Tips For Staying FocusedExams
The new term is in full swing. The all too familiar sounds of whiteboards, ring binders and note making will be trickling back into your day-to-day. But after weeks of summer holiday, you’d be forgiven for having completely forgotten how to block out this noise and just put your head down and work. Sometimes it’s a real challenge to access the concentration necessary to be consistently productive. But deep focus is an art that will pay dividends throughout your life if you can master it. So here are a few tips you can implement to proactively find the focus you’ll need to get A’s across the board this year.
1. Structure your time
If the words ‘revision timetable’ fail to get you excited about life, think again because they should! Ordering your study day by subject and task will completely transform your approach to work. This is because giving yourself a finite amount of time to focus on a particular area will have a profound effect on your mentality, massively boosting to your concentration and productivity.
Think of it like this: many people work more efficiently when they have a deadline coming up. When you organise your time into separate parts, even just by creating a semblance of urgency, you reap the fruits of pressure without the stress of an actual deadline. What’s not to love? Download timetable templates - or make your own - on the following handy websites: GetRevising, RevisionWorld and Template.net.
2. Use the Pomodoro Technique
Why stop at a timetable? Go a step further and organise your day into half hour chunks. This might also sound vaguely nightmarish at first glance, but we guarantee you’ll see an immense increase in productivity once you try it out. For those who haven’t heard of it, the Pomodoro Technique involves 25 minutes of solid work + a five minute break repeated throughout the course of your allocated study period.
Your brain needs short, regular breaks in order to function at its best, and knowing that your next one is never more than 25 minutes away will deepen your concentration and make your work more substantially more efficient. This technique definitely comes with a learning curve; it takes discipline to limit your breaks to only five minutes. But once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be amazed at how much more productive your working method will become. This one’s a bit of a game changer - we strongly encourage you to try it.
3. Get to know your ideal work conditions
As much as we like to tell ourselves that homework done in front of Netflix can be of as high a standard as homework done in total silence, it’s rarely the case in reality. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that concentration can look different for everyone.
Some can only focus properly in dead silence. (If you relate, think about investing in some noise-cancelling headphones). But others find complete silence distracting and prefer to work to the ambient buzz of a coffee shop or park. Music, white noise, or even ASMR may also help keep up the momentum of a good working flow. You know best how and where you get your best work done. And if you're not quite sure yet, do some experimentation - just make sure you’re being honest with yourself in your observations.
4. Download focus apps
We all know that when you have a big project facing you, your phone becomes Eden’s serpent tempting Eve with an apple. Whether you’re finishing off a coursework essay that’s due the next day or just trying to get on with some basic homework, it’s all too easy to pick up your phone and start scrolling.
To overcome this obstacle, you’re going to need reinforcements beyond the weak-willed off button. There are numerous apps designed specifically to help you combat phone-shaped distractions. Most work by temporarily blocking your access to the likely culprits (social media, youtube, etc) and making this shut-down very inconvenient to disable until the time you’ve preset. Some examples include Forest, Freedom and SelfControl, which can help you avoid dangerously enticing websites on not only your phone, but your laptop too.
5. Make a pact with your friends
When you’re in the middle of a demanding work period - the run-up to A-level or GCSE exams, for example - it can be tough to juggle your social life too. If people are constantly messaging you, intense concentration is really not easy to access. Even if you’ve downloaded the focus apps listed above, you may well spend your evenings wondering anxiously what you’re missing out on in the Whatsapp group.
A potential solution is making a work pact; i.e. agreeing amongst yourselves to hold off on messaging for a set period of the day. If all’s quiet on the Western Front for a few hours, you’ll be able to get some good quality work done without being pinged every few minutes or feeling overwhelmed with FOMO. Ok, you’re probably not itching to be the one to suggest this plan to your friends. But, if you think about it, why not? After all, you (hopefully) all care about your, and each other’s, futures, and a pact is a great way to work together to turn your grades around. Give it a try and see what happens.
Now start working!
Hopefully you now feel ready to start tackling work armed with some fresh ideas on how to maintain your concentration. We all have trouble getting into the zone sometimes but these tips should help you get the most out of your study sessions. It’s true what they say: if you want to play hard, you first have to learn how to work hard.