Students can be wasting hours a day or maximizing every second of precious college prep time. Which way the day goes depends on the use of tech devices. Parents may remember their parents telling them to turn off the T.V. Today’s college-bound are distracted by a host of other diverting devices. The problem isn’t just the interruption but each intrusion can add “about 15 minutes for them to resume a serious mental task,” according to an article in Entrepreneur on Sept. 23.
Four text messages, two emails and a couple of Facebook posts can wash two hours of meaningful concentration time down the drain and that’s not counting how long the updating and checking in actually took. Yet, social media can be used effectively to demonstrate interest in colleges and learn more about schools, college admission tests, academic and extracurricular opportunities. It’s all about efficiently using tech devices which means staying focused on one activity at a time.
Gretchen Rubin wrote the Entrepreneur article that also appeared on LinkedIn. She jokes, “If I’d been checking my emails, I might never have had the idea for my book The Happiness Project.” That and her Happier at Home were on The New York Times Best Sellers list. In her article, she gave eleven steps for adults to reduce the stress from distractions because,
Too many things clamor for your attention. People are trying to reach you, by phone, email, text, Twitter, or old-fashioned yelling up the stairs. Colleagues interrupt. You need to update, check in, post, or ping. Ads jump at you from the most unlikely places. Devices buzz, ring, chirp, and vibrate.
Students have similar issues and parents can help address them with a parent-student team. Here are those eleven ways adapted for college prep.
- Choose white noise or quiet. The strategy is to mute diversions. So if students are tempted to sing along and get up and dance to a fave tune, save the music for break time.
- Picture the goal. Hang a photo of a choice college, a symbol of a desired career, or inspirational saying in a prominent place and use it as a screen saver. It’s a great self-motivation tool. When overwhelmed, look at it, take a deep breath, and refocus.
- Keep college materials together. Use both real and virtual organizers so no time is wasted hunting for something like a scholarship application or tempted into playing a game. Parents can help students create a work station that is well lit and display the motivation picture chosen in #2.
- Form a college-bound tech plan. Multitasking is a college prep threat and parents can help their students create a media-free homework zone with planned tech breaks.
- Mute, turn off or put away all devices that aren’t being used for study. The bonus is it will help develop impulse control that will reap big benefits in college and beyond.
- Use a calendar. Mark test dates, application deadlines and assign time frames to complete other tasks. The family can make it a habit to refer to it and update regularly. Time management and organization skills are essential and will become even more important during college and in jobs.
- Keep to the schedule. For example, a text message alert may come across the screen while studying online for the SAT. Maintain priorities and ignore it until it’s time to take the tech break. See #4.
- Reread #5. It’s that important.
- Take breaks. Don’t forget to schedule breaks, social activities and personal time alone, with family and friends to ensure downtime. Burnout is a real danger to busy high school students.
- Get up and move. Studying doesn’t have to be inside at a desk. Take a walk thinking about the information learned, stand while writing, talk to a study partner while tossing a ball. Stand, walk and talk while using tech devices, too.
- Have a back-up plan. Keeping options is a great way to navigate the college prep road. There are so many “what ifs” and possibilities. For example, use a tech device to make a spreadsheet to organize college choices and create a personal college ranking list. Be flexible, ready to reassess, make a good decision and go on to the next issue.
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