It’s almost guaranteed that the moment you decide to sit down and concentrate on studying, a billion other things start vying for your attention. You get emails from long-lost friends, your mom is calling you on Skype, and your roommate asks you to do the dishes. Two hours go by and you haven’t even touched your study materials. Not good! Here’s how to come out a winner in the game of distractions.

Step 1: Request Privacy

Due to the time difference between your home country and your study abroad location, your family may tend to call you at inconvenient times. Maybe they like dialing in during their evening hours, which is your morning – your prime study time! This is particularly inconvenient when you have a big exam coming up, or a term paper to work on. During busy times it is best to ask your family and friends not to Skype with you for a while. You can even make arrangements to talk only on the weekends, freeing up more time for studying. Your loved ones will surely be understanding - after all, they all want you to succeed.

Step 2: Choose a Place and Develop a Routine for Studying

Most people prefer studying in a variety of places, in their rooms, in the library, in coffee shops, and even on the subway. Find out which place works best for you through trial and error. Often it’s a place with no distracting wi-fi, like a park or an empty low-tech classroom. Once you have identified your ideal location, you should go to the same ‘place’ every time you need to be productive. This way your brain will be in work mode from the get-go. When you need a break from studying, do something that involves some activity: take a quick walk around the area, or try out a few yoga poses, drink some water, then get back to work.

Step 3: Disable the Internet

If you are writing a term paper, you will probably need to use the Internet. But as you know, online searches often lead you down a rabbit hole – before you know it, you are watching videos of monkeys eating a fruit buffet in Thailand, or reading news from your home country. That’s not helpful. The best thing is to swiftly find the relevant websites for your studies. Once you have pulled up all necessary pages, disable your Internet altogether or use a program like Cold Turkey or SelfRestraint that blocks you from accessing time-sucking websites.

Step 4: Turn Off Your Phone

You may feel like it is important to keep your phone handy, just in case there’s an emergency. Yet, you will most likely end up using your phone to check Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Even if you spend a few minutes on social media, it takes a full 23 minutes to get your concentration back up again according to a 2015 study by the University of California Irvine. So you should either turn your phone off completely, or put it on silent mode and place it far away from yourself. Try your best to stay in the study zone. Only check your phone after you have reached your day’s study goal.

Step 5: Keep a Pen And Paper at Hand

When you finally hit the books, your mind has a habit of wandering all over the place and reminding you of all the things you need to do. Most are unrelated to the study task at hand, such as cleaning your room or paying the electricity bill. This is why you should have a pen and paper handy: every time you remember a task you must do, write it down. Then get back to studying. Once you are done with studying for the day, you can tackle this new to-do list. The worst thing is to start doing something else while you’re meant to be studying, like packing for your upcoming trip back home. These things can wait. Just write them down, and get to them later.

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About the AuthorMirva Lempiäinen is a US-educated freelance journalist from Finland. After calling New York City home for about a decade, she now resides on the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.