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How to Improve Your Focus for Finals

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

For whatever reason, winter finals always feel harder for me than any other season. Most students I know, myself included, get lost in their work at this time of year and struggle to stay caught up with tasks. An overwhelming majority of college students grapple with stress, especially due to academic pressure. The combination of anxiety and rapidly approaching deadlines can easily cause a snowball of procrastination and subsequent cramming. It’s only natural to push off studying to avoid the negative feelings that come with it.

However, for anyone who needs to hear it, I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to stay both caught up in your work and have time for yourself! Staying focused is much easier said than done, but there are ways you can set yourself up for success. Here are the top ways I’ve been managing my time and concentration this finals season:

Have a setup that reduces your stress

My number one necessity for a productive study session is having my desk cleared off, leaving only the things I absolutely need. Taking fifteen minutes to clean up your space won’t take much time out of your schedule, but it can make a big difference in your mindset. Besides my work, I like to keep a bottle of water within easy reach, a candle nearby, and my phone across the room where I’m not tempted to check it.

Background music can be hit or miss, and depends on the level of attention your work requires. I try to avoid music with lyrics or too many inflections – lofi or study jazz on YouTube is my go-to. If you can’t focus with either music or silence, I’d highly recommend brown noise. It feels like a massage for your brain and isn’t distracting at all!

Have a mix of productive breaks and rewards

In my experience, shorter breaks between studying feel better when they’re spent on something constructive. Taking a few minutes to clean up your living space or get some exercise can give your brain a break while getting those endless tiny tasks out of the way. That gives you more time to relax at the end of the day as well!

Not every break needs to be “productive” or serve a higher purpose, though. Saving time for yourself and your loved ones is what will keep you motivated. Whenever I study, I try to set a reward for myself at the end. They’re usually small and simple, like grabbing dinner with my family or texting a friend, but they keep me encouraged to work efficiently so I can fully enjoy my time off.

Remember your own goals and needs

When all else fails, reflect on your own goals when you need a gentle reminder. It’s impossible to always feel motivated, but you can strive to stay accountable to yourself instead. When you find yourself tempted to avoid your work, remind yourself what your long-term aspirations are– they’re likely worth a few extra hours of studying.

And most importantly, be kind to yourself! Finals can be detrimentally overwhelming at times, and it’s important to reach out for help if you feel your mental health is being impacted. A test score doesn’t determine your intelligence, potential, or worth. No matter how finals week goes, know that you’re hardworking, determined, and valuable, and that you deserve to rest during the upcoming break.

Omisha Sangani

UC Riverside '25

Omisha is an undergraduate student majoring in biology and planning to pursue medicine. She enjoys writing about wellness, life experiences, and academics. Outside of school and work, her interests include nature, fitness, art, and volunteering in her community.