We all have times where we sit down at our desks to tackle the day’s tasks but somehow, staying focused doesn’t always come easily. Whether you feel like you just can’t get started, or find yourself distracted, there are some techniques you can use that may make your project work and study sessions more productive.
- Get enough sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, getting enough sleep can help you focus, be creative and aid in memory function. Research also suggests that sleep boosts creativity and the ability to form new ideas rather than just remembering the old ones.1
- Eat a good breakfast.
It’s no secret that a key component for staying productive and focused is to start the day with a healthy breakfast. Sustained energy from a healthy breakfast may help improve cognitive performance as long as your meal isn’t heavily processed. Hearty foods like oatmeal have long been recognized as a breakfast food that provides sustained energy over time.2
- Do the simple tasks first.
Completing a set of simple tasks can jump-start work on a bigger project or assignment. If you shorten your learning cycle by tackling smaller items first, you can hone in on your approach to complete complex tasks associated with a bigger project.3 So, before addressing a large assignment, you could first break down what smaller steps or requirements you can complete to build your confidence and help you achieve the more major goal.
- Do one thing at a time.
Though it might feel like you’re getting a lot done, multitasking can take a toll on how well you focus. Multitasking is when you switch from task to task or juggle one or more tasks simultaneously. With all that changing around, it might feel productive because you’re doing more than one thing at a time. But, in reality, it may hinder your focus. It takes the average person about 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task after an interruption, and if you’re trying to multitask, those disruptions can turn into a time vacuum. It can also cause a build of up stress.4
- Turn off to tune in.
Put your phone on airplane mode or simply turn it off, so you’re not tempted to play games or surf Facebook. Try expanding your word processor to full screen so you don’t see any other applications and can hone in on what you’re writing or researching. By shutting off your devices and creating a distraction free environment, you may be more likely to focus on the task at hand.
- Stay organized.
Note apps can help you organize your school documents so that you can spend less time looking for what you need and more time focused on your work. Trying to find a file you can’t quickly locate may leave you distracted. A helpful organization app can not only assist you in being more productive, but it can help you gain a sense of confidence or empowerment to produce better work.
- Try focusing with a timer.
Some people may find it beneficial to work with time instead of seeing it as the enemy. An example of this is the Pomodoro Method, a system that uses increments of 25 minutes of intense, dedicated focus to one task. Then you take a short break and start the process over with another round. This technique may be helpful to people who struggle with procrastination and can help students track assignments and break down school work into manageable pieces.5
- Take a Walk to Reengage.
Giving yourself a break to take a walk can help you refocus after an extended period of work or study. A walk or other form of moderate physical activity may temporarily help you out of a slump if you’re feeling lethargic, especially if you choose to walk outside. Walking has been found to increase the supply of blood to the brain and may optimize overall function.6
If you’re just getting back into school or adding part-time classes to your already full schedule, it may be difficult to focus at times. Test out different methods and find your own way of staying focused and productive.
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1. "Improve Your Memory With a Good Night's Sleep." National Sleep Foundation. Accessed July 14, 2017. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/improve-your-memory-good-nights-sleep.
2. Eckelkamp, Stephanie. "8 Foods and Drinks That Will Make You Focus." Prevention. Last modified August 7, 2015. Accessed July 14, 2017. http://www.prevention.com/food/foods-and-drinks-that-help-focus.
3.M arkman, Art. "To Achieve a Major Goal, First Tackle a Few Small Ones." Harvard Business Review. Last modified February 24, 2017. Accessed July 14, 2017. https://hbr.org/2017/02/to-achieve-a-major-goal-first-tackle-a-few-small-ones.
4. Goldhill, Olivia. "Neuroscientists Say Multitasking Literally Drains the Energy Reserves of Your Brain." Quartz. Last modified July 3, 2016. Accessed July 14, 2017. https://qz.com/722661/neuroscientists-say-multitasking-literally-drains-the-energy-reserves-of-your-brain/.
5. “Do More and Have Fun with Time Management.” Cirillo Consulting. Accessed July 14, 2016. https://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique.
6. “How walking benefits the brain.” Science Daily. Last modified April 24, 2017. Accessed July 14, 2017. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170424141340.htm.