How to Focus for School, or “I Have to Read Over 100 Pages by Tomorrow!”

StudyingI am ridiculously distracted today, and yes–I need to read over 100 pages from Arthurian Romances by tomorrow (and write a response on it!). Arthurian Romances was written by Chretien de Troyes and is a compilation of five stories dealing with the Arthurian Legend. I need to read the story about Yvain, also known as “The Knight with the Lion.” If I wasn’t absolutely sure I could pull this reading off, I wouldn’t be writing this post. However, I am certain I can pull this off and I’ll tell you why–focusing.


Technically, focus means “directed attention” (thank you Merriam-Webster online!). You essentially direct all of your attention to one thing. In today’s instant-gratification world, it’s easy–incredibly easy, actually–to be distracted from the thing you are paying attention to. If you’re trying to focus on school work, it’s even harder. And heck, you might enjoy what you’re studying, but it still happens.

Why am I unfocused?

There are several reasons a person may be unfocused. Barring extenuating circumstances, like a family crisis, mental disorder, etc., becoming unfocused is usually because (especially in academia) you’ve been doing something for awhile and your mind and body just wants a break. It FORCES you to take that break. You can’t concentrate, and every shiny little thing distracts you.

Well…um…I don’t have a choice

I know, that’s why you and I are here. You’re here because you want to learn how to overcome this, and I’m here because I was thinking about how I DO overcome this. School and work will not wait for your mind to feel refreshed. You need to find a way to control the distractions and refocus to get your work done and done well.

So what do I do?

Well I’m glad you asked! I’m going to list how I generally do things, explain them and all that jazz and then we’ll go from there!

  1. Do something else: Even if you don’t have a lot of time, you HAVE to back off and do something else. Seriously. I tell this to my students all the time, especially if they want to proof their papers immediately after writing them. Rules:
    1. Do something you ENJOY.
    2. The activity should be timed. Decide a time to begin working and FOLLOW it. Put the game down at that time and get to work–no excuses.
    3. If possible, exert energy. Dance, sing at the top of your lungs, walk, run, and whatever else, but don’t go overboard. Rev yourself enough that you are alert and not exhausted.
  2. Create or find a space: Your space should not be your favorite little niche in your house, your bed, that really nice recliner, etc. If you lounge in that spot, sleep in that spot, or play games in that spot, pick somewhere else. Even if you can normally study in those spots, you’re distracted, so you’re going to have to bend your normal routine a bit. Suggestions:
    1. Pick a hard chair that makes you sit up. Maybe not the most comfortable, but it’ll keep you awake!
    2. Have a desk or table to lean on.
    3. Have all of your necessary tools at arms reach–whether it be pens, post-its, pencils, highlighters, or a calculator.
    4. Make sure the space is away from a computer and away from a TV.
    5. Make sure the space is well-lit to prevent eye strain and drowsiness (it’s ridiculously easy to fall asleep when you’re distracted from your work!).
  3. Unplug: If you’re at home and seriously hooked on the internet, unplug your router. Seriously. The internet is the whore of distraction. She lures you in with her wiles, starting gently with just a suggestion (“Why don’t you wiki that subject?”), until she consumes your soul with base, savage, internet searching (I know I was just on Youtube watching dance videos–seriously, what the heck?!). More hints:
    1. No internet unless absolutely necessary (i.e. if you’re writing a research paper).
    2. No T.V.
    3. No Phone (no texting, and no internet on your phone either, you tricky little people!).
    4. No music, with exceptions. If it’s late at night and the silence is creeping you out or whatever, a little music is fine. I suggest picking up some classical music so you’re not tempted to sing or dance along.
  4. Do nothing new: By this I mean, if you don’t normally drink coffee/Red Bull, now is not the time to start. Your body won’t  know how to handle it. If you don’t trick alcohol, again–don’t. This is also not the time to start new systems of organization, new study systems, etc. If you’re reading this post right now because you’re distracted, you might not want to try these things right away–why? They’ll distract you more as you set up your space, etc.
  5. Suck it up: At this point, you just need to suck it up and do it. You need self-control and restraint to be able to tell yourself “No.” But when you’re done and finished your assignment or feel prepped for your test, it will be so worth it.
  6. Reward yourself: Finished a goal? Maybe you needed to study 5 chapters for a test, and you studied for 3 very well without a break. Go ahead and reward yourself! You deserve a treat of some sort. Don’t constantly “reward” yourself by doing things like 10 minutes of studying and 5 minutes of internet. Like I said before, suck it up and when you succeed, praise yourself!

Final thoughts

This was my way of exerting my energy a bit. My mind tends to run on overdrive, thinking of a million things. By spending the time to write this post, I’ve already honed myself to think about one thing (which is how I managed to accomplish finishing this!). Try to give yourself a bit of a break, but be sure to know where to draw the line. Luckily for me, I still have 10 minutes until my line–and so now I’m going to sing some. 😀 Good luck!

Posted in Legacy.

One Comment

  1. Thank you a lot. I actually have been going through a family crises, and I have been falling really behind in school. I hope to get back on track not that I have read this. Thank you!

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