Your life as a student is about many different things. This is the time to explore your identity, revel in your independence, discover plenty of new hobbies and passions, and make the friends who’ll be by your side for the rest of your days. However, nobody would argue that it’s also the time for academic writing, researching, and putting together theses and dissertations… and those two worlds don’t always sit comfortably side by side.
Procrastination is the wolf at the door of every student, no matter what they might be studying, where they might be from, or what chapter of their life they find themselves in. The modern world is full of distractions; from the online buzz of social media, to cultural activities, concerts, sports events, and the same friends you’re starting to make. Knowing how to knuckle down and get your written essays done is the real key to academic success… but so many of us struggle to truly get in the zone and concentrate.
Thankfully, for those of you who find concentration a real challenge, we’ve come up with seven top tips for finding your focus and getting your work done. Take this advice on board, and you’ll be flying through your written assignments, and finding more time to enjoy the other side of student life. Don’t forget to thank us in your graduation speech…
- Healthy Bodies Create Healthy Minds
There are more stereotypes surrounding students than you could possibly list in this article. However, one of the most prevalent (and probably one of the most accurate) is that students aren’t exactly the healthiest of people. Too many parties, too many late nights and dodgy cocktails, fast food, long lie-ins… it’s not the lifestyle of a fit and healthy individual.
If you’re finding it really hard to concentrate, your health might be playing a significant role. Eating fatty foods, not getting enough or getting too much sleep, and the overuse of stimulants like caffeine make it really hard for your mind to focus – and if you’re living the typical student lifestyle, we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s almost impossible to get through that essay you’ve been struggling with.
Try cutting out all unhealthy foods and habits for just three days, and ensure you’re drinking enough water and getting eight hours of sleep for the same amount of time. You’ll notice that your energy levels will skyrocket, and it will be easier than ever to sit at your desk and bang out that dissertation. Trust us, it works!
- Understand Objectives
This is an important one. Too many people dive into an assignment without first carefully considering what the end goal or objective is… and that leaves them floundering around confusedly, and struggling to focus on the task at hand. Before you write anything, note down the focus and ideas for the conclusion of the piece, then a framework of your arguments, and it will become far easier to concentrate on writing it all out.
- Love Your Own Company
You’ll probably never be as surrounded by as many like-minded people as you are when you’re a student. This is one of the greatest things about university life, and it leads to massive amounts of fun. The problem is, when you’ve got academic coursework to do, fun isn’t exactly going to be what you’re looking for… and those same people you love to go to the pub with are probably going to be a massive distraction.
Many students suffer from ‘FOMO’ – the fear of missing out. This is the phobia which makes so many people unable to say ‘no’ to invitations to the pub, or to hang out with your mates, check out a movie or head into town… but if you want to improve your ability to concentrate, learning to say no and be absolutely fine on your own is hugely important. Make your study room a private space, stick a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door, and have no shame in doing so – your studies can’t wait, while the pub will surely still be there next week.
- Think About Your Working Environment
You don’t have to have a completely spotless desk, complete with alphabetically ordered books and straight rows of pens in order to concentrate effectively. However, it’s hard to really focus if your workspace is a total mess, too.
Keep your desk nice and tidy, and try to save it as a dedicated space for writing – that is, don’t use it as an extra shelf for your clothes, or for your growing collection of empty beer bottles. Some people also find it useful to work while facing away from their door, window, TV or any other potential distractions.
- Set Yourself Deadlines
It’s likely your essay or dissertation will have its own fixed deadline, which will have been set by your professor. Obviously, this will need to be adhered to, but if you have difficulty concentrating, it’s a great idea to set yourself mini deadlines and milestones in order to get through the work, and reward yourself once they’re reached.
Let’s say you have a week to write up an essay for your course. Your milestones could look something like this:
- By the end of day 2, make a plan for the essay and collect some great notes and quotes.
- By the end of day 4, have the introduction written, and detailed notes for the main points.
- By the end of day 6, write up the main points and the conclusion.
- By day 7, proofread, add the bibliography, and submit!
- Cut Out Noise and Distractions
This might sound obvious, but it is worth looking at this point in more detail. Obviously, noise is distracting, and will easily jolt you out of your concentration zone. You might think that closing your doors and windows, turning off the stereo, and telling your friends next door to keep it down will be enough… but is there more you can do?
Make sure your phone is off – and not just on silent – while you’re working. Block any pop-ups or notifications from your laptop, and even go further by downloading apps designed to block social media sites which can easily cause procrastination. By doing this, you can be sure that you’ll be able to get the right headspace to dedicate yourself entirely to your academic writing.
- Ask Experts For Help
One of the most common complaints made by students is that they struggle to concentrate on their written work, simply because they have so much of it to do. When the work is piling up, you have to prioritise some of the others… and it can be really hard to knuckle down and work on those essays which simply aren’t as important, and yet which need to be written in order to pass your course or gain credits.
Always analyze your situation and keep in mind that there the key is to optimize your life and start feeling yourself content and self-realised. But not just coming over milestones and tasks that make no sense for your improvement.
Have a read of our healthy life tips for more advice.