A Guide To Studying For The Easily Distracted

“When it comes to—”

Let me just check Facebook, I think someone sent me a message…

Nevermind. No message.

“As I was saying, when it comes to—”

I’m going to change this playlist—too fast-paced.

“So when it comes to—”

Now this playlist’s too slow. One second.

“SO, when it comes to—”

Oh! I nearly forgot to e-mail Tam. Give me a sec.


how to study for the easily distracted


Every time, I sit down to write—anything—this is my standard thought process. It varies very little from my standard study process. Task me with studying and stick me behind a computer screen or between the sides of a library cubicle and my attention becomes manic. I never once managed an all-nighter over the course of my undergraduate degree. Aside from my preferred early bedtime, I simply don’t have the focus to remain in one spot with my attention on one task for more than forty-five minutes to an hour—let alone six.Rather than force myself to adhere to traditional study strategies, I shaped a set of my own that matches the limits of my attention span.

Be warned: preparation, organization and (shocker) studying are still required.

If you’d prefer to leave it all to the last minute and not study, you can. And you’ll have the added enjoyable worry of whether or not you’ll understand the questions on the exam let alone any solutions.

Now in order to begin studying, ensure that you have all the necessary material.

Do you own all the books or course texts? Do you have the notes from each lecture, tutorial or seminar? And perhaps the corresponding PowerPoint?

Once you’ve collected all these resources, approximately, three weeks prior to your exam or test, build a study schedule.

Within each course, your instructor likely broke the course material down into units, which then each culminated in a test. And if that’s not the case, the material could similarly be broken down by lecture. Depending on how many units you count, assign one more to each day of your schedule. End each period in which you make it through all the units with a review of say the first three. Eventually, you’ll cover several units’ worth of material in a single day rather than just one. You may also choose on such days to schedule a review of the test that culminated a series of units. Here’s an example of such a schedule from my third-year French course:

how to study for the easily distracted

While, it sounds daunting, here’s why it isn’t: you’re simply reading the material on its assigned date.

And, to clarify, depending on the nature of the material, it’s a thorough read of the material—not skimming, but by no means drilling either. Who has the attention span for that?! Know your limits and make your units—the amount of material you cover on each day—as small as necessary in order for you to properly review them. Perhaps your schedule needs to start a week earlier? You’re regularly immersing yourself in the material in small spurts, so that come exam day it’s no longer foreign to you, but part of you.

Now that you’ve broken down the course into bits—bits that your easily distracted mind can more easily digest—break down your study approach in the same manner.

Read one day. Complete exercises another. Study in a group or recruit a roommate to test you on the third. Maybe create a set of cue cards you can either stick on your bedroom mirror or glance over on the commute home. Finally, if time permits, supplement your study materials with more “practical” alternatives. For example, for my second-year dinosaurs and the history of life course, I spent an afternoon at the museum using my notes to identify the skeletons of actual dinosaurs. While I’ve since lost all that knowledge, I never felt so empowered. Allow your distraction to feed your creativity. There is no correct way to study, there’s only the way you can study.