I Can’t Get No Satisfaction… Ways to Conquer Distraction and Find Satisfaction

When it comes to difficulties preparing for tests, distractions are the biggest obstacle.

You must keep your ultimate goal in the front of your brain – that of becoming a physician, of serving your community, performing surgery, of saving lives – whatever your personal goal might be. And then you must truly come to terms with what is most important to reaching that goal next and place it at the top of your list. It must come before all other things. This will give you peace and satisfaction – a sense of accomplishment as you attend to it each day.

But the distractions seem to keep pushing their way to front of your brain don’t they? And your goal gets fuzzy or lost. 

Conquering those distractions will allow you to focus on your goal that, in turn, will help you find satisfaction through accomplishment.


  • Clear your space of distractions --- empty desk -> no distractions
  • If the couch or bed is tempting, then you might want to leave and go to a place that is more conducive to studying
  • Low Light or Tons of Light? Figure out what is best for you- a place with a lot of light is energizing for some and for some paradoxical reason low light helps others focus better.
  • Turn off access to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, forums, etc. Believe it or not, the sky will not fall, the world will not end if you are not “connected” for a few hours
  • Study during your peak energy and attention level. Reserve social networking for slow periods – like midnight. Sorry! Again… What is your goal?
  • Check your email three specified times per day, preferably during work hours. Spend only 20 minutes each time for email. Think about how much time is chewed up by email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Figure it out. Shut down the internet to work. Disconnect, and work without distractions.
  • Get a noise machine or fan to block out noise that distracts you. They makes sounds like rain, oceans, birds chirping, etc. Music can be distracting if you end up listening to words. Background needs to be neutral.
  • Turn off your phone, computer, cover your TV with a blanket (yes that is what I said).
  • If you are studying with others, they must also turn off all phones, and other socializing devices.
  • When you study for tests, stick with your assignment for the day. If you question something in a book, do not look anything up on the computer. This will cause you to lose your rhythm and throw off your whole study session. This can lead to hours of searching. Make a star or note and go back to it later. Stick with your plan of finishing a section or completing a certain number of questions in that study session. 
  • Break up your tasks so you do not become bored. Study a section then take a set of questions. Go out and take a walk and get the circulation going. Then take another session for reading and note-taking.
  • Arrange your work hours so you can have an hour of study before you go home from campus. Once you get home, you will want to relax.
  • Arrange a time to worry and get it over with. I know it sounds a bit loony but it works for the masters of compartmentalization, which physicians must be to be successful. Only give yourself 20 minutes. If it is more than that, then you are perseverating and that is a whole different topic.
  • Actively study – write notes on paper or dry erase board - even if you trash them. Talk over topics with others, make outlines and charts. Just reading can lead to internal distractions and day dreaming. If you keep re-reading the same thing over and over, you are being passive and not accomplishing anything.

Things you should continue to do:

  • Shower, exercise, eat... (just joking)
  • Live life fully and make time for fun with family and friends
  • See student comments below...

2 Responses to “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction… Ways to Conquer Distraction and Find Satisfaction”

  1. Casey says:

    I think in addition to keeping your eye on the prize, it's really important to fit in things that you enjoy doing. The people I know who are always concerned with "the goal" end up being obsessive, unhappy, and eventually burn out. Taking some time out for hobbies will keep you happier, and allow the time you study to be more effective.

  2. DIT Team says:

    Thank you for your comments. You are so right. Keeping a balance in life is essential to happiness in the medical student’s success and that would include outside interests such as hobbies. Our efforts at humor were weak and unclear and students should not make room just for showering, exercising, and eating. Their lives should be rich and include friends, family, and play. When it is time to get down to work, the above strategies should help you focus so you can have more time for living life and enjoying it.

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