Focusing on homework is easier said than done, especially when at home. With so many classes online this semester, it may be hard to be productive if your environment isn’t always optimal.
Whether it’s loud family members or roommates, the temptation of your favorite TV show or video game or even menial tasks that take your mind off the thing you need to do, there are plenty of distractions at hand.
The psychology behind what keeps us motivated has been observed, and studies show some key components to a positive work environment and routine.
Now more than ever, the ability to focus and remain motivated is crucial.
In school we are taught ways to stay focused and motivated. We are often taught what staying focused looks like: eliminating distractions, turning the TV off, silencing your phone and removing stressors.
However, you know yourself, and if you need background noise, maybe opt for some classical music or lofi hip hop beats…the ones on Youtube with the girl and the cat are nice.
Classical music has been shown to increase focus and decrease anxiety, according to USC and research from the Duke Cancer Institute.
“KUSC host and producer Alan Chapman suggested pieces that are more restrained to provide a nice aura in the background,” Allison Engel at USC said.
Good choices for studying include Mozart sonatas or French piano music by Poulenc, Debussy or Fauré, Engel said.
It’s all about setting yourself up for success. Make sure you start by prepping your study space.
Get a snack, get all of your study materials, make sure you’re sitting comfortably, take a few deep breaths and begin.
Everyone has study techniques that work for them, but there are a few tried and true methods that can help.
Self quizzing is a method of study where you make questions about the text you are reading or the material you are covering. This can be in the form of a test, quiz, or even flashcards.
“Relate what is being learned to prior knowledge, thinking about how they would explain the content to a 5-year-old, and reflecting on and asking questions about the content,” according to Edutopia.org.
There are also lifestyle changes that will help you stay motivated. Academic stamina is often compared to physical stamina, according to the Responsive Classroom. It just so happens that exercising your body actually helps you stay focused.
“While some studies have shown physical activity can help children or older adults concentrate, a 2011 study published in PLoS ONE found that regular exercise helps healthy young adults concentrate better too,” according to Psychology Today.
In the case of ADHD, exercise can have positive effects on concentration, motivation, memory and mood, according to Helpguide.org, a mental health resource.
“Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels — all of which affect focus and attention,” according to Helpguide.org.
Often what it takes to keep yourself focused is holding yourself accountable for your actions. Being lazy and procrastinating is easy to do, but what if there was collateral involved?
“In legal circles it’s known as a ‘Ulysses Contract.’ Like the Greek hero’s strategy as his ship approached the fetching but deadly Sirens, it acknowledges that we’re weak and human and likely to cave. So we create a constraint. We tie ourselves to the mast. We make a deal in advance that can’t be overwritten later, when we’re faced with temptation or are of unsound mind,” according to Psychology Today.
This is a tool that you can keep in your proverbial tool belt. It holds you accountable for your actions. For instance, say you have to finish a project by a certain date. You draft up a contract, physical or verbal, with one of your friends or yourself. If you want to make it more high stakes, post to social media about what you intend to do. State your reward for accomplishing the task and what will happen if you don’t.
If you finish on time, you will buy yourself sushi, but if next Thursday rolls around and you haven’t completed your project, you will give the sushi money to a friend.
Now, what happens when you get distracted? It’s bound to happen eventually. Our minds wander, and when they do, it’s often hard to steer them back in the right direction.
A good technique to employ in this case is triangle breathing. Focus your intent and breathe in for three counts, hold for three and breathe out for three. It calms and re-centers you.
Now, eventually you’re going to get tired of studying or working on that project, so remember: take breaks, but make sure they are regularly scheduled ones.
“A 2011 study published in the journal Cognition found that brief mental breaks helped participants stay focused on tasks longer. Setting a reminder to take a break every 50 minutes can help you return to your task with improved attention,” according to Psychology Today.
With a busy schedule and decreased mobility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our attention spans and drive to complete work have taken a hit. However, with a few tools and mindfulness, you can stay on track and complete your work on time, every time.
Stay positive, comfortable and active, eat healthy and hold yourself accountable!