Home » Blogs » Always Learning » For Efficient Studying, Clear the Decks!

For Efficient Studying, Clear the Decks!

Clear your desk of distractions such as toys and cellphones, and don't chat, watch TV or listen to music.
Clear your desk of distractions such as toys and cellphones, and don’t videochat, watch TV or listen to music.

I hear more and more students complaining about the hours they’re spending on homework, and how long they study for tests (but then they still don’t do well).

The culprit is almost always multi-tasking.

Human brains are simply not built to do more than one thing at a time. This is true for young people just as much as for adults.

These very same students will insist that texting, listening to music, and watching TV help them study. But what’s really happening is that the constant mental gear-switching is giving them the false illusion of being super-productive.

Their brains feel busy, and they’re logging tons of time at their desks, but it’s mentally fragmented, distracted time. They don’t learn the material deeply or well, and they exhaust their brains, not with knowledge, but with mental gymnastics.

To get the most out of your study hours, concentrate 100% on your work. You’ll get finished more quickly and you’ll remember what you learned!

 Three Tips to Help You Focus:

  1. Clear your space. Have nothing on your work surface except your textbook, pencil, notebook and calculator. If you use an online textbook, close down all other windows. Put your cellphone in another room and turn off all music, social media, and TV.
  2. Set a timer. Work for 20 solid, focused minutes (adjust this time period if you prefer), and when the timer goes off take a quick break to check your phone and/or e-mail. Then, put your cellphone away again, set your timer…repeat until your homework is finished.
  3. Chew, sip or fiddle. Instead of relieving anxiety by incessantly checking for texts or e-mails, try chewing sugarless gum, sipping water, or fiddling with a worry stone.
For Efficient Studying, Clear the Decks!

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS is an educator, counselor, writer and speaker. She's been a tutor, test prep coach and home school teacher for over thirty years. Click HERE to visit Leigh's website and to subscribe to her newsletter, "Learning Something New."

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Cousins, L. (2015). For Efficient Studying, Clear the Decks!. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Jun 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.