Anna’s declassified college survival guide: Tip #4 focus on one thing at a time

Welcome back from break! As corny as it is, this is a new semester, a new year, a new decade, and a new start. This is the perfect time to work on improving ourselves to make our college experience easier. This month brings you another study tip:

To be more productive while studying, focus on only one class at a time, and for no more than an hour.

Many of us now know that multitasking isn’t possible; our brain can only handle one cognitive thought at a time. So, it makes sense to work on only one class at a time. Now you might respond with, “I only work on one assignment at a time and I still feel stressed all the time.”

What does your work area look like?

How many tabs do you have open on your computer?

When working on one assignment, do you find yourself worried about another?

Starting with your work area, it should be clean and organized. Regardless if your work area is your desk, your kitchen table, or your living room floor, it is best to have clean space for you to work and little distractions. Even the difference between having a textbook for a different class open versus closed has made an impact on my own studying. 

Tabs on your computer might seem like a small thing; however, I am sure most of us can remember a time when we have wasted time looking for the correct tab of what we want to work on. Even dismissing that wasted time, each tab is a constant reminder of all the work we have to do.

The stress you might already be feeling because of your workload is intensified by the constant reminder. My recommendation here is to create a new window for each of your classes. Even if you have a lot of tabs open so you don’t forget anything, creating a new window for each class allows you to breathe and focus on one assignment at a time. Two or three tabs is much less daunting than fifteen. 

Now the logical next step because we know multitasking isn’t possible, is to focus on one class or assignment at a time. However, even this isn’t enough. Our attention span is only so long and after a certain period of time our brain simply cannot come up with any more good ideas.

I found a way that I have tested and works for me and it is to limit the amount I spend on one task to one hour. I completely focus on that one task and nothing else. After that hour is done, I take a five minute break, and then switch tasks. Even if you need to spend multiple hours on a task, if you take breaks from it in between work sessions, your brain will have had time to refresh and get back to work at full capacity. 

I hope this tip helps you this semester! Thank you for reading and look for my  tip next month. If you haven’t been following along with my tips, here are the links to my first three tips:

Tip #1     Tip #2     Tip #3

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Anna Panek

Anna is a junior at St. Cloud State University and is double majoring in Math Education and Spanish Education, with a minor in Special Education. She is the Managing Editor for the University Chronicle this year. When she is not at campus attending class, working as a learning assistant or math tutor, or writing for the University Chronicle, she enjoys volunteering, reading, being overly competitive at board games, and telling horribly funny puns.

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