Focus Tips for Students: How to Effectively Ignore Irrelevant Information

Written by Erin Miller

“I need to stop procrastinating and just focus” a sentence said by almost every student when under a time crunch studying for finals, writing a paper, or just doing math homework. The ability to “just focus,” is actually a lot harder than we think, specifically with your cell phone sitting right next to you, the people at the table two feet away, and the music blaring in your headphones. Focus, also known as selective attention, is “the process of focusing on a particular object in the environment for a certain period of time. Attention is a limited resource, so selective attention allows us to tune out unimportant details and focus on what really matters” (Cherry, 2017). Research has shown that there are ways to work on this ability and improve our focus. Here are some tips to help your brain focus a little harder on the task at hand:

1.     Put the cell phone away.

Phonehand

First things first, humans are innately bad at multitasking. The basis of focus, or attention, is the ability to ignore distracting stimuli. Choosing to leave your cell phone in the other room while you study, is already a huge step towards improving your ability to focus. Moving your attention away from your school work to answer a text does not seem like a big deal, but is actually a huge detriment to the ability to get your attention back to the work you were doing. According to a study conducted in 2013, “students who were not using their cell phones wrote down 62 percent more information in their notes, took more detailed notes, were able to recall more detailed information from the lecture, and scored a full letter grade and a half higher on a multiple choice test than those students who were actively using their mobile phones” (Kuznekoff & Titsworth, 2013). Turn your phone off while you study, it is the most effective first step.

2.     Close out tabs you are not using.

coffeework

Similar to your cell phone buzzing on the table next to you, keeping tabs open on your computer that you are not using, are unnecessary distracters. Whether the tab is your Facebook profile, email inbox, or a full shopping cart on Amazon, keeping the tab open does not help your brain focus on the paper you are trying to write, or the formulas you are trying to memorize. Closing out tabs that you are not presently using, will allow you to get the work done faster, and then you can go back to shopping.

3.     Take breaks, get fresh air.

If you are one of those people who says, “I am going to sit in this chair until I know everything I need to know for this test,” you might actually be hindering your studying ability! Decide before you start studying, when you will take a break, and when you will return to studying. Of course, the studying portion needs to be longer then the break portion, but the breaks are important. In her book, Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload, Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D., says a “quick walk outdoors” is an effective short break. Getting outside, taking some deep breaths, and thinking about anything besides the homework you are doing, can be very effective to sustain your focus (Tartakovsky, 2016).

4.     Create a to-do list.

todolist

A lot of the stress we get from school, especially during finals week, comes from having several assignments that are all due on the same day. Before you begin to worry about when you will have time to get everything done, make a list of each of your assignments, when they are due, and plan out when you will complete them. Sometimes, even just writing down the assignments you have can help you relax, and realize that what you have to do is not as much as you think. Multitasking, has “a negative effect because of brain plasticity or “the way the brain changes in response to experience.” When you’re multitasking, “Your brain is changing itself to favor divided attention and fragmented thought, rather than concentration that resists distraction and rebounds from interruption” (Tartakovsky, 2016). Once you plan out when you will complete each task, you will not have to worry about all the other responsibilities, and can focus on them, one at a time.

References

Kendra Cherry | Reviewed by Steven Gans, MD. “What Is Selective Attention?” Verywell, www.verywell.com/what-is-selective-attention-2795022.

Kuznekoff, J., & Titsworth, S. (2013). The Impact of Mobile Phone Usage on Student Learning. Communication Education, 62(3). pp. 233-252.

Tartakovsky, Margarita. “12 Foolproof Tips for Finding Focus.” Psych Central, 17 July 2016, psychcentral.com/lib/12-foolproof-tips-for-finding-focus/.

 

 

Make Your Time Count – Tips for Students

Written by Katelynn Brown

 

Repeatedly throughout the day, we find ourselves engaged in multitasking. We engage in multitasking when we email while eating a meal, when we text while walking, or when we try to watch TV as we are completing homework. Many times when are engaging in these behaviors, we don’t even notice that we are multitasking. In the moment it seems like an effective and simple method of completing multiple tasks as one time. What we do not acknowledge are the effects that these decisions have on our development and the work that you are trying to complete. As individuals and as students this tendency to multitask from one activity to another can have great effects on our ability to stay focused and pay attention for any amount of time. As we become more accustomed to continually switching from one task to another, we become unaccustomed to staying focused on one task. Eventually, we have difficulty focusing on one activity or task for two long because we have become so accustomed to moving between multiple activities. This tendency to lack the ability to focus can be detrimental to students. It is important that as students we are cognizant of the decisions that we are making and that we are self-aware of the best decisions to make both inside and outside of the classroom. One specific area where students to need to be conscious is when studying. When studying, students need to think about both the good and bad habits that they might have while studying and how those might affect the studying process that they experience.

