A poor attention span is a factor which affected my ability to study efficiently as a university student for a long time. That was until I learned how to stay focused while studying! The ability to focus and concentrate on lectures and revision is something which every student has struggled with at some point, whether it be a temporary state of mind or a more long term issue.
What causes a poor attention span?
A poor attention span can derive from a number of factors:
Specific Learning Disabilities
Disabilities such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyscalculia are just some of the many examples of specific learning disabilities which can cause students to experience a poor attention span while studying.
Mental Health Conditions
Students with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and more may struggle with a poor attention span due to the dissociative symptoms they can experience.
It is understandable that sensory disabled students who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired can struggle with poor attention span as they are lacking full function of a sense to engage with their revision and lectures.
Chronic & Long-Term Health Conditions
Students with chronic/long-term health conditions such as migraines, asthma, heart conditions etc. can experience poor attention span levels due to the pain levels and distressing symptoms they endure on a long-term basis.
Aside from disabled and neurodivergent students, anyone can experience a poor attention span if they are experiencing increased stress levels, are distracted or feeling the pressure of university. Being a student at a time where social media and non-stop attention grabbing content is exposed to us 24/7 doesn’t help this. If you’ve become aware that you’re experiencing a poor attention span, try not to jump to conclusions that it could be more serious than it is and instread try out some tips on how to stay focused while studying first and see how it goes!
Prepare yourself mentally to enter the study mindset
As a student who has struggled with poor attention span, I have learned that one of the key factors of how to stay focused while studying is to take the time to prepare yourself beforehand. It is extremely difficult to shift from another mindset into the study mindset and remain 100% attentive in what you want to focus on. Firstly, you want to take time to prepare yourself mentally that you are going to be learning and absorbing information. You can do this by following these steps:
Improve your study environment
If you are about to engage in a long-haul study session, your environment is going to play a determining role in how focused you can stay. You can eliminate distractions by:
- Replying to any urgent messages and then putting away your phone.
- Letting people around you know that you are about to sit down and concentrate so that they do not disturb you.
- Logging out of any additional tabs open on your browser that are irrelevant to your revision.
- Using noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs.
Your study environment needs to be a space which makes you feel calm in order to stay focused and concentrate. You can create a relaxing study environment by:
- Clearing your desk to only keep necessary study tools and equipment around you.
- Sitting in a comfortable chair or using a supportive cushion for improved posture.
- Getting everything ready in advance that you may need, such as notebooks, headphones, and a glass of water. This will help you to avoid interruptions during revision time.
Remind yourself of your goals
When you are hours deep into a study session and feel ready to quit, being able to remind yourself of your goals can support your attention span and keep you focused for longer. You can do this by simply writing out a list on a post-it note of what you want to achieve from this study session or long term and stick it to your desk or laptop to remind yourself later on!
Stop overthinking by setting time aside for worries
It’s always when we need to focus and concentrate that our mind decides to wander and worry about every possible issue that could arise! A great way to make peace with yourself and compromise with your mind is to set a “worry time” for yourself. This is a point in your day/week when you decide to deal with and work through any of the things you may be worrying or overthinking about whilst trying to focus on studying. This helps to know that these issues will be dealt with, just at a better moment, giving you peace of mind in the meantime.
Plan balanced breaks
One of the biggest downfalls that students struggle with when dealing with poor attention span during revision is taking breaks. What usually happens is that when we take a break, we become distracted by using our phones or talking to others and forget to return to our schedule and therefore the plan falls apart entirely. If this is the case for you, take breaks at a frequency that you know is realistically manageable. If you think your phone will distract you too much then don’t use it! You can take breaks through forms such as exercise, changing your environment briefly, getting a cup of coffee or a snack, and breathing some fresh air.
Eliminate the need to multitask
Multitasking has become a natural part of our everyday lives as students, and this plays a negative role in the output of our attention span while studying. This is due to the fact that by multitasking, we are splitting our focus levels across multiple areas as opposed to giving one 100%. In order to stay focused while studying, we must eliminate the need to multitask by using the following tools:
Use assistive study technology
As a student, do you find it hard to listen and retain information during your lecture while also trying to write down notes of what is being said? Me too! And I have great news for you; students no longer have to struggle with note taking at university because assistive study technology such as the Jamworks app is available for us to use! The Jamworks app uses AI to automatically generate notes and other study forms using content directly from a lecture to help students revise more effectively. Apps such as Jamworks remove the need for multitasking as a student, which means we can now engage in active listening and give 100% of our attention to what is going on around us without fearing missing out on any content.
Try Fidget Toys
If, like me, you’re a student who has the urge to always be doing something and find it hard to sit still in order to focus, then I recommend you try out using fidget toys. These are gadgets and tools which are specifically designed to provide stress relief, self-regulation and improve focus levels for those with poor attention span. You can use these during a lecture to keep your hands busy while your mind works on absorbing content from the learning experience.
One of the most common reasons why students can struggle with poor attention span is due to poor organisation skills. Feeling disorganised during a lecture can often cause my mind to become distracted and disconnected from what is being taught in the lecture and increases stress levels as a result. You can get organised as a student by implementing routines into your schedule and keeping a digital or physical calendar to stay on top of your classes and deadlines. Additionally, when writing ‘to-do’ lists, try to simplify them to short sentences and bullet points so that tasks seem more manageable and less overwhelming as this is often what leads to a distracted mindset. I recommend trying productivity apps such as Notion which are free to use and have a minimalistic interface that feels calming and easy to navigate.
These are just a few of many things you can implement and factor into your approach to revision at university that will help you to stay focused while studying and improve your attention span! In relation to external factors, exercise can be beneficial in helping us students to get out of a stressed headspace and engage in boosting serotonin levels and prioritising nutrition and hydration as a student can ensure that you’re giving your body and mind the best chance to reach peak productivity. For long-term concerns in relation to poor attention span levels, I recommend booking an appointment with your GP to discuss your symptoms for a possible diagnosis and medication treatment.
Figuring out which type of learner you are can make a significant impact on how you retain information while studying, and the Jamworks app can play a positive role in assisting you with forms of revision that meet your individual needs and remove the need to multitask as a student.
Stay focused while studying at university – get started with a Jamworks Pro subscription today!