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The leading internet blocker, Stop Procrastinating, has announced that 64% of US students have cited online distractions such as social media as a hindrance to their productivity. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, shopping websites and YouTube were among the sites that students found the most distracting.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Nearly all of the students who responded in the survey referred to a ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO), which is the anxiety that people experience when they believe that important events are happening without them. The anxiety arises from a perceived decrease in ‘popularity’ if they’re not up-to-date with the latest happenings in their social circle. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to FOMO, and 24-hour social media feeds such as Facebook and Twitter are exacerbating the problem. Students are constantly checking their social media feeds (sometimes a few hundred times per day) in order to keep up with the latest drivel happenings.
Interestingly, first year university students were the most affected. It’s possible that in first year (sometimes called “freshman year”), people’s social circles haven’t quite cemented since the upheaval of leaving high school. People are therefore more anxious and fear missing out on new friendships and events… so they gravitate towards social media.
Almost half students surveyed admitted to losing an hour each day to social media. Common Sense Media estimates the real figure (including traditional media such as TV) is more like 9 hours per day. That’s a lot of screen time, and it’s affecting students’ social lives, their grades and their sleep.
Over half of the respondents said they’d been stopped from writing an essay because they felt compelled to check social media at some point. Any issue that’s stopping half of our students from writing essays (or concentrating for any extended period of time) needs to be addressed urgently.
This problem needs to be addressed urgently
The level of distraction today is unprecedented. We all carry televisions and music players in our pockets. I got in touch with Tim Rollins, the director of Stop Procrastinating, who said:
“We have made Stop Procrastinating free today in order help students to beat their Internet distractions and boost their performance in their studies. The Internet, social media, emails are pervasive and eating into our quality time. We need urgently to put ourselves back in control.” – Tim Rollins
Software is one of the tools that can help students get the lasting willpower they need to overcome FOMO and get back into studying. Here are my tips for eliminating distractions while studying.
Study without music. All the research says it doesn’t help.
Don’t eat and study at the same time.
Drink only water while you’re studying.
Sit upright while studying: don’t study laying in bed or leaning back on the couch.
Have a goal for each study session. Write it down and work until you’ve completed it (e.g. make notes on all 6 types of acid/base chemical reactions with examples)
Study in a location that you never use for relaxation… the library is a great choice. Most students can’t study in their bedroom because they usually relax there.
Limit the number of Facebook friends to 30. Delete all the others: I understand this takes some courage, but you probably don’t know them anyway! Their unimportant updates distract you from studying.
Stop Procrastinating is an Internet blocking and productivity application compatible with OS X and Windows. It allows users the option to block the Internet for a period of time in three ways, depending on how much self-discipline they have.
The priority at this late stage is that you enter the examination hall well-rested, well-fed and with an appropriate level of stress.
1. Sleep early every night
Go to bed before 10pm (or 9pm with an exam the next day)
Wake up naturally. If you’re waking up too late, go to sleep at 7pm.
Avoid backlit screens for one hour prior to sleeping. Backlit screens emit light in the 484-nanometre range, which excites melanopsin in the retinal ganglion cell photoreceptor. This disrupts your circadian rhythm and keeps you awake!
2. Eat healthily
Eat regular meals at regular times.
Eat plenty of fruit. (Five per day.)
Drink plenty of water.
3. Get some lighter exercise
Avoid exhausting sports around exam time (e.g. rugby).
Do more walking, jogging, and lighter sports at exam time (e.g. badminton).
Drink plenty of water(!) Aim to drink 3 litres per day.
Research has shown that you perform difficult tasks (such as a Chemistry exam) much better under moderately relaxed conditions. The famous Yerkes-Dodson curve illustrates this beautifully.