How to stay focused in college: Top tips to master

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Bryan Smith - October, 07 2022

6 min read

About the author

Content Manager at Prodigy Finance, helping international students gear up to study abroad

Whether you’re a past student or are just getting started on your academic journey, committing to your studies marks a significant milestone in your life that can shape your personal journey and professional career.

Approaching your studies with clarity and focus can offer great benefits far beyond simply just achieving great grades - working hard and finding time for leisure and enjoyment can help you learn more about your chosen field, connect with like minded peers, and extend your social circle to include friends you might well keep for life.

How to mentally prepare for college

Whether you’re starting school, have returned to college to start a new degree, or are embarking on a study abroad journey, mentally preparing yourself for college can enable you to consider what you’d like to achieve out of your study experience and how you can put your newfound knowledge and insight to good use.

Some helpful pointers to prepare yourself for your college journey include:

Be open minded and open to new experiences

Whether you’re a seasoned student or just starting your undergraduate or postgraduate career, every time you begin a new curriculum at college, you’re experiencing something new. With novelty can come excitement and growth, but also worry and uncertainty.

The best way to set yourself up for success early-on is to embrace being open-minded to both new knowledge and new experience. Signing up for new experiences and courses that can expand both your professional and private circle of colleagues and friends, as well as establish new insight beyond your usual remit, can help you grow as a person.

Practice good time management

Studying any degree demands proper time management to not only deliver on the expectations of your chosen course, but to ensure you can digest and fully explore the course material you have at your disposal.

Managing your time effectively can also help you cultivate room for pursuing personal growth - whether that be with new friends or enjoying old or new hobbies in familiar or foreign surroundings.

Ask questions regularly

The ultimate goal of attending college is, as the saying goes, to further your knowledge - and there is never a better time to ask questions of your peers, tutors, or professors.

While simple in practice, asking the right questions can unlock your growth potential as getting to grips with your course material can not only help you achieve higher grades, but can develop and refine your understanding of the working world.

How to stay focused while studying

Study time should work for you - and identifying your learning needs and style is key to enable you to use your time effectively and to fully understand your course material.

How to be focused on studies: Tips to avoid distraction

  • Create your study environment - work in a quiet and comfortable space such as a desk - invest in earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones if you need to
  • Set precise goals for each study session so you can keep track of your progress
  • Create study sessions - allocate set times each day devoted to your studies
  • Work with like-minded peers if possible - use study groups to share knowledge

Tips to concentrate while studying

Setting aside study time is one thing, but concentrating while studying is another. Some helpful tips to refine your focus and enhance your study time include:

  • Build a relaxed environment - ensure there are no distractions around you
  • Take regular breaks - don’t overwhelm yourself with new information
  • Eat well and drink plenty of water - your body is a machine, and it needs fuel!
  • Avoid all-nighters - set measurable goals and blocks of time aside for your studies, and tackle them one-by-one

How to study continuously without getting distracted

Generally, it’s not a great idea to attempt to study continuously - particularly during an all-nighter or right before a major exam or test. However, there are many great methods to enable you to make the most out of longer study sessions or blocks of time that you have at your disposal.

Use your electronic devices to your advantage

Many modern smartphones, tablets, and desktop or laptop computers - whether they run Android, Windows, or iOS - offer ‘Do Not Disturb’ or Focus modes which only allow select notifications to sound an alert or vibration.

Making frequent use of these services and settings can help you reduce digital noise, especially if your studies frequently require you to use an electronic device in the first place. Setting timers on these modes can also enable you to block out periods of time for study.

Have your peers keep you accountable

If you have friends or peers in your study circle, you could ask to set up group study sessions to pool your knowledge, resources, and insight into working blocks of time - doing so can enable you to keep each other accountable and ensure that you use your time responsibly and wisely.

If you’d rather study alone, simply communicating your intent to study alone to another person can help empower your own commitment to your studies - establishing or making ‘self-promises’ can help keep urges to check out distractions and procastination at bay.

Focus tips: Focusing techniques to master

If you’d like to explore various focusing techniques, you might want to consider what your learning style is and how you can best use your time to service it.

Some great focusing techniques can include:

  • Mind mapping or journaling your study questions
  • Listening to lecture or study note recordings
  • Practising or performing mock physical exams or techniques
  • Using the Pomodoro Technique

What is the Pomodoro technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method created in the 1990s by Francesco Cirillo. The technique gets its name from a tomato-style timer (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato) that Cirillo used to time his study sessions.

The Pomodoro technique requires you to set short bursts of time (usually 25 minutes) in which chunks of work can be completed with breaks (usually five minutes) in between.

Finally, following every four or five Pomodoros (study sessions), you can take an extended 15-20 minute break to refocus and refuel.

You can use a web-based timer to master the Pomodoro technique.

How to stay focused on your goals

When it comes to steadily working towards and eventually achieving your long term plans, the old adage rings true - consistency is key!

Working steadily towards your dreams can help you unpack larger endeavours into smaller and more manageable tasks. Some tried and tested methods of remaining focused on your goals are:

Understand what drives you

Do you value a sense of achievement and pride in completing an objective? Do you prefer short-term incentives to encourage you to complete smaller tasks? Or do you fear not reaching your goals in time?

Understanding your motivation and using it effectively can outline how you can encourage yourself to remain focused, committed, and motivated when tackling your goals. Setting up timelines, reminders, or deadlines can help you track your progress and reward yourself for incrementally moving towards a set target.

Write down your goals and set actionable steps

Although successfully graduating might sound like a great and simple goal, it’s actually a process that consists of several smaller steps - and accordingly, writing these down and actioning them progressively is a useful way to track your progress.

Visualise your results

As you progress towards your ultimate objective, be sure to measure your progress by gradually ticking or marking off completed tasks and objectives - visualising your own progress is immensely rewarding!

What to do when you can’t focus

Sometimes it’s difficult to focus or get things done - and that’s ok!

No-one is able to work consistently and thoroughly without taking meaningful breaks to reflect, digest, and plan their next steps forward.

If you find yourself unable to focus, remember that by practising effective time management, you can reward yourself with a break. Take care to fuel your body, get enough sleep, practice goal setting, and eliminate distractions - and when you return to work, you’ll be able to maximise your study time.

Good luck, and best wishes - we know you’ll do great!

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