Elizabeth is a student at Cornell University studying Communication in…
So you’ve found the perfect time and place to study and you’re ready to finally get some work done. You’ve pulled out your laptop, your textbook, and your notes, and four different highlighters. After five minutes of reading your textbook, you start zoning out and thinking about puppies. Then, you go on Tumblr and look at cute puppy photos for half an hour. Then you come across DIY dorm décor on Tumblr and spend another half an hour looking at those. Then you start thinking about your own dorm and start rearranging furniture and organizing your closet. Next thing you know, it’s 2 am and you’re tired so you just tell yourself you’ll wake up early to finish the rest of your studying (and we all know how that story ends).
I went through this cycle for the first couple of months when I started my first semester of college. After I saw my grades plummeting, I decided to put those days behind me and start taking control of my studying habits by following these simple tricks to increase my focus. Everyone is different so maybe not all 7 will help you, but try to tackle a few to see if they help you stay focused!
1. Put the phone out of sight
My cell phone was my biggest distraction. Even when I put it on silent, I would still pick it up every five minutes to check if I had a notification or scroll through social media. I started to realize that the only times I stayed focused on my studying were when my phone was charging on the other side of my dorm. I couldn’t see it and I couldn’t hear it, so I didn’t think about it. My mind shifted its focus from my phone to my notes. So put your phone out of sight, because the expression “Out of sight, out of mind” is so very true in this case!
2. Use a timer
This is very useful for students who study from a laptop or tablet and often get distracted by going on YouTube, Facebook, etc. By using this method, I finished my work 2 hours earlier than before! Open your device’s clock or timer app/program and set the timer to the amount of time that you believe is a good amount to study for one particular class. Once you start the timer, you can’t change it! Leave the timer open and visible while you study. This helps minimize distractions by reminding yourself you only have X minutes left to finish your studying, so it isn’t a good idea to spend 20 of them on Facebook. Try to study everything before the timer runs out. Once the timer runs out you have to move on to the material for the next class, even if you’re not finished. When you’ve timed yourself for the rest of your classes, go back to the one(s) you didn’t finish and repeat.
3. Keep yourself alert
Sometimes we lose focus simply because the material bores us to sleep or we’re just too tired to pay attention to what we’re studying. Keep yourself alert by eating a snack (granola bar, fruit, or nuts), taking a power nap (no more than 45 minutes), having a cup of coffee, or even exercising. If these methods don’t work, use the old-fashioned method of splashing cold water on your face!
4. Use rewards
Only you know the best way to reward yourself. Whether it’s ice cream, partying, or going to the movies with your friends, make this a reward for finishing your work. A good idea is to create a reward that is already available to you before you start studying, something that is “within reach” as they say. For example, I LOVE Oreo Thins. I bought a pack of Oreo Thins and kept it in my dorm, but I only allowed myself to have some after I finished my tasks. Knowing that the Oreos were already there waiting for me, I was more willing to stay focused on what I had to study.
5. Break it up
Don’t try to study everything for one class for 4 hours straight. Break it up into segments, with short 15 minute breaks in between. Use these 15 minutes to take a power nap, check your phone, read your favorite book, or even go for a walk. By doing this, you avoid burnout and refresh your mind so it can stay on track when you get back to work. It’s also a good time to reward yourself if you set little studying goals to be completed before each break!
6. Don’t study with friends
Once you find your perfect study spot, try to refrain from inviting friends to study with you there. When I tried to study with friends, I thought we would be productive with double or triple the brain power, but the anticipated study session just turned into chat time. Instead, study on your own and then meet up with friends to test each other on what you studied. Testing your knowledge before a test will give you an extra memory boost, and your friends can test you in a way you might not have thought about! This method definitely helped me during finals week.
7. Play focusing music
Focusing music is essentially non-distracting “background” music and doesn’t have lyrics. This may not work for everyone but it works for me because when I study in complete silence, I start thinking about things other than what I’m studying. You can listen to alpha wave music designed for staying concentrated and increasing brain power, or you can listen to other kinds! I listen to a cinematic background music playlist on YouTube when I study. It kinda makes me feel like I’m in a movie and the fate of our world depends on me passing my test tomorrow, so I have no other choice but to focus!
Hopefully some, if not all, of these tricks help you while you study and eventually improve your grades! What are some tricks that you use to keep yourself focused?
Featured image source: wannabeorganized.
Elizabeth is a student at Cornell University studying Communication in hopes of pursuing Public Relations or Marketing careers. Her hometown is Miami, Florida and she loves her family, classic rock music, park dates, and chocolate.