5 Ways to Stay Focused in College

Keeping up with the college life can mean keeping your mind moving in a hundred different directions. Classes, friends, work, activities, student organizations, events — there’s always a lot going on at once, which means there’s always a lot to think about any given time. That can make it tough when it comes time to get things done. Everyone feels scatterbrained and overwhelmed from time to time, but luckily there are some great tips that can help keep you focused. Below, are five:

1. Get into a routine
A great way to stay focused is to be in the habit of staying focused. Sound like a catch-22?  Don’t worry, it’s actually pretty doable—you just have to find a routine that works for you. Figure out how and when you work best.  Even take note of where you seem to concentrate the most effectively.  Are you focused the most in the morning in your room, at night in the library, or after class drinking coffee? Look ahead and set a schedule for yourself so that you always have a time and place to be productive.

2. Eat well, stay hydrated, and sleep
You probably think you don’t need to be reminded to do this; after all, you have to eat, drink water, and sleep to live. However, in college, not everyone does these things properly.  Staying hydrated is good for your overall health, but it also helps improve your concentration. The same goes for eating well. If your throat feels parched or your stomach starts growling at you, your focus is bound to suffer. Have a small, healthy snack before getting to work, and keep water on hand.  And never forget about the importance of sleep! Most college students know the feeling of being in class the morning after a particularly late night. Not catching sufficient Z’s is a sure way to make you feel spacey and unmotivated.

3. Limit your social media consumption
Depending on your internet habits, this one can be a little tough to follow at first. For many college students, checking social media favorites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, which boasts a staggering 834.3 million users around the world, has become a reflexive habit. Just keep reminding yourself that you don’t need to check these sites every time you use the computer or your phone for school or work. It may seem harmless to go through your networks quickly just to get that feeling of obligation out of the way, but it’s easy to get sucked into a time warp this way.  If you know that you’re someone who easily loses track of time on social networks, or if you always end up going back to them every ten minutes, then consciously limit yourself.

4. Set goals
To stay focused, you have to be really sure of what it is that you want to get done. If you have homework in several classes, various ongoing projects already assigned, and tests to study for, you’re likely to stay more overwhelmed than focused. This is why it’s important to set goals.  What is the most important thing you need to do right now? You can only really focus on one thing at a time, so decide on some realistic goals before setting out to tackle any business.

5. Reward yourself
Think you deserve some credit if you follow these tips and meet your goals? You do! There’s nothing like a little reward to keep your motivation up. Think little things at first. Say you need to start working on an essay—you might decide to gift yourself a tasty treat once you get the paper outlined. Don’t take a bite out of that cookie until you’ve met your stipulation though; you will only be cheating yourself in the end! And don’t go overboard by thinking up too many rewards for yourself, but do think of nice ways to give yourself a break after making good progress. If you’re a social media junkie, you could even allow yourself to explore Instagram guilt-free as a reward after getting some work done. You’ll feel less overwhelmed if you have incentives to keep you going bit by bit.

This article was originally published in Nov. 2012 and has since been updated.