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Alright. This is it. I’ve got my books, my phone is far away, and the class is just about to start. I am absolutely ready to focus and study; I’m ready to take notes and ace this course. The zoom window pops up, the professor starts speaking, and… I’ve zoned out. 

I’ve zoned out. Again. While the professor is discussing extremely important information about the course, that will most definitely affect my final grade, and quite possibly my GPA, and the rest of my life. While some tiny part of my brain is very much aware of this, and is screaming at me to pay attention — the rest of me is checked out. I have achieved the perfect state of blissful ignorance. If this were some sort of animated feature, there’d be tiny rainbow unicorns and bunnies frolicking in a circle above my head. The blank space in front of my eyes is occupied by the movie I had watched the other day, vague memories from two weeks ago, and a conversation I had with my friend about Geronimo Stilton when I was ten. What definitely doesn’t feature though, is critical discussions of Dostoevsky’s work or differential equations. 

My brain notices something wrong when the zoom call is suddenly dead silent. Everybody has their heads down, working on something, and I’m left to freak out quietly, grasping at anything I might have heard, and just look down as though I’m doing the work as well. 

This, dear friends, is not ideal. If you are struck down by the same curse as I am, you have my most heartfelt sympathies. It does become rather difficult, when the brain that one relies on to function and do courses decides it has other priorities. Namely, trying to remember the ingredient list of the box of juice sitting on my desk yesterday. I tried to explain, ever so politely, that although the course structure did not strictly mention actual brain work, it was something of an implied requirement. The only response was a half hour spent staring at a particularly interesting bit of the ceiling. 

So, how does one resolve such a quandary? Well, as it turns out, one does not.

There was once a time in my life when I was doing past papers and textbook problems at all hours, preparing for a math exam. My brain was hardly pleased about this. One day, when I started the timer and picked up my pen, it only took a few minutes for me to zone out. I haven’t the faintest idea what was going through my mind. When I managed to focus again, I looked down to find pages of math that were  apparently written by me. I had done so many problems and papers that my brain just shifted to autopilot. 

If you really want to stop zoning out, and if you think it’s affecting your life that badly, there are things that can help. Sleep deprivation, information overload, and increased stress (the three curses of college courses) are common factors that can cause this inattentiveness — it’s your mind’s way of trying to deal with everything going on. So getting some extra sleep, and taking breaks to properly unwind and destress can improve your concentration. 

But, dear readers, I invite you to consider the alternative — using the gift your brain has so generously given you. If you allow your constant focus to fade a little, the rest of your subconscious mind can do some work. In that daydream haze, there are unexplored vistas of creativity and deep thinking. By letting your mind wander, you may encounter so many more opportunities for inspiration, be it in art, literature, science or math. Perhaps that one missing link that has been eluding you for ages will take that opportunity to strike. Zoning out can help you get through monotonous tasks, leaving you to ponder far more deep and interesting thoughts. Let your hidden consciousness do the work. Trust me, I’ve done entire presentations zoned out, only realizing afterwards that I had no idea what I said.  

All this is to say, perhaps zoning out is not such a terrible thing. It’s a much needed break for the brain. There are many situations when it’s perfectly alright to zone out, when you and I can fully enjoy being carried on streams of random thoughts into that place of partial consciousness. In some situations, it may be less alright, but it’s still probably not the end of the world. Take a nap and a sip of water, doodle a bit, or get one of those fidget toy thingies (I would not recommend scissors. Believe me).  

In situations where it is the end of the world? Eh. Zone out all you like. It probably ain’t going to matter either way. 

Hello! I am a first-year student at Ashoka University, planning to major in Physics and minor in Psychology. I enjoy music, writing and (occasionally) crochet. Huge fan of sci-fi and Doctor who.
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