With exam week soon approaching, many students will begin spending precious hours reviewing texts and notes, seeking to both understand the material and earn a good grade. But let’s face it: studying and writing can be daunting. Many students face innumerable distractions, the pressure to multitask and the inevitable (and sometimes frustrating) need to review materials over and over again. Productivity often feels elusive.
If this describes how you feel when sitting down to do work on assignments or study, it might be time for you to rethink how you approach your study sessions. Here are five ideas to boost your focus and, ultimately, your productivity.
Try the Pomodoro Technique: Sprint, then rest
Sometimes the biggest obstacle to productivity is facing the despair that comes from looking at a long to-do list or a complex task and having no idea how you’re ever going to complete it. Time drags on as you move from one assignment to the next, trying to finish as many tasks as you can. The feeling of “no finish line in sight” can make it hard to focus. As a result, a real sense of accomplishment feels evasive as does the motivation to keep going.
The Pomodoro Technique helps generate more productivity by breaking time into manageable chunks (20–25 minutes), encouraging you to focus intensely on a few tasks within that time slot and then rewarding you with a break when the time expires. Splitting up your work session into these “work” and “rest” sprints can make time go by faster, while helping you focus better, accomplish more, and feel less stressed thanks to the integration of frequent breaks. Try a free, online Tomato Timer here.
Use the “Stay Focused” browser extension to avoid distracting websites
Stay Focused is a free web-browser extension that blocks your access to social media accounts or other favorite websites that you enjoy surfing. Add the most distracting sites to your “hit” list and set a timer. If you visit that site during that window of time, it will kindly remind you to stay focused. If you need ideas for healthier breaks, read our blog for three healthy ideas. Explore the extension here.
Swap computers with your siblings or friends
This might seem counterintuitive, but when you’re ready to get started on a project that requires sustained focus, ask a trusted friend or sibling if you can borrow their computer instead of using your own. Removing access to your favorite shortcuts, music, usual websites, or social media accounts where you’re already logged in, will help you stay focused on the task at hand. Simply create a document in Word or Google and ask your sibling to email it to you once you’re finished.
Start your project in long-hand first
Clearing your workspace of all technology and permitting yourself only paper and a pen can prove a helpful way to get started on complex projects. Eliminating distractions allows your mind to enter “deep thinking” mode, which is essential for producing thoughtful, creative work. It’s also a good way to get the creative juices flowing if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed by the project in front of you. Start your project on paper and then transfer it to the computer when you feel refreshed and excited to continue.
Take frequent breaks away from the screen
Attending class, reading websites, and writing papers require much from your eyes, so it’s good to give them an intentional screen break. A general rule of thumb is to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This helps your eyes relax and can help prevent eye strain. Read more in this article about how to best care for your eyes.
Stewarding our time well is part of what it means to glorify God through our learning. While it can be challenging, learning to minimize distractions while creating healthy habits of work and rest will prove invaluable in preparing students for college and their future vocation.