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  • Dr. Mena Birett


“Turn off your email; turn off your phone, disconnect from the internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, an disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master.” – Gretchen Rubin

This lack of focus can have major costs for you.

Many high school and college students struggle with maintaining focus – especially on assignments that require sustained attention, like writing papers or reading textbooks. Working while distracted can dramatically increase the amount of time you need to spend on your homework. All this extra time spent on homework can cause you to stay up late and lose sleep…which makes it even more difficult for you to stay focused and avoid distractions the following day.

There are many reasons why you may have trouble focusing, including…

Physical factors (low energy, dehydration, etc.)

External distractions (phone, computer, siblings/parents, etc.)

Internal distractions (thoughts, worries, etc.)

Difficult or confusing task

Low motivation

No sense of urgency

Studies have shown that college students who spend more time on social media tend to spend less time studying and have lower GPAs than their peers.

Luckily, there are quick and simple solutions that you can use to reduce distractions and increase your ability to focus!

Here are some…

Nourish your body & refresh your brain

Work at a time of day when you naturally have more energy.

Exercise before you study. Just 15-20 minutes of aerobic exercise can give you an immediate boost in executive function, which helps you avoid distractions and maintain focus on your work.

Drink more water! Studies have shown that even being slightly dehydrated can have a significant impact on attention and focus.

If you’re having trouble focusing while you sit, try standing or walking while you work. Some find that they can think and focus more effectively while they’re physically active.

Take short breaks after completing each assignment, or after 30-60 minutes of focused work.

Getting up to walk around, refill your water bottle, use the bathroom, pet your dog, etc. can help reset your focus & attention.

Eliminate external distractions

Turn off or silence your electronic devices. If you can’t turn them off, put them on silent and turn off all notifications. Block internet access for websites that tend to distract you with one of the great tools designed for this.

Try changing your location to someplace less familiar, where there are fewer potential distractions nearby. For example – instead of your room, do your work in the library. That may be an awesome hiding place!

If studying in silence is distracting, try listening to ambient sounds or music

Minimize internal distractions

If your mind is racing in 100 different directions as you sit down to work, take a few minutes before you start to write down everything that’s on your mind so you can deal with it later, after your work is completed.

Keep a notepad (or a text file) nearby while you’re working, so you can quickly jot down any ideas that come to mind while working but are NOT related to the task you’re working on. Each time, remind yourself: that’s NOT what I’m doing right now.

If you’re worried about something, make a commitment to worry about it at a specific future time later in the day, and set an alarm to remind yourself so your brain can trust you enough to let it go, knowing you’ll get to it later.

Make it easy to get started

Identify the physical next step you need to take in order to make progress with your work and focus on WHAT you need to do to move things forward. For example, instead of telling yourself you need to write your essay, just focus first on finding the rubric.

Shrink the task down to something so easy that you’re 100% confident in your ability to do it successfully. For example: commit to focus on your work for just 5 minutes, or to write just ONE paragraph, and then give yourself a break.

Reduce performance pressure. For example: Instead of trying to write a “good” essay, start by creating a rough first draft.

Increase your motivation

Create a reward, or incentive, for yourself by planning a specific, fun activity you will do as soon as you finish your work.

Focus on how good you will feel as soon as you have completed it, or about how much better you will do on your next test.

Increase the time pressure

Reduce the total amount of time you have available to do the work, by creating constraints that require you to finish your work at a particular time.

Instead of setting aside 3 hours for homework, divide your work into shorter intervals and give yourself a deadline for each task.

C.A.N. is here for you to ensure that you are up to the challenges that lay ahead. If you would like to discuss the transition to college and how C.A.N. can be of assistance, please fill out the contact us page on our website.

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