On staying focused, productive despite constant distractions

Geneseo students are returning for yet another semester. It can be tough getting through another 15 weeks while maintaining sanity. Slippery sidewalks, harsh sub-zero winds blowing down University Drive and assignments piling up quicker than snow outside all make school even more challenging. A lot of students work jobs or participate in extracurricular activities, too, which only make a short day seem shorter. All-day coffee extravaganzas and all-night study sessions can be tempting when the semester heats up. But have no fear, there are ways to increase productivity.

One effective way is to make a detailed schedule. To-do lists are fine, but a lot of things only get done when there’s a date and time set-aside for them. Phone calendar apps and reminders make scheduling your day down to the minute a breeze. Extensive planning may seem overwhelming, but you’ll be surprised to find how much more time you’ll have to watch movies, read a book or hang out with friends.

Another tip is to abandon “pseudo-work”—trying to read a history textbook in someone’s apartment while their housemates blast music and cook dinner. Or heading to the downstairs floor of Milne Library and taking 15-minute walking breaks every 20 minutes. It’s best to avoid pseudo-work at all costs. Find work-friendly environments or use headphones to block out distracting noise and get psyched into getting significant work done.

Do your best to stay focused. People’s minds are constantly working, so it’s easy to get off track. Keeping the mind focused on one specific task takes serious, conscious effort. It is important to realize that your mind will wander, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead of throwing in the towel, however, just take a breath and get back on track.

“It is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head,” author David Foster Wallace said in his famous Kenyon College Commencement speech in 2005. “Learning how to think really means exercising some control over how and what you think.”

Another great way to be productive is to know your resources and take full advantage of them. Geneseo offers many academic resources such as the GLOCAT scholarly sources search engine through Milne and the Writing Center. And be sure to utilize the office hours of professors and teaching assistants, as well as seeking out extra help with Geneseo tutors.

On a college campus like Geneseo, there is an abundance of people willing to help—just seek them out. If you know your own schedule well enough to set up a date to meet with them, you’ll find your grades and productivity soaring.

With a determined mind, detailed schedule and awareness of the endless resources available, you will be set to do well this coming semester, your stress level will fall and you’ll have more time to enjoy college life.