We live in a world full of distractions. Even the most focused individuals easily become sidetracked by ads and snapchats that make their way to us – and usually when we’re trying to study.
Go online to do research, and up pops that new iPhone you’d been eyeing on eBay. Pick up your phone to check the time and along comes 23 new likes on Instagram, 4 new Twitter mentions, and a Tinder message from your new crush.
It’s so easy to click on that one ad or check that one message. And before you know it, you’ve read a hundred tweets, liked 50 pictures, and found a better deal for a new iPhone… but only read the first paragraph of Chapter 10.
So here are six tips to help you focus and get more work done, in much less time.
Learn to Say No… to Yourself
In school, counsellors and guest speakers spend a lot of time teaching us to say no. Say no to drugs. Say no to violence. Say no to peer pressure. Say no to that sly boy in the movies, trying to cop a feel. But they never really taught us how to say no to ourselves; and when it comes to focus and self-control this is essential.
Self-control helps students to remain focused, by preventing them from indulging in every random whim that comes to mind. It means the ability to check the time and ignore a hundred Snapchat posts. Those messages will still be there in an hour when you’re done. They aren’t going anywhere, and you aren’t missing a thing.
Earn the Right to Roam Free
The common approach to getting work done? Have fun now, and put off studying until the very last minute. Then, it’s time to cram or do last-minute work, which often means just barely scraping through with courses. The better approach? Earn the right to roam free.
Tell yourself that you can only do A, after you’ve completed B – and stick to it. This takes time and requires serious self-discipline, but it pays off in the long run. You’d be surprised at how quickly you make it through homework or a chapter of a textbook when you need to finish it all by 8PM so you can get ready for that party with your friends.
When you focus on getting the work done first, you eliminate stress, and allow yourself to spend as much time as needed on your projects to get the best possible grade. This doesn’t always mean finishing a project the day or even the week you get it. It means setting aside a certain portion to do whenever you can, before running loose.
Make Studying Fun
Honestly, almost no one looks forward to studying for finals or working on big projects. Even so, studying doesn’t always have to be long, boring stretches of reading. Find ways to study based on the way you learn.
Experiment with different methods. You can try recording lectures, drawing graphs and tables to test your understanding of what you read, highlighting key points with markers, turning notes into PowerPoint slides, or even singing your notes out loud.
Try anything and everything until you find something that works for you, and stick to it until you find something that works even better.
Nothing says “fun” while studying more than taking breaks to not study. Our brains can only focus on the same material or activity for 90 to 120 minutes at a time, before it’s ready to move on to something else.
Due to the high stress of college and dealing with college finals though, our brains are more likely to wander during this time. So, trying shorter bursts is fine too. For instance, you could reward every hour of work with fifteen minutes of fun – browse social media, grab a snack, or do absolutely nothing. Whatever works for you.
If you tend to lose track of time easily, set a timer on your phone to let you know when fun-time is over.
Set goals to accomplish by a particular time. Ensure that that they are realistic, but challenging. Then, ensure you meet these goals no matter what.
In fact, they should trump any time you set aside for studying. So, for instance, if you set aside an hour to finish a chapter of your textbook and finished it in 45 minutes, don’t feel bad about calling it quits for the night.
Likewise, if you planned to finish the chapter in one hour and you still aren’t done an hour later – stick it out. If you really have no more time, then tack that goal on to tomorrow’s goal as well, and be prepared to meet it.
See a Doctor
There are legitimate illnesses and conditions which could make it difficult for a person to focus and complete assignments in a reasonable amount of time. This could include clinical depression, dyslexia, ADHD, or even drug addiction. If you need help, don’t suffer in silence. Seek therapy or medical care.
Colleges always have counsellors available, and many also offer more intense psychiatric and psychological help. Even better – these services are on campus, affordable, and sometimes already covered in your tuition.
Colleges know students face a lot of difficulties while getting their education, and most are prepared to help – if you ask.
Even for the most focused students, studying can feel like the last way you want to spend your time. We understand it isn’t always about partying or hanging out with friends. Sometimes you just need a breather, or a round of Call of Duty. But remember:
The less time you spend on work, the more time there is for play.