It happens to the best of us. You zone out in class. You are reading and the lines suddenly start blurring together. You get stuck on the same page or problem and realize half an hour has gone by.
Part of being a great student is having a strong sense of focus. The more efficient you can be with your work, the more you can accomplish. Here are four easy steps you can take to improve your focus and stick with your work for longer periods of time.
1) Deep Breathing – Our brains are wired similar to a computer. Neurons are firing at incredible speeds, processing countless thoughts, ideas, actions, and responses every second. The harder we try to focus on something, the more it feels like our brains are on overdrive. When your head starts to spin and ideas are blurring, deep breathing is the method to help clear and refocus our mind.
Be sure not to do a quick breath while continuing to work. Give yourself a second to relax, look away from the task at hand, take an intentional deep breath or two, then go back to your work. This will give your brain a chance to reset and refocus. It should feel like you are looking at your work again with fresh eyes.
2) Physical Cue – Have some kind of gesture or motion that reminds you to focus. Tapping your leg, scratching your chin, or something that is quiet and easy can be used to remind yourself to focus. When you feel yourself starting to drift, use that physical cue to give you physical movement and remind yourself to refocus. Often, we drift and daydream because we are not physical engaged, so even the smallest intentional movement can help wake your body up and infuse your energy.
3) Plan breaks – If you are working and studying every hour of every day, you are likely to get very little done with that time. It’s great to be driven but not at the cost of burning yourself out and spending time inefficiently. Focused time studying mixed with intentional, planned breaks can help you get more done in less time.
In school, that might mean spending a minute in the hallway listening to music or talking with friends to break up the day, or keeping a side project to do at intervals that is fun to you (like drawing, writing short stories, etc.). At home, you might plan breaks to take a walk, eat a snack, or do other healthy activities that will give your mind a break. Whatever it is, don’t wait until you are too tired to continue to take the break. Take them regularly to maintain your best working performance.
4) Plan for Success – A large part of your focus is how you prepare to work. How you eat, how long you sleep, how often you exercise, all determine the amount of energy and focus you are able to have. Some people try to push through their studies, putting off eating and sleeping while ignoring exercise to spend more time on their studies. The result is anxiety and plenty of unproductive time trying to gather their thoughts and hoping to make progress.
You are better served by taking care of your health and giving your body more energy to bring to the table. You will be able to focus longer and make more use of every minute you spend working.
Have a plan ready to refocus and make the best out of every opportunity you get! Mindset makes the difference!