stay focused in online school

How to Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Updated By Allie Cuno on March 22, 2021

Have you ever clicked on the internet “for a quick second” to retrieve some information, only to find yourself falling down the proverbial rabbit hole and climbing out three hours later? How about binge-watching on Netflix until the screen says, “Are you still watching?”

We’ve all been there. In a world where advertisers, entertainers, and promoters are constantly competing for our attention–– from pop-ups on your computer screen to advertising on the steps of sports stadiums––no wonder we get so distracted. Oftentimes, these constant interruptions distract us from focusing on the things that matter most, like earning a degree or getting a better job. Below, Chelsea Berler, an internationally known business coach, provides some solid tips1 (which I’ve peppered with some of my own), to help you better focus on what’s really important:

1. Write down your top priorities and keep them in view. What are the top four or five most important priorities of your life? Write them down, post them on your bathroom mirror or in your workspace. I personally have mine typed up in bold letters at the top of my “to do” list to remind me that those goals trump everything else on the page.

2. Identify what does not deserve your attention. Ask yourself: “What is wasting my time and how can I make better use of my precious hours?” Sometimes we don’t even notice those habits that suck precious time out of our lives. For example, you may have a chatty friend who keeps you on the phone for hours at a time. How about turning that friend into a texting buddy instead?

3. Stop the multitasking. Some are successful at multitasking; most are not. A group of Stanford researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory, or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.2 Bottom line? Focus on one task at a time to avoid distractions.

4. Get and stay organized. I didn’t title a previous blog, “Uncluttered Space, Uncluttered Mind” for nothing. Removing clutter and getting organized helps you focus and better concentrate on everything, including your priorities. In fact, a Harvard University study found that students who worked in a clutter-free workspace were able to work 1.5 times as long as those in the cluttered space.3

5. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Resentment, anger, hostility, hatred, jealousy ... these negative emotions can drain the very lifeblood out of you. Start with forgiving past insults and losses. Then begin a gratitude journal or simply concentrate each day on all the good that is in your life and watch the happiness start to flow. As humans, we blossom in a positive environment, so start creating yours today.

One area that is well worth your focus and time is education. A degree is a solid and worthwhile investment in your future and should be high on your priority list. Earning your degree online at Independence University (IU) gives you the flexibility to focus on your other priorities, such as work and family commitments, while still working toward a degree and a career you can feel passionate about. Keep your eyes on the prize, and before you know it, your prize––a diploma––can be in your hands!

Allie Cuno is a human-interest writer for Center for Excellence in Higher Education (CEHE).