Academics have always tested students’ attention spans. But in today’s world of increased academic demands and competition, combined with modern distractions like smartphones and social media, the simple act of concentrating is more difficult than ever.
Here are five ways students can make sure they stay focused:
1. Eliminate All Digital Distractions.
No, we’re not saying you have to smash your smartphone. What we are saying is that you should optimize your digital devices to entertain you when the time is appropriate, and stop distracting you when you need to get things done. Here are some ways you can do that:
• Turn off notifications for all social media apps, games, news apps, and anything else that can distract you from school work. If you get tons of text messages, disable text notifications for people who aren’t likely to need a response right away.
• Store all distracting apps in a folder on the second or third screen of your device. This way, they won’t be instantly visible to you, and you won’t be as tempted to open them at inappropriate times.
• Consider an all black background for your lock screen and home screen. As silly as this sounds, you might not be as tempted to waste time on your phone if you don’t see bright, vibrant colors when you’re checking the time.
• On your laptop or desktop, use separate browsers for school and leisure. On your “school” browser, install an extension that permanently blocks any distracting websites.
2) Clean your Workspace, or Find a Quiet Public Space
I don’t know about you, but I can’t concentrate when my room is dirty. If my room isn’t perfectly tidy and organized, then my only options are to clean it, or to move to a different space.
If you’re bad at keeping your bedroom clean, don’t do homework in there. Find a different room in your home, or if that’s not an option, go to the library.
Otherwise, consider making cleaning your room part of your study ritual. Before you start working, take 10 to 15 minutes to tidy things up. This will you help clear your head, so you can fully dedicate your attention to academic work.
3) Take a Nap
Ideally, you should be getting eight hours of sleep a night. But it’s inevitable that sometimes you won’t manage to pull that off, and in those scenarios, a quick nap can help a lot.
If you know you’re going to be tired later in the day, set aside 30 minutes to an hour to take a quick nap once you get home from school. Be sure to set an alarm so you don’t oversleep!
Once you wake up, you’ll have more energy to focus on your work.
4) Break Everything Into Small Steps
There’s almost nothing more detrimental to the human attention span than being overwhelmed. (Even social media isn’t as bad!)
How do you stop yourself from being overwhelmed? Here’s a common trick, backed by real life psychological research: break everything down into small, manageable steps, and put those steps on a to-do list.
Frequently checking things off a list of small tasks will be encouraging and motivating, and make you feel a little less like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.
5) Keep Optimizing Your Attention Span and Productivity
Don’t let this list be the only thing you use to optimize your attention span! The best students, as well as “top performers” in the adult world, tend to operate on a set of reliable systems that keep them focused and productive.
If you want to be the most focused, efficient student you can be, keep learning more about productivity. When you’re not studying, set aside some time to read books, listen to podcasts, and keep up with blogs that deal with the subject of productivity. You’ll learn about all sorts of useful tips and systems that can help you become a better student, and a more effective person in general.