There are times when it can be hard to focus on your studies. Sometimes the subject material might be particularly challenging, or sometimes there are unwelcome distractions or activities which appear to be more appealing than studying. It could be that it is simply not easy to concentrate at times. But you want to complete the course and do well, and you want to be able to look back after completing the course and know with a sense of satisfaction that you have achieved your best. So how can you best build and maintain that focus?
Have a really clear goal and remind yourself of it
Studies are important, and without them we would not gain the knowledge and skills we need. There will be reasons why you wanted to embark on the course in the first place, and keeping your goal at the front of your mind is a fundamental key which can help to unlock whatever it may be that is holding you back from the focus you need. Reminding yourself of the reasons underscores why the goal of completing the course is important to you and gives a positive aim which draws you forward towards it. So what is your goal? Are you really clear about what it is? What will it mean for you to complete the course successfully? How will you feel then? How will other people regard you? We all need a sense of achievement and competence in at least one area of our lives, so you can rightly regard successful completion of the course as a form of good emotional nutrition.
Reduce stress levels
There may be things in your life which are creating stress, and these can get in the way of being able to focus and concentrate. A good life balance is important, as it reduces stress and makes us more resilient, more able to concentrate and calmer. If the emotional (subconscious) brain is overloaded, it inhibits access to the thinking (conscious) brain and it is not as easy to analyse and use our rational powers. The memory improves with practice, and if you are able to calm the body and mind, you stay in intellectual control and your focus is enhanced. This intellectual control and accompanying confidence comes from improving emotional intelligence.
You need to have good preparation to successfully succeed in your studies by realistic planning, good organisation, effort, perseverance and a healthy lifestyle. This will maximise energy levels so that you can stay healthy and enhance your sense of confidence, concentration and understanding at the same time.
Plan realistic goals
Planning involves setting SMART objectives: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Limited (there is more information on this in the January 2010 edition of the journal). You need to plan how much study you need to do in order to complete the course successfully, and your plan may need some amending along the way as you gain more experience with the time and requirements involved.
Break things down into SMART objectives for each period of planned study:
- What will you study, and what do you want to achieve by the end of each study period?
- How long will the study period be?
- Do you have uninterrupted time to do what you are planning?
- How will you measure whether you have completed that specific aspect of your studies, e.g., are you planning to make notes on the study material or read a certain amount of text?
- Is your plan realistic?
It is good to think about how you will overcome any obstacles. What might get in the way and how will you deal with it? Pre-planning in this way is invaluable. If we fail to plan, then we plan to fail, at least on a subconscious level.
It is highly recommended to evaluate what it was about a previous study session that contributed to it going well (or poorly), then to look at how you can bring about the same conditions for the sessions which went well and how you can do things differently for the sessions which went less well
Despite all the best-laid plans, something may come up from time to time which alters our schedule, so it is really important to build in some flexibility to your overall study planning to ensure that things go well.
Organise your study time
What are the conditions like where you study? Are they conducive to study? Are there any changes you can make to enhance those conditions? Do you study best on your own or with a colleague? Most people find that they get the best out of studying when they have a dedicated space to work: a particular desk or table with all materials they need within easy reach. A space that is as free of distractions and clutter as possible will help you to focus.
It is generally recognised that we have up to 90 minutes where we can concentrate fully. The mind then needs a short rest. Whether that means getting up to have a cup of tea or water or taking a walk round the block or the garden, you will then better align with your natural rhythms and take in more from what you are studying.
Put in the effort with perseverance
Having planned and created the best environment to study in, we need to knuckle down and put in the hours, knowing that each hour we spend productively, the closer we are to our goal.
Good luck with your studies, and remember that if you need any help with your course material or coursework, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.