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Tips to managing a maze of multi-tasking

Back to basics: A summer School Life series

POSTED: July 4, 2010 3:01 p.m.

John Archer shows a pad of notes he uses to keep his thoughts and errands straight. He said he keeps a small pad in his pocket and jots down things he needs to do, and that way he stays focused on important tasks.

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It’s one thing for a student to start school in the fall with an organized Trapper Keeper and a backpack full of books.

But how do you stay on track, complete homework on time and stay focused on school, work and a social life?

Well, not that easily, according to a few students who have already started college. But thanks to the many resources college now offer students, it’s easy to get help if you get off track.

Nick Denello, who just finished his first semester at Gainesville State College in Oakwood, said he often finds it hard to focus on school work when he’s working so much — and it’s equally difficult to juggle his work schedule with time to do homework.

“Staying focused is important, otherwise I put too much emphasis on work,” he said. “You have to keep a balance.”

As recent high school graduates get ready to move into the next phase of their lives — be it going off to college or entering the workforce — it’s important for them to find that balance between school, working and hanging out with friends. It’s important to know how to multi-task, but also stay focused on the task at hand.

Barbara Carpenter, a professor of education at Gainesville State, said she’s found that students are good with technology, but often the technology turns distracting.

“Sometimes students are so connected with the computers through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., that these often pull them away from their tasks at hand,” she said. Specifically, they need to “read from their texts, focus on discussions and complete assignments.”

If a student is messaging their friends on Facebook while typing an assignment, she said, it means the assignment won’t turn out as well as it should.

“If they are completing their assignments on the computer and have their personal connections open at the same time, this can definitely affect their abilities to focus on what they are supposed to be doing,” she said.

There are several places on most college campuses where a student can get help if they are lacking focus — and failing a class as a result.

Heather Smith, a junior education major who works at Gainesville State’s Continuing Education office, said there are lots of clubs that allow students to mix classwork and the social aspect of college. And every fall on campus, during the first two weeks of school, the college hands out “student agendas,” which offer a way for students to keep track of all their assignments and tests.

Smith said the agenda would have been useful in high school, but it’s even more useful in college.

“The assignments are even more important, and the tests and all that,” she said. “I can actually highlight the events we have on campus and the workshops.”

The college also offers study school workshops and a counseling and career services office, both of which can help with studying habits or test anxiety. And special study rooms in the college’s Student Center allow a place for students to meet with study groups — or, simply offer a quiet place for someone to focus on their individual work.

John Archer, who was a student at Gainesville State College until recently, said one way he’s learned to focus on the task at hand is to keep a notebook with him at all times.

It’s the perfect size to fit in his pocket, he said, and makes it easy to jot down notes or a to-do list whenever something comes up.

“If you think you can’t remember, write it down,” he said. “It helps to keep a stream of consciousness.”

It’s also important to take your own notes when you are in class, he said, rather than relying on notes provided by the instructor.

“Even if you just have a half-page of bullet points, write it down,” Archer said. “Get something down to get a mental hook into something the professor said.”

Denello added that it’s important to take classes you’re interested in.

“If you stay invested in the stuff you want to do, that’s what college is all about.”


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