Ask Abi: Failing to Focus

Abi Hilden, contributor

Dear Abi,

While classes were online, I was always focusing on various things. I would play video games or do something around my house instead of focusing on my schoolwork. Now that we’re back in-person for classes, I am having a really hard time focusing. What should I do?


Failing to Focus

Dear Failing to Focus,

This is a problem I have dealt with many many times in my life. Even before online classes and at home learning, focusing in class has not always been my strong suit! Over the years however, I have come up with some strategies to help improve my focus in classes and to help me be a better student. Here are a few strategies that help me to focus, and that I hope will help you as well!

  1. Take notes! Now I know this one is a bit basic but taking notes is one of the best ways I have been able to improve focus in my classes. I like to take handwritten notes, as then I don’t have the distraction of the entire internet on my computer in front of me. Many studies have also shown that writing out notes by hand helps you remember the content much more effectively than typing your notes out. This strategy also allows you to write down any questions you may have about the material. Then, you can ask the question of your professor and write down the answer as well. This aspect of writing notes just adds to your ability to stay engaged in your lecture. Overall, note taking has been the best thing for me to do in terms of paying attention in class and staying focused.
  1. Doodle! This strategy also goes hand in hand with note taking, as you can doodle in the margins of your notes. Drawing of some kind gives your hands something to do. This is one of the main reasons people can get distracted, the fact that they don’t have anything to do with their hands while listening to their professor. Now, you do have to be careful with this strategy as it can become a distraction for some people if you are not using it in an effective way. As with everything else in life, doodling is good in moderation.
  1. Make a friend! Becoming friends with someone sitting close to you in your class can be very beneficial for focus. In the down time of the class, you can discuss the material with them, ask them questions if you’re not understanding something, or even compare notes to make sure you both are learning the content. Having a friend nearby can also help you if you really can’t focus, as long as they are paying attention to the content. They can explain the material you missed while you were unfocused and even help you stay on task.

I hope these strategies help you and anyone else struggling with paying attention in their classes. If you need further assistance, talk to your professors about your lack of focus and how they can help you stay on task in class! Focusing is a skill that is not easy but you can develop and improve over time. You got this!

Best of luck,