Throughout the previous year, I have managed to study for 8 hours and sometimes more. It has not always been the case though, as I have ADHD, which means that I always had difficulty working on anything. When I entered university in September 2015, I realized that I would have to significantly improve my work ethic and stay focused in order to finish my work on time.
It might sounds sad today, but it’s a fact. I was not even able to study for 30 minutes without being distracted by something. I have come a long way to where I am today. I will give you some tips on what I did to have the ability to study and work for longer periods of time while avoiding distractions. I hope these will be useful if you also need to be able to work more effectively for the university.
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My tips to stay focused and study efficiently
1. Make to-do lists
I use different tools to make my to-do lists. I sometimes use Todoist, which I find very useful for tasks that need to be checked and sorted into different categories. I have been using this app on my phone and desktop for more than a year.
On the other hand, I sometimes change to Trello, this is because Todoist has only one defect: it is difficult to visualize tasks we have to do over the week. Especially when I have a lot of work to do. I tend to change for a few weeks or months, just for that visualization aspect.
I also have another method. If I just want to make a paper list for the day of what I need to get done in one sitting, I end up using a notebook like this:
2. Study with Study Live Streams on YouTube
When I discovered Study Live Streams on YouTube, it completely changed my life! What are study live streams? These are videos where people are filming themselves live while studying. It sounds bizarre when you first hear about it, but it’s crazy how these videos are the starting point that has allowed me to study better.
It’s simple: when the person we’re watching is studying, we must study too. When it’s a break, we can relax and go on our phone! It’s like a study group that we could have in real life around a table, with the exception that, it won’t end up becoming an endless discussion as is often the case when we study with a group…
The reason it helped me so much was that when I started to become less motivated to study, I looked at the person who was studying on YouTube and I said to myself, “If this person can study so much, then I can also do it!”
I was just listening initially, and I did not create videos. However, I quickly realized that the YouTubers who created videos were in Europe, so we did not have the same time zone. That’s why I decided to create videos myself afterward.
At the beginning of the day, I give myself a goal, for example, to study for 3 hours. Then, for each hour, I write down what tasks I want to accomplish.
3. Have everything you need at your fingertips
I realized that when I sat down in my office to work, I would always be missing a few things and I would have to get up multiple times. When I started to realize it, I was able to make the right efforts to make sure to have everything around me in my office to minimize the need to get up. Otherwise, I might have to get up for 1 hour to get things (I swear, I’m not exaggerating). Here are some things that I now have at hand:
- Tea light candles for my candle on my desk
- Multi-Purpose Lighter
- Post-it Flags
- Pens, erasers, mechanical pencils, highlighters
- Hair ties
- Nail files
- Water bottle
- Clean my glasses
I challenge you to make your list. Why do you have to get up once you start working? What do you always forget?
When you get up too much, you often lose the momentum or the “study bubble” that is so hard to reach! And it’s crazy the time we can lose…
4. Have ready meals
Once again, I realized with time that I lose momentum when I stop doing homework for more than an hour. For lunchtime, a 50-minute break to eat and relax is perfect for me.
The most optimal way to eat for me has been to make sure I have a ready meal, which I only have to heat up in the microwave when it comes time to dine. That way, it only takes 3 minutes to warm up my lunch, and I have the next 45 minutes to relax and watch a TV show. It feels like you can come back to study with more energy and it makes you able to stay focused!
5. Use the Pomodoro technique
It was when I started to watch Study Live Streams that I began to seriously use this method. It is quite simple, but it is neglected too much: I love doing 50 minutes of work for 10 minutes of break per hour. The normally recommended method is to do 25 minutes for 5 minutes break, but I found that it did not work well for me.
As I have to concentrate a lot to do my homework, the effort to get back into my calculations every 30 minutes was disturbing. Also, since it’s only a break of 5 minutes, I was always running late. It is not enough to prepare fruit or a glass of water, pet my cat and come back. It still took me 10 minutes. So I chose to go with the technique 50/10!
I use the IntervalTimer for my YouTube videos, but there are other apps out there.
6. Tips to avoid your cellphone
During my first video I made on YouTube, I realized that I was wasting a lot of time on my cell phone. I think I went on Facebook or Instagram every 7 minutes, for at least 5 minutes! It did not make sense! It was one of my first awakenings.
To avoid wasting time on your cell, I advise you:
- Use the Forest app to plant trees (real ones). However, to get there, you need to leave your phone alone!
- Use your cell phone as a timer for your Pomodoro sessions
- Of course, you can also leave your phone in another room
- Sometimes I even give my phone to a friend or someone else and tell that person not to give it back to me
7. If you don’t need it, leave your laptop in another room
When I had to study physics or mathematics, I did not need my computer. I was only using it to have music. I realized that I was wasting a lot of time on it because it was next to me! That’s why I bought speakers on Amazon.
By having a speaker, I started putting my computer in another room, and it helped me a lot!
There are also applications, like SelfControl, which allow you to block some websites on our computer for a period that we choose.
8. Have diverse tasks: long, short, easy, difficult
This advice is probably one of the most important of this list! It is essential to have difficult, easy, long and short tasks on your to-do list. That way, you do the difficult tasks in the beginning, when you have more energy and concentration. On my end, in the afternoon around 3 or 4 pm is when I know from experience that it’s hard for me to concentrate, I’m more tired. That’s when I do easier tasks, or tasks that I want to do and that require less concentration!
It also helps to have tasks for several classes, not just one! Like that, when you have studied mathematics too much, before doing too much and being fed up, you can study something else.
9. Know yourself
It’s important to know ourselves and identify the times when we are most productive in the day. For some, it is morning, for others, the evening. It is, therefore, necessary to identify the most opportune moment to do one’s homework.
For my part, I like to start around 9 or 10 am to 1 pm, when I eat lunch. I get back to work at 2 pm. Between 3 and 5 pm, I do easier tasks. Then, I take a long break, and I start working in the evening around 8 pm when I regained strength after a break!
10. Film yourself studying to identify where you’re wasting time
When I did my first video live stream video, it was the moment that I was able to realize and recognize everything that I was doing wrong and would make me waste time when I was trying to study. We don’t even understand how much time we spend on our cell. That’s why, if you feel like it, I suggest you film yourself during a typical study session! Then watch the recording, and see precisely what distracts you and how much time you lose.
I hope this article will help you focus better to study or do your homework! These few things changed my life. By being more efficient in studying, it allowed me to invest my time elsewhere, as in my various implications for women in technology for example.