Sometimes, maintaining focus can be a struggle. Distractions are everywhere in today’s world. Whether it’s the noise of a suitemate or the nagging of our own thoughts, it can be hard to settle our minds on the work before us. But there are things we can each do to help.
Here are a few strategies you can use to help you stay focused:
- Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night, ideally at the same hours, even on weekends.
- Develop a relaxation routine for each night before bed: no screens, dimmed lighting, maybe a guided meditation app.
- Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime.
- Moving your body every day can really help. Scheduling regular exercise several times a week is even better!
- Yoga or meditation can also help reduce stress and improve concentration.
- Alcohol may seem helpful to de-stress but it can impair your sleep and interfere with your cognition, judgment and memory.
- Marijuana has been associated with poor performance in school. It impairs attention, motivation, memory formation and processing speed – and these effects can be seen more than a month after use. Young adults who use marijuana every day can actually lower their IQ.
- And don’t reach for your roommate’s stimulant or that 6th Red Bull, either. Too much of a stimulant (or a medication that isn’t prescribed to you) can cause dangerous heart issues or lead to psychiatric symptoms like mania or psychosis.
- Stay engaged! Take notes during classes, raise your hand, participate.
- Create your own personal study space and try to turn off social media.
- Consider the best times for you to study, e.g., earlier in the day, or at night.
- Use apps, like Forest or Rescue Time to help you stay on track.
- Identify people who can help you stay on task.
- Organize a regular study group.
- Go to office hours.
- Make a weekly and monthly planner and keep them visible.
- Mark down important dates and deadlines.
- Break down long term or big tasks into smaller chunks.
- Create a to-do list and prioritize.
- Plan for study breaks throughout the day, the week and the semester.
Address Wasting Time
- Recognize patterns of time wasting, e.g., watching videos, browsing social media.
- Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your need to de-stress.
- Try some self-care activities instead, e.g., going for a short walk, taking a shower, listening to some music, or coloring.
Sometimes, even despite the above tools, problems with chronic inattention continue to get in the way. If this is the case, get in touch with a provider at Behavioral Medicine, and we can help explore the problem.
Other resources on campus can also be useful. For example, BU’s Educational Resource Center (ERC) has several great workshops including ones on note-taking and test-taking.