Maintaining focus and concentration in the classroom and/or throughout lectures can be challenging, at times. Rylee Oram, PMC Coordinator and Learning Strategist, put together some tips to help you stay focused!

Recognize when you are losing focus.

  • As soon as you notice that you are off-track, reflect.
    • What happened? Did you hear some noise in the background? Did you get distracted by other thoughts? Are you seeing notifications come in on your phone?

Identify the distraction.

  • When you recognize the distraction (e.g., other thoughts), you could create a “thought” parking lot – a place to jot down those ideas or things you have to do later. This allows you to go back to the information later and focus on the present.
  • Come up with an “if, then” statement. For example “If I start to notice I’m losing focus, I will take 5 long breaths to refocus”.
  • Attention residue, a concept introduced by Sophie Leroy, pertains to how thoughts about a prior task influence your capacity to concentrate on your current task. This “residue” divides your attention between the previous task and the current one, making it more challenging to maintain full concentration. The parking lot can be really helpful for this.

Thinking about thinking.

  • Metacognitive awareness involves observing and monitoring the activities of your own mind.
  • When your mind remains engaged and avoids automatic thinking during classroom activities, it becomes a lot easier to focus and pay attention.
  • When learning, pay attention to your thought process: Does this new information resemble existing concepts? Can I connect it to something else? Does it logically fit?
  • Come up with examples as a professor is explaining a concept.

Go into the lecture with questions to answer.

  • Review your materials before class. Come up with some questions based on the lecture that you can answer while listening. This will guide your listening a bit more!

Breathing and mindfulness.

  • Focus on your breathing for a few moments to regain concentration.