As motivated as we might be to study, get good grades, and earn important qualifications, it can be hard work to stay focused. Difficult concepts can be frustrating, requiring us to take time to relax and destress, while topics that are easy can cause us to seek stimulation from elsewhere.
Mental burnout is a common problem for students, particularly during the busy periods of the year, often in the run-up to the end of each term and the end of the academic year as there are usually deadlines for papers and/or exams that need preparing for.
Students tend to find their own methods of coping with the high workloads. Some will leave it to the last minute so that the extra pressure forces them to focus, while others will prefer to get all of the work out of the way early so that they can feel more relaxed.
However you prefer to work, there are techniques you can use to improve your focus while studying.
Don’t Spin Too Many Plates
Students are often told they should not focus exclusively on their studies. Modern universities offer a whole host of different extracurricular activities from cricket to cooking for their students to take advantage of, in addition to the part-time jobs they may hold down, all while trying to maintain a healthy social life.
In fact, many employers will look for candidates that can demonstrate a more varied level of experience as it shows that they’re able to manage their time more effectively.
However, all this plate spinning can become overwhelming and many students often end up dropping a few.
It is, therefore, a good idea to limit the number of things you need to give your attention to at once so that you can allocate more time to the most important things.
This doesn’t just apply to students either. In the world of online poker, it is possible to play on multiple tables at once. While some players can manage this multitasking, those that get spread too thinly should reduce the number of tables they play at so that they can increase their focus on the ones that they do play.
So while you might enjoy playing lacrosse and want to keep learning Spanish, it may be prudent to put a pin in these during the busiest periods of the academic year.
Create a Schedule
Creating a schedule for studying can help you to stay on track as it gives you a way to measure whether you’re doing enough. Without it, it’s easy to say “I’ll do it tomorrow” and finish your Netflix binge instead, but a study schedule will help you to remain accountable to yourself.
There are many ways you can create a schedule. You can simply write it out on a piece of paper, add it to your phone’s calendar, or use a dedicated app like MyStudyLife.
It’s important to include breaks in your schedule. These give your brain time to rest before you give it even more information to process and it’ll help you manage your stress levels.
You can schedule your breaks in whatever way works best for you, with some people preferring to work for an hour, then take a break, and then work for another hour, while others like to use more complicated techniques like the Pomodoro Technique. This sees you work for 25 minutes intervals that are broken up by five-minute breaks.
Whatever tech you use, you can install browser extensions like Focus To-Do to help you stay on schedule and track your time.
Cut Out Distractions
It’s easy to get distracted in the modern world. Our phones are constantly pinging, alerting us to breaking news, messages from friends, social media interactions, and new emails. While we’re using a computer, shopping sites, news sites, and social media are just a couple of clicks away, and it’s really easy to get sucked into hours of procrastination without even noticing.
Therefore, we can easily increase our focus by cutting out these distractions. There are different ways you may want to do this, such as uninstalling distracting apps from your phone, locking your phone away in a time-locked box, or using a function like OnePlus’ “ZenMode” which prevents you from using your phone for 20, 30, 40, or 60 minutes.
You can also install browser extensions that block access to time-zapping websites so you’re forced to stay focused.
Alternatively, you may also want to do your studying in a library or other public place where your opportunities for procrastination are more limited than at home.