By Meghen Jones
between maintaining a school-life balance and committing to other responsibilities outside of your education, it can be very difficult to stay focused in college. Consider the amount of time you put toward sustaining your good grades, working a part-time job, and balancing personal relationships. With so many priorities to manage, college students certainly have valid reasons for struggling with staying focused and on-task. Struggling is one thing, but at some point, one aspect of your life is going to suffer, and you don’t want it to be academics. As we all know, one mishap, missed assignment, or bad grade can spoil scholarship opportunities or other financial aid options that you’ve worked too hard to earn and keep throughout college.
Aside from the stressors of commitments and responsibilities, many students do not realize how much distractions have played a serious role in their inability to focus. According to a study by Dr. Larry Rosen, a professor emeritus at California State University Dominguez Hills, the typical college student is distracted for at least five out of every fifteen minutes they set aside to study. In the Digital Age, distractions are often linked to text messaging and social media. Sounds pretty familiar, right? The more you have going on, the harder it is to stay focused. To combat this, uCribs has constructed four of our best secrets to staying focused and on-task in college, even when your brain says otherwise.
Utilize a Paper or Digital Planner
There’s no doubt about it—handling multiple assignments and deadlines at once is stressful. While one assignment is in the process of completion, somehow, you manage to forget about additional schoolwork. And, it isn’t uncommon for additional assignments to be thrown your way. With all of your to-do lists swimming around in your head, you certainly won’t get anywhere. So, what do you do? Where should you turn? The first idea that comes to mind is a planner. Not only can a planner help you prioritize your deadlines and develop a relevant time management routine, but they’ll also allow you to easily keep track of classes and assignments.
Despite all the technology out there, we highly recommend purchasing a paper planner. Studies have shown that students who write things down will notice a boost in concentration and memory. But, if you find the digital route more convenient, you can simply sync your schedule across multiple devices and set reminders, depending on the app or platform you choose to use. There are several digital planner applications that easily accessible in the Apple Store and Google Play Store, like Planner Pro and Microsoft Planner. No matter your preference, you will be able to set your sights on your weekly, monthly, and semester-long goals more efficiently.
Consider Dividing Tasks or Taking a Break
It’s common for college students to have a heavy workload. We all know how easy it is to put off a major project or research paper, but it’s time that you did away with any excuses to procrastinate, especially if you aspire to excel in your field of study. At uCribs, we’re also very realistic, and we realize there are opportunities, responsibilities, and unexpected occurrences that can come between you and your study session—that’s why it’s best to prepare in advance. Once you have compiled a to-do list, divide any larger assignments you might have into smaller parts. For example, a science project that requires several components can be simplified into several sections that you can take care of over a span of weeks, or if you’re ambitious, even months.
Just like breaking your assignments into smaller bites that are easier to chew, it could also be helpful to punctuate any long study sessions with ten to fifteen-minute breaks every forty-five minutes to an hour. Studies show that breaks are essential to achieving productivity, success, and a positive outlook on the future. Students, who don’t take breaks, tend to experience a decrease in their academic performance and even serious mental health concerns, like anxiety and depression. Take it from us—sometimes, too much is just too much. Step back, take a break, and don’t overwhelm yourself. Nothing is worth your well-being, not even an unblemished GPA.
Establish a Set Study Space
While some students manage to handle tasks from the comfort of their bed, most of us don’t have willpower that strong. Wherever you choose to spread your study roots, it is crucial to your academic success to have a dedicated study space that encourages productivity and concentration. Whether you’re creating a go-to study space in your dorm room or sticking to an on-campus spot, like the library’s coffee shop, you’ll want to complete your assignments in a location that grants you peaceful concentration, despite where that might happen to be in the moment.
What makes a good study area, exactly? Well, it depends on several factors, including your current attention span and goals for the study session. However, it’s usually good to be on the lookout for spaces that offer privacy, comfort, good lighting, and plenty of space to breathe and move around. It’s also helpful if your study area has a relatively low amount of traffic flowing through it, since it can often be a distraction. Be sure to also keep your designated spot clear of other distractions, such as TVs or video gaming consoles. If you can, refrain from using your smartphone and turn the Wi-Fi off—even though we understand if this cannot be executed during your study time, as they are also necessary tools. With a new, improved study space, schoolwork isn’t so bad after all.
Block Out Any Distractions
Don’t you hate when you’re trying to study, and your phone won’t stop buzzing? It’s an annoying disturbance we all know too well, especially if you’re in a couple of group chats. Sure, part of us wants to stay up to date with social media feeds, texts, and the latest tea coming through your notifications; however, the other half would rather tune out any aspect of social life for the time being. As we’ve all come to learn during moments of intense pressure, notifications can be a college student’s worst enemy.
If you can, we always advocate for disconnecting from while in study mode. You can control your own destiny and block out distractions by putting your phone on silent or “Do Not Disturb.” Again, we understand if this isn’t possible—so if you must use the web, try to limit yourself to a few tabs of assignment-related information only. If your will isn’t strong enough to handle this exercise of control on your own, try various apps or extensions, like SelfControl, StayFocused, and I-Am-Studying Blocker. Using their own methods, these pieces of software allow you to divide your time among productive and not-so-productive online activities. Pretty cool, we know.
From utilizing a planner to blocking out online distractions, you can effectively change the way that you stay focused and on-task with these four easy-to-adopt tips. While it will take time and effort to make the necessary adjustments, it will be worth it once you see your final grades at the end of the spring semester. Hey, failing out of college is a real thing—and we don’t want you to experience it! So, take advantage of uCribs’ superb secrets to stay focused and on-task. The ball is now in your court!