5 Foolproof Ways to Keep Yourself Focused on Zoom

For many of us, taking classes online has become part of the routine. For some of you, it might even be the only way you’ve ever experienced college. As a result, we are basically masters of the Zoom struggle bus now – slowly navigating when to speak or how to interject, staring at each other like “we’re all in this together” when a professor glitches or their internet cuts out, wading through the palpable awkwardness of poorly-planned breakout rooms and calming the fear that we’ve forgotten to mute or turn our video off (a fear usually triggered by something happening in real life). There are definitely positives to the situation as well, such as being able to wake up literally five minutes before class or seeing pets wander through the “classroom” on a whim – so my point is just that even three semesters into remote classes, there are still things we’re working through.

One of those things is the simple act of trying to stay focused and attentive during long Zoom lectures. Especially now that it’s cold outside, it’s so tempting to just sit in bed wrapped up in a fluffy blanket all day, but that makes it pretty hard to put in solid work for the day. So, I’ve put together a list of easy things you can do to keep yourself more focused, energized and motivated to tackle your next Zoom marathon.

  1. 1. Get some snacks!

    The simple reasoning behind this is that snacks make you happy, which will help you be in a good mental state for paying attention, taking notes and contributing to the discussion. It can also boost your energy physically and shake you out of sluggishness. Choose something that’s not too messy or awkward to eat on camera, and something with a crunch is useful for keeping yourself awake (beware if you’re unmuted, though). Some treats that fit these criteria are popcorn, candy, cereal, pretzels and goldfish.

  2. 2. Make yourself a drink – either really hot or really cold.

    Homemade Coffee

    I don’t recommend that you intentionally burn your tongue or give yourself a brain freeze to wake yourself up, though I have, by coincidence, found it to be quite effective. I will however recommend a mild version of that – make something to warm you up or refresh you (without causing injury). Some of my favorite warm drinks are lemon tea with honey, ginger tea with brown sugar and hot chocolate. Some of my favorite iced concoctions are the classic vanilla iced coffee, lemonade with rose water, and homemade bubble tea. Having a drink by your side to take sips from every once in a while can make class just that much more enjoyable.

  3. 3. Turn your video on.

    Woman with curly hair waving and saying hi to someone through her laptop.

    Turn your video on. You don’t have to do this every day, especially when you’re not feeling your best. But, if you really want to be more productive in class, turn your camera on. It will make you more aware of tendencies to pick up your phone and scroll or settle back into your pillows and tune out. Knowing my camera is on makes me want to at least look like I’m focused and paying attention – which usually makes me actually do those things. And if you find yourself analyzing your own face the entire time instead of the lecture, you can right-click on your video and choose Hide Self View to resolve the issue.

  4. 4. Put your phone away.

    woman wearing yellow sweater typing on laptop

    Too many times I’ve picked up my phone “just to check” and then suddenly realize I haven’t been paying attention for the last five minutes and have probably missed the most important thing my professor’s going to say all class. So put your phone somewhere out of sight, because that’s the best way to stop it from becoming a distraction.

  5. 5. Squeeze in a quick stretch or workout.

    woman meditating with dog beside her

    You can do this between classes or even during class. If you have a lecture where you can turn your video off, you can actually stretch and take notes at the same time. Your roommates might look at you like you’re crazy, or maybe you can convince them to join you! Otherwise, a 20-minute break between classes is more than enough time to move around and get your blood pumping. If you feel like your body is still waking up, here is a calming yet energizing 5-minute yoga stretch from Yoga with Adriene. If you’re in the mood for something a little more intense, I found this fun 15-minute 1D-themed dance workout by MadFit. Or, just blast your favorite playlist and jump around the room however you want.

If any of these ideas end up working for you, pass on the tip to a friend! Or if you’re looking for more tips on how to generally navigate a lifestyle of remote learning, check out this article that talks about establishing daily routines, practicing self-care and more. Just take the time to figure out what works for you, and both your mental health and GPA will be grateful for it.