If you have a ton of homework to get done (espcially in a class that isn’t very fun), it can be tempting to drag your feet before getting started.

Our brains are great at inventing little tasks to fill time when we want to avoid doing something.  Sure, I’ll just check some emails, chat a bit online, browse Facebook, etc.  Before you know it, and hour has passed and you haven’t even started!

Today I’m going to share with you the greatest single thing you can do to get more work done in less time: eliminate all distractions and interruptions when doing your homework.

Studies have shown that interruption is the greatest enemy of producivity.  Why?

Well, it takes our brains a while to get into a good rhythm when working on a problem.  You may have noticed this when writing or doing math problems.

The very first sentence or problem takes a disproportionate amount of time.  We might shuffle papers for a while, get comfortable in our seat, fidget and think for while, etc.  When we FINALLY manage to get the first sentence or problem done we are on a role.

The next sentence or problem goes a little bit faster, and the next a bit faster, until we are really in a good “flow” state.  We’re actually getting homework done!

The worst thing that can happen at this point is an interruption.  A phone call.  A chat IM window.  A notification about a new email arriving.  Someone walking by to say hi.

These are all bad because even if you just look at your phone and don’t answer it, your flow state has been broken.  Instead, you are thinking about why that person might be calling and whether it’s important.  By some estimates it can take up to 10 minutes to get back into your “flow” state EVERY TIME you are interrupted, and that’s wasted time.

How many times were you interrupted last time you worked on homework?  Multiply that by 10 minutes and that’s how much time you’re wasting.

Do you homework in uninterrupted blocks of about 1.5 hours and then take a break for half an hour before starting again.  During that time, turn off all phones, chat programs, email programs, and isolate yourself from people who may interrupt you.

Still not convinced?  Check out this study which showed how people who constantly checked their blackberry did WORSE on an IQ test that people stoned on marijuana.

In 2005, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hands, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points.
In a digital world of infinite distraction, it is “single-tasking” — shutting out interruption instead of facilitating it — that will save us. What’s the alternative? Checking e-mail once every five minutes, then every minute, then every second? It’s not a scalable coping mechanism.

Remember, interruption is the enemy of getting your homework quickly!

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