If you’re in Malaysia, here’s to a long weekend, right in the middle of the semester! It’s Merdeka! Perfect time to chill and/or party! Or is it, really? Many of us would use this opportunity to catch up on school work, because, let’s admit it, the past few weeks were hard on us.
University is a beast sometimes. You come in for the first weeks, chill for a while, and slowly dive into the programme. And without warning, there’s suddenly a pile of assignments before you! How did we get here?!
And since then, we’ve been running around like headless chickens, struggling to catch up on readings and tutorials, while meeting all the deadlines. And oh, here it comes, the sweet call of procrastination. Where’s the motivation to work? How do you stay focused?
Here are my two cents to get over the holiday hangover and stay on track during the long weekend… and for the rest of the semester!
This may be a surprising one, but it’s backed by science, and I’ve also noticed I would be more productive on days I worked out as compared to days I didn’t. Even if you exercise as little as 10 mins a day, you’ll get that rush of energy coming in. Whenever I don’t work out, I get a rush of lethargy instead.
2. Feel free to get your daily dose of caffeine.
Grabbing a cup of coffee or tea before heading to class isn’t such a bad thing, although I’ve warned you previously about the disturbing effect it could have on your sleep cycle. Getting a moderate amount of caffeine into your system at the right time during the day can give you that boost you need to focus on what’s coming. The best time would be an hour after waking up. That way it also doesn’t affect your sleeping pattern.
3. Listen to your body—what’s your peak hour?
I could say that you should do your most important work first thing in the morning. That’s the best time for your body to stay focused because there have been no distractions yet. You’ve woken up, exercised a bit, had coffee, and now you’re ready to take on the day. But everyone is different.
While I’d suggest tackling your most challenging assignments as the first thing to do, you could also be a night owl and end up focusing best at night. Listen to your body. When do you feel more energised and when are you most sleepy? Mine is before noon and between 5-7 p.m. Find yours.
4. Don’t multitask. And avoid your phone.
If you think you can multitask, you’re not exactly right. When we do many things at once, what happens is your brain switches from one task to another very rapidly, instead of tackling them simultaneously. In the end, it only reduces your focus and tires you even more. So, focus on one assignment at a time.
If I have several ones that are due on the same day, I’d deal with one for a day and keep the other for the next day. Or I’ll work on one in the morning and on the other in the evening. And yes, keep your phone away, on silent. You’ll be amazed at the number of words you can put down on paper when you’re not distracted every minute.
5. Take breaks.
Ever heard of the Pomodoro technique? If you google it you may come across a few apps you could use to introduce this method to your daily working routine. We all know that our attention can’t be sustained for long. Thus, the technique applies this concept by making you work for 25 minutes, then take a break for 5. This goes on for 4 cycles. After that, instead of a 5-minute break, you get a 30-minute one.
The 4 cycles repeat and it goes on like this. It doesn’t work for everyone, but you could give it a try. You’d do more in those 25 minutes, knowing you get to take a break, than if you were working without time constraints.
6. Have a specific study spot.
If possible, don’t work at the same desk you watch movies. Don’t work in the same chair you check your social media. Maybe that sounds a bit extreme, but if you want to stay focused, set a very specific study area to yourself. It’s all about training your brain to get used to working in certain precise conditions. Condition yourself. After some time, as soon as you’ll enter your study spot, you’ll be wired to get to work.
7. Set a list of 3 things to focus on for the day.
What are 3 things you need to focus on today? Or 2? Sometimes, a long to-do list doesn’t motivate you to work; it overwhelms you. So, reduce your list to 2-3 main things. Assignment 1 and assignment 2. If other things come in between, that’s fine. But whenever you have free time, focus on those 2-3 tasks. That way, you won’t feel like you have too much to do and you might actually complete your work on time.
8. Set a daily routine.
Once you have most of the above set up, you’ll be ready to create your own working routine! After all, your time is pretty flexible at university. You get to make the most of it by getting to know your body and study preferences. With enough customisation, you’ll be using your time and energy at their best. Keep training your brain and body to focus, while listening to when you’re the most productive.
And that’s how you stay focused every day of the semester, even when you don’t feel like it.
This list is brought to you by my own student experience and science 🙂
There, you have it all! They are my most effective ways to stay focused at any time.
What is your secret for staying focused? Let me know in the comments below!
D. K. Waye.
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