Mastering the art of focus: a student's guide to success

As a university student, the ability to stay focused is your secret weapon for academic success.

The world around us is filled with distractions, from social media notifications to the lure of Netflix binge-watching. Yet, with determination and the right strategies, you can harness your concentration and not only achieve your academic goals but life goals as well.

I study a Master of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, work part-time in sales, and as a freelance graphic designer, do extra certifications when I get a chance, all while taking my time out to go with friends, play snooker and cook for myself. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It is, but not when you’re focused and organised. In today’s time of tech and constant connection, it can be easy to get distracted into something else that will not benefit us. There is a famous saying that if you’re spending your time somewhere, make sure either you learn or earn- which is not to say you shouldn’t also take much-needed time to relax and have fun! 

Below is a list of things that helps me stay focused for my study, exams, work and achieving my goals. 

1. Goal setting

Setting clear academic goals is crucial. Define the grades you want to achieve and create a plan to reach them. Having a tangible target guides your efforts and keeps you motivated.

2. Study schedule

Establishing a well-structured study schedule helps you distribute your workload evenly. This approach avoids last-minute cramming and keeps you organised throughout the semester.

3. Stay organised

Keep a detailed to-do list and track your progress. Prioritise tasks by tackling the most important one first, reducing stress and increasing efficiency. I get an adrenaline rush when checking off the task lists.

Weekly planner and post it notes Study desk with person writing on a weekly planner and post it notes. 

4. Avoid multitasking

Multitasking can hamper your ability to focus on a single task. Concentrate on one subject or assignment at a time to maximise your productivity. I’ve noticed that multitasking puts pressure on my mind and affects me in the long run.

5. Self-discipline

Saying “no” to the things are not going to take a step towards your goal is very important. Develop self-discipline by sticking to your study schedule, even when motivation is low. Discipline is the cornerstone of academic success.

6. Avoid your phone

This is the biggest reason for distraction. Keep your phone in another room while studying or put it in Do Not Disturb mode. Reduce your social media consumption. Each time you swipe, like, or receive a notification, your brain releases small bursts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This instant gratification can be addictive, conditioning your brain to seek out more of these rewards. Consequently, it disrupts your ability to maintain focus and sustain attention on tasks that require more extended periods of concentration, such as studying or reading, as your brain becomes accustomed to the rapid and constant stimulation of social media.

Students on mobile phones Students on mobile phones

7. Set priorities

Balance your commitments by setting clear priorities. Determine when to focus on studying, work, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying leisure activities. While academic success is essential, remember to enjoy the journey. Find a balance between studying and personal life to prevent burnout and maintain a healthy perspective.

8. Maintain physical activity

Incorporate physical activity into your routine, whether it's hitting the gym or playing sports. Exercise boosts your overall wellbeing and enhances cognitive function, helping you stay alert and focused.

Selfie of student at a local park Selfie of Vatsal at a local park.

9. Get quality sleep

Prioritise adequate sleep by aiming for seven to eight hours per night. Quality sleep sets the tone for the day ahead and supports cognitive functions like memory and concentration.

10. Seek help if you need

Don't hesitate to seek assistance when needed. Reach out to professors, classmates, or mentors for clarification on challenging topics. Asking for help is a sign of strength and a valuable learning tool. UOW also has a range of support services available for students.  

11. Celebrate small wins

Acknowledge your achievements, no matter how minor they may seem. Celebrating small victories boosts motivation and reinforces positive study habits. 

Staying focused as a university student is a skill that can be cultivated with dedication and the right strategies. By crafting a study schedule, setting clear goals, creating an ideal study environment, and implementing effective time management techniques, you can reclaim your concentration and excel in your studies. Prioritise your health and wellbeing, engage in active learning, and seek support when needed. Remember that to enjoy the journey and not worry about the destination.