How can we learn without distraction

Avoid distraction

Tips for using cell phones and the like

In the age of smartphones and social media, the next distraction is always lurking on the desk. But there are strategies to avoid it.

The two psychologists Edina Causevic and Carola Endemann give tips for distraction-free learning in their utb volume Managing stress - studying relaxed.

Get into the learning flow

According to a survey, every second student is distracted by digital media while studying. Our cell phone is a concentration killer. We are constantly “app-driven” and that has an impact on our ability to learn. The permanent interruptions by incoming mails, messages and news on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Co. reduce our attention and productivity. According to a study, we use our smartphone an average of 53 times a day to email, chat or surf the web, i.e. every 18 minutes we interrupt what we are doing. Concentrated learning and working is not possible in this way.

The constant interruptions in learning, at work and in our free time also prevent us from experiencing moments of flow. We are giving away true moments of happiness. Flow describes a state of deep concentration and self-forgetfulness, a complete absorption in the activity. In these moments we feel neither under nor overburdened, because the demands are in line with our abilities. We experience ourselves as effective, motivated and happy. Flow is the epitome of intrinsic motivation. To reach this state, we need at least 15 minutes, only then are we properly focused on the task. Every interruption destroys the flow state. Depending on the length of the break, we then need three to 15 minutes to fully concentrate on the task. Constant smartphone use can therefore lead to a significant loss of productivity and a feeling of overload.

Attention killer smartphone

In a recent study, American psychologists found that the presence of a cell phone impaired our cognitive abilities and concentration. Almost 800 students were tested to see how the position of the smartphone affects their cognitive performance. To do this, they had to solve tasks on the computer that required concentration. The cell phone was in my pocket, on the table or in another room. Participants whose cell phones were in another room were able to concentrate best. So the smartphone distracts us even if it is only in sight and we are not using it. It tempts us to keep checking whether someone has written to us or to think about whether it is something new
on social media out there. This distracts us from our actual task, learning.

Digital time-outs

Today's technical possibilities offer us many advantages. They help us save time and money. We research e.g. on the Internet and find all the information we need. Knowledge is available around the clock and everywhere. In the lecture we take notes on the laptop and we send our homework by email etc. But the advancing digitization has its price. Smartphones and the internet influence the way we think. We become less attentive, wander more quickly and our memory deteriorates. We have also lost random breaks, in which our mind can simply relax, any waiting times, e.g. queuing at the cash register or waiting for the train, are bridged by using the mobile phone.

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