Fresh. Fit. Focused.: Maintaining focus while studying. Part I: In the Now

Melissa Schmitz, Staff Writer

This week’s article will focus on what you need to do in the now to stay focused. Next week, I will discuss what it takes to really prepare yourself for a focused state of mind, and why it works. I know people love answers now and questions later, so that’s what this article is about.

An obvious place to start would be outside distractions. If you’re trying to focus on work, but can hear people talking, music blasting, a TV going, etc., that’s likely to be very distracting. So, as comfortable as your dorm room may be, you may want to consider moving away from those stimuli. Go to the library, the Harrison penthouse or a quiet coffee shop on the corner…whatever place works for you. Try to stick with one place, but if you start to get distracted in one setting, it’s good to have a backup locale.

Okay, now you’re outside of your dorm and in the library. Quiet, right? Unfortunately, it’s usually not. The back of the second floor or a private study room will be the quietest, but inevitably you will find people chatting about “biology” or people who love to obnoxiously tap their pens to their music. The best solution to block out the noise would be to use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Many people like to listen to music instead, and that’s fine, but make sure it’s something that will support your momentum without distracting you. I personally study with music by Dennis Kuo.

At this point you’ve found a place to study and a way to block out distractions… so, now what? Take a few minutes to draw out some objectives for your study session. Ask yourself what you wish to accomplish, prioritize it, then split it into time blocks if you feel so inclined. This will draw in your focus while creating a useful tool to organize your study session. Sometimes you’ll only have one assignment you’re working on, but even in these cases, it can help you to write goals more specific than “get it done.”

One focus-breaker people encounter is the feeling of burning out. It happens, especially in college where the subjects are far from fluff. For my biochemistry independent study, I ended up spending three hours on two pages one night, and afterwards, I felt so drained. What made me feel this way [aside from having to look up every other word]?

Working too hard for too long. Don’t get me wrong, working hard is awesome; but if you do it for too long, you’ll lose your precious mental stamina. The solution is as simple as this: break your work into 50-minute chunks and take 10-minute breaks where you switch your focus to something different…but not Twitter. Perhaps take that time to read an informative article from The Dolphin, or maybe meditate.

Some days, you may not make it to 50 minutes, and that’s okay. If you feel your focus drifting, take a few minutes to clear your mind and relax. Think about your goals and perhaps create some incentives for finishing your work for the day. “If I finish all of my biology reading, then I can watch an episode of Breaking Bad.” You may even consider something like putting a dollar in a jar for every assignment you complete, and then using that money at the end of the month for something special – whether it’s new shoes or a night out. Taking the time to really think about how, when and where you’re going to study as opposed to only “what” can make all of the difference.

Happy studying!