Five Tricks for Students to Improve Focus in Class
By: Sarah Daren, Guest Blogger
Picture this: it’s Friday after a long week, and you’re just not feeling it in class. It’s so hard to keep your focus on the lecture, especially when you’ve got your laptop open in front of you. By the end of class, you have no idea what the teacher said, and you’re panicking about the next test.
If so, try these five tips for staying more focused in class so you can get better grades.
1. Leave Your Phone At Home! (Or at Least Turn it Off)
Can’t sit through a class without peeking at your phone? You’re not alone. Your phone is designed to grab your attention, and it can be more interesting than your history lecture.
The solution? Don’t give it a chance to distract you. If you can, leave your phone at home or in your locker. That way, there’s no way your phone can distract you.
If you really need your phone between classes, then turn it all the way off during the lecture. That means fully off, not just silent. The key is to make it that much harder to get distracted by texts, social media, and everything else our phones have to offer.
2. Choose Your Seat Carefully—and Raise Your Hand Often
Did you start off the semester with the reputation of being “The One Who Sits at the Back?” It’s a comfortable place to be—there’s no one looking over your shoulder and you don’t have to pretend that you’re enthralled by what the professor is saying.
Unfortunately, those benefits are actually huge obstacles to focus, learning, and good grades (and let’s face it, you already know that). Sitting up front can make a big difference. Not only will you hear everything better, but you’ll have access to fewer distractions.
While we’re on the subject of sitting up front, let’s talk about engagement. Engaging with the material will make the class go by faster and help you get a lot more out of it. Raise your hand! Ask questions and participate in class discussions—you’ll be glad you did.
Another good practice for better focus? Don’t sit with your friends. Meet up with them after class instead.
3. Get Enough Sleep and Eat Breakfast
You can’t neglect your body and expect your brain to perform at its peak. A poor diet, lack of sleep, and little to no exercise take a major toll on your health, your ability to focus in class, and while you study. Say no to that morning Pop-Tart, make time to grab some scrambled eggs or oatmeal instead!
Getting enough sleep and fueling your body properly are extremely important for excelling academically. Coffee isn’t enough to keep you focused in class. Plus, you’ll have trouble remembering what you learned, even if you are able to stay awake. Memory is affected by diet and overall health. Maintaining your ability to recall the details of your classes is absolutely crucial to your success in school and in your future career.
Improve your focus and memory by making your health a priority. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, and make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Those all-nighters aren’t doing you any favors. You should also make sure your brain gets some rest and relaxation from time to time—try meditation or make time for some low-key fun.
4. Take Notes on Real Paper
Is your laptop your best friend in class? If so, it might be an unhealthy relationship that you need to rethink if you want to improve your focus.
Sure, a computer is a fantastic note-taking tool. It’s also a huge distraction, allowing you to surf the internet, play games, and watch videos discreetly in class. If you’re finding that your laptop is being used for more than just note-taking, then you may want to switch to a more old-school strategy.
Invest in a notebook for each class, and get some comfortable pencils or pens. It might feel awkward or tiring to take notes by hand, but it’s a great way to stay focused and engaged with the material. Not only that, but physically writing down your notes is a great way to remember what you learned more easily.
5. Take Control of Your Mental Health
For many students, a lack of focus in class doesn’t have to do with the digital distractions of the world or a lack of sleep alone. It also has to do with mental health.
Academic programs can be extremely demanding and stressful. Students are often overworked and feel that they have to study 24/7 in order to succeed. Unfortunately, this often backfires and can lead to anxiety and depression.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in school. In fact, depression and anxiety have been on the rise among college students year after year. If you find that you’re struggling with mental health challenges, know that you don’t have to deal with it on your own. Your school should have counseling services that can help you feel more in control of your life and happier overall.
Anxiety and depression can make it very difficult to focus in class or when you’re trying to study. Your mind might wander, or you might not be able to find any motivation to engage with the learning process. It’s important not to feel any shame about this and to seek help as soon as you can, so you can get your mental health under control and feel better.
Focus Can Be Challenging
Focusing isn’t easy, especially if you’re trying to pay attention during a class you’re not excited about. If you want to graduate with a GPA you can be proud of, then it’s important to develop strategies for staying focused even in the most boring of prerequisite courses.
You might have to experiment a little before you find the focus strategies that work best for you. Everyone is different, and while your friend might be able to stay focused by turning off the wifi on their laptop, you might need to break out an old-fashioned notebook. Whatever works for you is the right strategy. Don’t give up, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. It’s much better to seek out help right away than to panic during finals week because you haven’t been paying attention. You can do it!