plus, distractions can prevent you from reaching the “flow” (highest) state of concentration. Keeping others informed of your study needs and proactively preventing distractions will make a noticeable impact on your learning efficiency.
Believe it or not, getting distracted by holiday treats could also impact your attention span. Be sure to stick to a healthy diet, exercise, and get a full night’s sleep especially during the most stressful stretches.
4. GIVE YOUR PEEPS A HEADS-UP.
Family and friends might be bummed when they first learn you won’t be around for the big dinner or outing, but there’s a way to minimize the disappointment. The key is giving them enough time to process the news. As soon as you’ve put together your calendar, let your loved ones know which events you’ll be able to attend, and which ones you’ll have to skip. This will give them time to process the news and make any necessary planning adjustments. Be sure to remind them that you’ll be able to catch up soon, and that it’s only because you really need to focus on doing well in school. Even Aunt “guilt-tripper” Gertrude will have a tough time arguing with that.
Lastly, use the people around you. Odds are that with so many friends and family at your disposal, there’s at least one or two who can offer insight into the field you’re studying. Maybe there are some relatives or friends who are in school too, and could offer a fresh perspective on getting through the work.
Happy holidays and best wishes as you balance it all!