Distractions can so easily tempt students away from focused concentration on their studies. They start out searching the Internet for a relevant resource… and they end up checking their Facebook profiles or watching yet another video on YouTube. They get up from their desks for a glass of water… and get derailed by a conversation with their roommates. They pick up their phone to check the time… and notice a text from a friend who’s inviting them out to the movies.
Attempting to face these distractions without a “plan of attack” can prove detrimental to a student’s ability to remain focused on their schoolwork. In Essential Study Skills, Eighth Edition, Linda Wong shares several strategies students can use to fight distractions and keep their concentration on their assignments. These include:
- Setting learning goals for each study session, and creating a clear plan for addressing the specific tasks they want to complete during the time they’ve allotted for studying.
- Maintaining an active-learning mentality and remaining engaged in their studies through such practices as taking notes on their assigned reading, creating study tools (such as diagrams and flashcards), and asking themselves questions about what they’ve read.
- Breaking down larger assignments into smaller steps or “chunks,” so that the process of completing that projects seems less overwhelming.
- Following a “study ritual,” which Wong describes as “…a series of steps or a consistent routine that helps you start quickly on a task” (93). These steps should be activities that move you directly into study mode.
- Engaging in “warm-up” activities (such as reviewing notes or skimming the assigned readings) that can prepare them mentally for a study session, much in the way that stretches can prepare the body for a more rigorous workout.
- Using “mental rehearsals”—picturing themselves as confident, competent learners who can successfully accomplish their academic goals, both short term (papers, projects and tests) and long term (graduation). (Wong, 93)
Wong also encourages students to reflect on their own study habits and, through the process of considering their habits, determine what helps—and what harms—their ability to concentrate on their studies. She prompts them to ask themselves the following questions:
- When and where do you have the most problems concentrating when you study? How can you change the study environment so it is more conducive for concentrating and focusing on learning?
- What concentration strategies work best for you to help you keep your mind focused when you are studying? Describe strategies with details. (94)
When it comes time to study, maintaining focus is a large part of the battle! Encourage your students to put these steps into practice throughout the week. They may find that the focus they develop outside of class will help them focus in class as well.
Reference: Wong, Linda. 2015. Essential Study Skills, Eighth Edition. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
What key strategies do you recommend to students as they seek to focus on their studies? Share your tips below.