Science-Backed Ways to Eliminate Distractions While Studying

August 26, 2020

There are so many ways to keep yourself busy these days—from sports to music, video games to streaming services, video-sharing platforms, and social media. Young people never have to be bored because of the endless choices available to them. However, these activities might also hinder your ability to stay focused on your studies and engage in deep work.

Many people overestimate their capacity for work. We have plenty of cognitive biases, or irrationalities, especially about how we look at our own thinking. A result of such biases is that we tend to minimise the amount of time it takes to complete a task. If you think you would take 30 minutes to finish an assignment from your biology tutoring sessions, chances are you would actually need at least an hour.

One way to keep yourself free from this type of bias is to ensure that your workspace is as free from distractions as possible. If you create an area that enables you to concentrate, you will be able to stick to your plans and finish when you say you would.

Rethinking how you read

Libraries have quiet spaces for a reason—silent reading increases comprehension and helps people develop an extensive vocabulary. When you read on your own, you are less likely to feel pressured to “perform your knowledge” and keep up with discussions. 

Reading silently, though, is not always feasible, especially outside school. Often, when you read at home, you will be in an environment with plenty of ambient noise like TV audio, people talking, or the HVAC humming. These can get annoying when you are trying to concentrate.

Beyond being annoying, though, background noise can impair your ability to retain information. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers saw that intelligible background speech greatly affects reading, as evidenced by the participants’ eye movements. The participants had to double back on sentences they have passed because their brains were attempting to decode the speech and the printed text at the same time.

When deciding where to do your chemistry tutoring or your maths study sessions, choose a place with as little ambient noise as possible. For subjects heavy on computations like these, you would need to focus entirely on what you are solving. What about creative tasks, though?

Does music hurt or help your focus?

In a survey by researchers from Washington State University in the US and Sogang University in Korea, 62 per cent of respondents, who were university students, listen to music while doing school-related tasks. However, another study suggests that listening to music slows down learning as it does for irrelevant speech.

Students who like listening to music while studying claim that it helps them focus. Music seems to encourage divergent thinking, which is an essential part of creativity. The key, perhaps, is in planning for the kind of school work you would do in a given session. 

If you would still like to listen to music while reviewing your periodic table or the parts of a cell, you should go for classical music instead of the latest pop hits. Instrumental music will not have lyrics that would probably cause the distraction.

Multi-tasking: Definitely harmful

There are plenty of studies that associate multi-tasking with poorer quality performance. For example, research published in Computers in Human Behavior shows that students who text in the class understand less of the lecture compared to the ones whose phones were switched off. Furthermore, greater daily use of social media like Facebook has been associated with greater academic distraction.

It goes back to how confident people are in their ability to concentrate. Though it seems like you do more while you are multi-tasking, you are actually slower than you could be. Instead of focusing on one thing, your brain switches rapidly among tasks, which slows down your overall rate.

Avoid the pitfalls of media multi-tasking by taking “technology breaks.” When you study, give yourself five minutes to access the internet, but restrict its use outside your breaks. If you have difficulties with this, you can have an accountability buddy, who will remind you to keep your breaks to five minutes. You can also keep your gadgets in a place far from where you study.


Making productive use of your time is a vital part of getting in meaningful study hours. Keep yourself free from distractions by choosing carefully where and with whom you will review. It will help you stay on track, meet your goals, and set even better ones in the future.

You should also get help from experienced teachers, like our team at Young Growth Academy. We provide high school tutoring in Penrith, and Our YGA Success Framework will help you thrive, form healthy study habits, and set personal goals. Book a tutor now to learn more!