Bad Study Habits 

1. Turning to distractions

Many times students turn to distractions while studying. These distractions can include using a cell phone, surfing the internet, listening to music, or watching TV while studying. Each of these distractors affects the student’s ability to concentrate on what they are attempting to learn. While studying, students should be disconnected from social media. Students should turn off notifications and limit the amount of distractions that are present. This includes turning off the TV and limiting time spent surfing the internet. These modification aid students in staying focus and engaged in studying.

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2. Waiting till the last minute

We have each procrastinated at some point but procrastination does not help you in the end. Procrastination effects the amount of time that you have to devote to studying and does not help you to demonstrate your full ability in the end. When we procrastinate we limit our abilities and are not able to demonstrate all of our knowledge. Rather than procrastinating, students should organize time appropriately, create a schedule to improve time management, and set aside an appropriate amount of time to study content material.

3. Not providing yourself enough time

When studying for an exam students need to provide themselves with a sufficient amount of time to review the required information. Students need to provide themselves with sufficient time to organize their materials, provide their full attention to the material, and review. Students need to ensure that set aside an appropriate amount of time that allows them to study all of the required information but to also take a break to relax and recharge before an exam. Students should plan study time and create an effective study schedule to help stay organized when preparing for an exam.

4. Lack of organization

In the classroom, there are going to be students who have difficulty with staying organized. It is important, especially when studying, the students are organized and have all of the materials that they need. In the classroom, teachers can help by making sure that students have their assignments and calendars in working order and ensuring that students have all of the materials they need in order to effectively study. Students can make a checklist and set a schedule to help them stay organized. By ensuring that students have all of the materials that they require it will aid students when it comes time to study to stay organized.

Busy Desk

Good Study Habits: Limit Multitasking When Studying

When studying there are many distractors that can limit a student’s ability to focus. Many times these distractions can cause students to multitask rather than focusing on the single task of studying. Students need to determine different methods that they can use to help limit the urge to multitask. Here are some methods that students can use to limit the occurrence of multitasking:

1. Make a schedule to stay on track

Making a schedule can help you stay focused and on task with the studying that is being completed. By creating a schedule you can pace your progress and ensure that you have time to cover all of the material required. When creating your schedule set goals for yourself. By setting goals for yourself, you are able to better stay on track and pace the progress that you are making.

 

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2. Silence your phone and turn off social media, messaging, and email

As they study, students should turn off their phones to limit the tendency to become distracted. Students can limit the possibility of multitasking by turning off phones and keep the distraction at a distance. Students can set goals for themselves and once the goal is achieve they can reward themselves with the use of the cell phone. Take a step back from your social media. By taking away the distraction of social media, students are better able to focus on the material that they are studying. By limiting distractions students are less likely to lose their train of thought while studying and are able to focus creating an effective study environment.

3. Set a timer for regular breaks

While studying, students should schedule regular breaks in order to stay focused. While studying students need to make sure that they schedule study breaks to help them refocus and recharge. Study breaks give students the chance to rest and process all of the information that they are studying. It is important that students schedule regular breaks into their study schedule to limit the need to multitask and to remain focused.

Time Face

4. Limit web browsing

When studying students should limit the amount of time that they spend surfing the internet. Web browsing can become a major distraction while studying, for students. Students should limit their web browsing to content specific information in order to limit the distractions that might occur.

5. Keep a healthy snack and water nearby

When studying it is important that students keep snacks and water close by. By ensuring that these essentials are close by, students are able to stay energized while reducing temptation to leave the study area. By having snacks and water close by, students are able to stay focused on the study material and to remain energized to stay on task.

References:

Garcia, L. (2013). 10 bad study habits and how to fix them. Retrieved from https://www.babble.com/kid/10-bad-study-habits-and-how-to-fix-them/

Loveless, B. (2017). 10 habits of highly effective students. Retrieved from https://www.educationcorner.com/habits-of-successful-students.html

UoPeople Outreach. (2017, March 19). 5 bad study habits to drop and 4 ones to keep. Retrieved from https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/5-bad-study-habits-drop-4-good-ones-keep/

Willis, J. (2016, October 25). Conquering the multitasking brain drain. Retrieved from Edutopia website: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/conquering-the-multitasking-brain-drain-judy-willis

 

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