Dealing with distractions at home

While people have more distraction at home than if they were learning in person, there are ways to help calm your house down.


Photo by Adam Monnette

While there are many distractions that people have to face, I encounter three particular challenges: my family, my dogs, and my technology.

Adam Monnette, Live Media Manager

I have two parents who run their own business from home, a younger sister, five dogs, nine puppies, and technology that always demands attention. The idea of a distraction-free environment is a foreign idea to me. Even though not everyone will have the same reasons, I’m guessing all of us can relate to how distracting life — and learning — can be right now. 

By far, the loudest clatter comes from the other people surrounding us. They eavesdrop into one-on-one conversations with teachers. They are in our backgrounds, making food, and pouring themselves their third cup of coffee or juice for the day. They are in the next room talking aggressively on the phone, while we try to concentrate on a summative assignment. 

And then there are our fuzzy friends who demand petting and love and snacks. Basically, man’s best friend is no friend of e-learning or the attention we need to put into our zoom schooling.

We also can’t forget another big distraction: ourselves. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we can do more than one thing at once. Multitasking is not quality multi-doing, however, and we need to be honest with ourselves about our limitations.

So how do we deal with all this?


Dealing with the distraction of people

Try communication, but in a neutral atmosphere. I tried talking to my parents about how I am being distracted in the middle of the day. I told them about how hearing a vacuum in the background as I am teaching someone a calculus problem is not going to work out well. I know arguments between kids and parents is never good, and here is the main lesson that I learned from that experience, so you do not have a bickering situation.

Start a conversation when both you and the other person are in a calm and collected mood. Springing an important conversation onto others is something that should be avoided, as I learned in my second round of discussions with my parents. If I had asked them both to sit down and have a discussion, it would have probably turned out much better than the angry remarks I received about my choices. 

Let me warn you though, your parents may not be willing to compromise with you. They have the final authority in what you can and cannot do. If you appeal to them and show why both you and your parents would benefit, you will have a high chance of succeeding, but it is not guaranteed.

Dealing with the distraction of pets

While you can try to communicate with your parents and other people around you, talking to your pets usually does not have the same effect.

As I said above, I have five dogs, and they are usually another main cause of me losing focus on the task at hand. One time while I was in class, one of my dogs decided that it would be a perfect time to start aggressively barking at something. I immediately sprung up from my chair and rushed outside to see what was causing my dog to bark. I come out to find it barking at a squirrel. A stupid squirrel.

After trying many different tactics to try and get my dogs not to bark as much, I found two methods that work well: bribing them with treats, and only let them outside when I have time to monitor them.

My dogs are more interested in treats than whatever animal is scurrying up a tree, which helps to cut the amount of barking we hear. I also realized that it helps show them the benefits of not barking, as they get a reward from doing so.

Do not multitask

With the rampant increase in the amount of time we spend on technology, our brains are trying to get many things done at once, which results in a lower quality product for any tasks we are working on.

One of these times was when one of my teachers was talking about the agenda for class that week, I was trying to discreetly answer a phone call and answer an email while trying to listen to my teacher. It did not turn out well. I did not understand anything the teacher said, the other person had to keep repeating themselves, and my email was a mix of what my teacher was talking about and what I said on the phone instead of talking about an error in the grade book.

What I found out from that scenario is that multitasking usually results in a lack of productivity. If multitasking does not work, then how can you get many things done quickly?

Focus intently on one thing at a time, and then transition into a similar assignment next. When I have done this, I found that my brain is still working with that skill, rather than bouncing between many others. 

With all the ways that you can be taken off the task at hand, if you communicate with the other people living with you about what you need and want, bribe your pets with treats, and only focus on one thing at a time, I have found — and you will too — that not only will you be focused on your task, you will get it done faster then you thought.