How to avoid distractions while studying online

How to avoid distractions while studying online

Avoiding distractions while studying online is often a challenging task. Cat videos, for example, have immense power and can set you back 1 hour before you blink (hint: don’t watch the first one). 

Knowing how to avoid distractions while studying online,  may just be what gets you that dream exam/test score at the end of the day. 

But what are distractions?

Anything that takes you away from your goal. Simple, that’s it.

If it’s taking the brain and motor power needed to get something done, it’s not required at that point. It can also be internal or external.

What distracts students while studying online?

Distractions can be either internal or external.

Internal distractions are those that come from within. Ever been reading a book and your mind suddenly strays from the pages of the book to something that happened last week? Or trying to prepare for a test and your mind just refuses to concentrate on what’s in front of you. 

How to avoid distractions while studying online. Image of a lady covering her face with a book
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

External distractions come from the environment – your phone, the neighbor’s dog, the TV downstairs, meddling kids, just anything you can think of. 

For adequate study time, it is important to minimize, avoid or eliminate distractions so you get the best out of your study time. You have the same 24 hours as everyone else so you’re doing yourself a disservice when you get distracted easily and fail to return to study.

Distractions are a dime a dozen these days. They are everywhere, technology has brought them into your phones and will soon live in your brain, literally. So it is important to know how to identify and eliminate distractions like a ruthless predator.

The surefire way to avoid study distractions

Let me share a story.

I have this friend, let’s call him Jay, who wanted to ace his post-graduate degree. He would not settle for anything less than getting A’s on his exams and tests. He didn’t stop there because he went all out when it was time for his research paper – he put in the sweat, time, and money to see that his paper was so good he eventually was called to be a part of a documentary talking about the issue. 

Where am I going with this?

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

When you decide and KNOW what you want and WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. It helps with fighting distractions. You’ve looked at the future and extrapolated your current study routine throughout your schooling time and you’re not happy with what you see.

Then you decide to take responsibility.

You take responsibility both in the big things and the little things such as putting your phone in silent mode. You go the extra mile to have extra walks to the library to be away from your noisy roommate. 

These little actions tie into your bigger goal to do something meaningful with your time in school and life at large. Sounds too philosophical? I hope not.

You have to take some time and decide WHY you’re in school and if you really want to do what you’re doing. Then you set actionable steps to take you to your goals.

Tips to avoid distractions while studying online

Now that you have set, actionable steps towards your goal(s), here are some handy tips to avoid distractions while studying online.

1. Identify and eliminate external distractions

There’s a good chance you already know what’s distracting you when studying online or even offline. If YouTube is your Achilles heel, you can check some of my super 11 tips to stop getting distracted by YouTube.

However, if you don’t know, then you may need to see a counselor or seek professional help.

After identification, comes elimination. Consciously eliminate the identified distractions through any of the following steps.

Turn off notifications on your devices

Or go ballistic and turn off your devices. At the very least, ensure you turn off all non-essential notifications. The “do not disturb” feature on most phones often has a setting that allows calls to come in from certain contacts or after several missed calls. 

Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash

You can leave this feature on while every other thing should be muted. You can resume regular programming after study time. 

Find a quiet, distraction-free study space

Look for a quiet place away from any distractions. This may mean leaving your room to the library or going to read with a study buddy in another building. 

Your reading space should be your safe space where your brain is not inundated with different sounds and images that can easily distract you.

Let friends and family know when you are studying and need undisturbed time

This is also good from a safety perspective. But more importantly, it lets everyone know that you’re in “do not disturb” mode. 

2. Manage internal distractions

You may notice the slight change in wording to ‘manage’ instead of ‘eliminate’ internal distractions. Your mind is alive, and totally eliminating distractions requires a monk-level type of discipline that takes some time to hone to a good enough level.

You can however manage your internal distractions by choosing to focus. Here are some tips for managing internal distractions. 

Take short breaks in-between

This helps to recalibrate your mind and focus when you return to studying. One popular way to do this is to use the Pomodoro technique (more on this below) which allows for five minutes of rest after 25 minutes of study.

Use the Pomodoro technique to stay focused for periods

The Pomodoro technique is a handy tool for staying focused. I have tried it personally and I can say that it works. It involves doing a focused activity for about 25 minutes and then taking a five-minute break. Many mobile and web Pomodoro apps can help you achieve this.

Pomodoro timer
Pomodoro timer

3. Stay motivated and accountable

Having set SMART goals, you have to put in some accountability checks to help you. One way to do this is to use a planner or scheduler to track your progress. 

This makes it easy to spot when you’re behind schedule so you can adjust your reading times. 

A study buddy, group, or just an accountability partner can also motivate you for those days when you need that extra push. So find a buddy or group to share your plans with so both parties can encourage each other to succeed.


Studying online can come with many distractions. There are many ways to avoid these distractions such as setting SMART goals, turning off device notifications, and using the Pomodoro technique. 

It’s possible to make the best of your study time and hit your education goals. Many people have done it in the past and I’m rooting for you too. 

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

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