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14 Tips to Help You Focus

School is back, some of you might feel jazzed while others might feel less than excited. I was in school for a long time, I loved learning, but hated the work. I never knew how to get started and I would get distracted super easily. I would think:

“Oh I’ll just take this one quiz about which Jersey Shore Castmate I am and then I will get to work.”

“My friend’s, cousins sister broke up with that guy? I have to check her profile to see if she is ok! After a quick session of light Facebook stalking I will get back to work.”

As you can see things got out of hand real fast, once I got sidetracked it would be hard to refocus. Over time I got better at getting to work and staying focused but it took time. I had to learn new skills and try new things. Here is what helped me buckle down and get things done:

  • Dress to Impress - If you are going to be doing work at home make sure you shower and get dressed, ideally clothes you would wear to work or school. Treat the day like any other. I found this really helped me get in the zone.
  • Schedule study time - Set time aside to study, it’s even better if you can make it a consistent time and day so you get in the habit. When creating your schedule be realistic. Are you really going to study Friday night? Didn’t think so! If your schedule varies from week to week take some time on Sunday or Monday to plan your study sessions.
  • Start a timer - I found that getting started was the hardest part. To combat this I would set a timer for 20 minutes. Once the alarm went off I would give myself a chance to take a 5 minute break, I would try to move around to spark a burst of energy. I would do this over and over again until I was done for the day. This is known as the Pomodoro Technique, give it a try!
  • What can I do in the time I have? - Student life doesn’t come with a lot of spare time. I found that I would wait until I had a few hours to dedicate to work, this didn’t happen often and I would fall behind. I changed it up and try to make the most of the time I had, even if it was only 30 minutes. I found having shorter study periods actually made me more productive.
  • Soundtrack - I like having music in the background but I can’t concentrate if it has lyrics so I discovered some alternative soundtracks. My favourites are Rainy Mood, Noisly and 8tracks.
  • Don’t wait until you have the perfect idea - Just get started, as you make progress your ideas/understanding will come together. Even if my ideas were all over the place it always felt better to have something on paper.
  • Mini Road Trip - I hated the feeling of being stuck in my bedroom working on an assignment, it felt like I was trapped, so I would often go to the library or a coffee shop to study. The change of scenery gave me a burst of energy, also I found there were fewer distractions than at home.
  • Study Party - Friends can be distracting but the right ones can motivate you. If you need support, help or a moment to vent they are there for you. We would often use the Pomodoro Technique to make sure we could stay on track while also having some time to catch up. To jazz it up make it a potluck, have each person bring their favourite study snack.
    Just a warning, there are certain friends you might not be able to study with. Protect your study time, study with those who get work done and find other opportunities to hangout with your friends who only want to talk.
  • Figure out what is stopping you - Sometimes we get stuck, it feels impossible to get started. When this happened I would give myself time to reflect on what the barriers were (bonus points if you do this outside- I find fresh air would really kick start my brain). After reflecting I would usually figure out the problem and decide what my next steps would be.
  • Too much of a good thing - I’m a tea drinker, I only resort to coffee when I’m really tired and I have a lot to do. One of the first times I drank coffee I had a big deadline coming up. I made a big batch and drank it quickly only to discover that I soon felt sick. So instead of giving me the jolt of energy I was hoping for I actually had to go back to bed and fell further behind. Many people also state that coffee makes them anxious which then makes it harder to focus. Coffee is awesome but you have to know yourself and your limit, if you don’t it might backfire on you.
  • Do something your future self will thank you for - School sucks sometimes! Instead of focusing on the unpleasantness of the moment remember why you are doing this. Think about how you will feel when you are done. This helped propel me further when I was really struggling.
  • What can I do? - Sometimes none of these techniques worked for me. I was still distracted and frustrated so I shifted my focus to what I could work on instead. Shifting my focus to another school-related activity helped me feel productive and gave me an energy boost.
  • Celebrate and treat yourself! -  Having something to look forward to is a powerful motivator. You don’t have to wait until you are done. Instead create little milestones throughout your journey so you can keep your motivation up all the way through.
  • Be kind and compassionate to yourself  - Some days you might not have it in you to get your work done. That’s ok, a break can lead to longer term productivity. Take some time for you. It will lead to good things in the end.

Even though I have all these strategies I still have days where it is hard to focus on the task at hand. Focusing takes a lot of practice. Test out a few of these strategies and see if any of them work for you. If not don’t give up, try something new.

If you want some additional tips check out these articles:

  1. https://mindyourmind.ca/wellness/tips-back-school
  2. https://mindyourmind.ca/wellness/finding-your-passion-and-staying-motivated
  3. https://mindyourmind.ca/wellness/starting-high-school
  4. https://mindyourmind.ca/wellness/transitioning-college
  5. https://mindyourmind.ca/wellness/applying-success
  6. https://mindyourmind.ca/wellness/time-management-and-setting-priorities