Expert concentration tips to improve your grades
When you’re taking online courses, you’re likely going to have multiple commitments to juggle in a week. You will have to develop a schedule and dedicate blocks of time to your studies or assessments. If you lose your concentration during these times, you may find it difficult to get all of your work done and meet your deadlines. Learning to keep your concentration levels up is very important for succeeding in your studies.
Here are five expert tips to help you maintain your concentration.
1. Set easy concentration goals
Concentration is a skill that takes training and time to improve. Just like you wouldn’t go from not knowing how to cook to make a four-star meal, you’re not going to be able to concentrate for hours at a time if you haven’t exercised your mind to do so.
When you’re training yourself to concentrate, establish a few micro-goals to get yourself started. Instead of saying you’re going to fully focus on a task for 45 minutes, start out with 15-minute increments. A full 15 minutes of concentration is better than 45 minutes full of distractions.
Once you’ve accomplished your first micro-goal, keep adding more minutes to your concentration time. If you find yourself getting distracted at 30 minutes, keep that as your goal until you prove to yourself you can complete it.
You should only fully focus on studying for 45 minutes at a time anyway, so when you’ve reached that milestone, make sure you start scheduling in breaks for yourself. That way, you’re fully interpreting the information you’re studying.
According to Dr Craig Hassed, Senior Lecturer in Monash University’s Department of General Practice and recognised speaker on holistic mind-body medicine, mindfulness and regular meditation can help train attention. Not only that, but it can also reduce your stress levels and improve your mood.
When you’re balancing your studies, your personal life, and your job, it may seem hard to find the time to meditate. However, it really doesn’t take much time to start seeing results. A study conducted on students showed that concentration levels improved after they meditated for just 20 minutes a day over a five-day span.
To work meditation into your daily routine, try doing it either right before bed or after you wake up. If you find yourself getting stressed during the day, take a meditation break.
3. Take your time with dense materials
In the age of the internet, media caters to those who want their information as fast as possible. We see this with the popularity of bullet points, listicles, and even the reading levels of most written media.
When you’re completing a course in data science, psychology or public health, the materials will be more complicated than what you’re used to reading on a daily basis.
When you have to complete dense readings, take your time with them. Don’t rush through the readings or skim to find the main ideas. Read them line-by-line to really internalise the ideas. If you have to re-read a paragraph or even a couple of pages, go ahead and re-read them. You’ll find it easier to concentrate when you’re invested in the materials rather than trying to get through them as quickly as possible.
4. Create a distraction to-do list
It’s easy to leave your readings or assignments for a second to look up something on the internet, or to quickly check your email or social media for a second. Avoid the temptation to switch your attention even if you want to look up something to do with your assignment, or you are expecting an important email.
According to Dr Richard Chambers, Clinical psychologist and mindfulness consultant, every time you switch your attention from one thing to another, or between one device to another, you lose half a second of time, which can quickly add up. “If we do that every five minutes, in a 40-hour work week, we actually waste 8.5 hours of dead time when we’re not paying attention to anything at all,” says Dr Chambers. It also takes some time to re-focus your attention once it has been broken.
Instead, you should create a to-do list of everything you want to look up or check on later. When you’ve completed what you need to do, or you’ve reached a pre-scheduled break time, that’s when you can do all of these little things.
5. Connect with nature
According to a 2015 paper published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, staring for 40 seconds at a lush, green meadow, or a green roof, can significantly improve your concentration during a task.
So during your breaks, sit outside in your garden for a while or go for a walk in a nearby park. You need to take regular breaks to refresh and recharge so that you can stay focused during your study periods.
Conquering how to study online and how to concentrate on your assignments will take you far within your program of choice. Just remember: every skill takes time to master.