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9 Ways to Keep Your Mind Focused This Finals Season

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Poly chapter.

As another finals season quickly approaches, it can be overwhelming thinking about how much work you will soon be taking care of. Not only are there group projects to work on and papers to write, but also flashcards to memorize and exams to prep for. Getting everything done takes a lot of time and effort and it’s easy to quickly lose motivation and focus. With your upcoming finals, try out these nine tips for keeping up your concentration so you can ace those tests and get to a relaxing spring break ASAP.

1. Try out some web extensions

Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to stay on task when you have the internet at your fingertips. Sitting down to work on your laptop can quickly turn into hours of Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and Vine compilation videos (don’t deny it!). Next time you’re working at your computer, try out a web extension such as Nanny for Google or StayFocusd. These can be used to limit your own access to certain website and to restrict how much time you spend on them. This way, even if your mind tries to sneak off and do something more fun than Quizlet, you won’t be able to and you’ll get back to work faster, which means you’ll finish quicker and be watching Vine videos before you know it.

2. Prepare your brain

Another way to keep your mind from wandering off while studying is to take a moment before you begin. Make sure you’re in the right mindset. If you’re thinking about five hundred other things besides what you’re studying, it’s going to be difficult to truly focus on your work. Settle down in your seat and set everything up, and then take only one or two minutes to take some deep breaths and let your body calm down. It’ll help you concentrate and prevent future distractions.

3. Take breaks

It may seem like a good idea to try to power through all of your work in one sitting, but doing this won’t be as rewarding as it seems. According to a 2015 study from Microsoft, the average human has an eight-second attention span. Your brain won’t concentrate the way it should for hours on end (no matter how much we would like it to). Give yourself breaks. Set a timer for 30 minutes, do as much work as you can and then stop for 10 minutes. Let your mind wander, do some stretches or maybe grab a snack, and then sit down and focus for another half hour. You’ll get work done much more efficiently with these breaks.

4. Doodle

This might seem weird, but doodling has actually been proven to help you stay focused, especially when your doodles have to do with what you’re studying. In various studies, those who doodled actually remembered more information given to them than those who just sat and listened. While it is possible to let yourself go too far and spend an entire hour on a drawing instead of on your studying, try out some doodles here and there after reading certain parts of your notes.

5. Chew gum

Research has shown that chewing gum can help increase your concentration in visual memory tasks while boosting your mental performance. Chewing is said to increase your heart rate which helps deliver oxygen to your brain and then acts as a cognitive enhancer. Mint also stimulate the hippocampus area of your brain, which controls clarity and memory, so next time you head to the library, throw some mint gum in your bag.

6. Make lists

Finals usually come with an extra heavy workload, which no doubt leads to an overwhelming amount of stress. Sometimes it’s hard to stay organized and remember everything that you need to do, so try out making lists. Even if it’s just one long list, you’ll be able to see everything you need to get done in one organized place, and it’s pretty satisfying being able to cross tasks off and see your list shrink. This will help lessen your stress and keep your mind on the task at hand.

7. Distraction to-do list

Speaking of lists, another way to keep your mind focused is to make a distraction list. While you’re studying, when your brain wanders off to something else you’d rather do, like check your emails or go on Facebook, write it down somewhere rather than actually doing it, and promise yourself that you’ll do what’s on the list during your next break. This will keep you on task while still letting your mind take a breather when its time.

8. Don’t multitask

Like we said, finals come with lots of hard and extra work. Still, try not to let yourself attempt to get everything done all at once. Multitasking is tempting but it doesn’t guarantee getting your work done as well or as efficiently, and your mind is more likely to get distracted when you’re trying to focus on multiple different things all at once.

9. Bribe yourself

We all like rewards from time to time. Tell yourself that once you finish reading a chapter in your textbook or once you get through another round of your Quizlet, you’ll let yourself take a break and eat a cookie or get another coffee. By promising yourself a reward, you’ll be able to focus on getting what you need done while seeing the light (or the cookie) at the end of the tunnel.

As finals come closer, keep these tips in mind and good luck, Mustangs!

Kallyn is a third year student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in Media Arts, Science and Technology. She is a writer for Her Campus Cal Poly and Mustang News. She enjoys exploring the San Luis Obispo area, horseback riding and attempting to cook with her roommates. She is a lover of (almost) all things music and (completely) all things dogs. After graduation, she hopes to work for a news station or a high-profile publication.