My nephew called me last week and mentioned that he was not able to focus on his studies. A second year student of engineering, he is yet to visit his campus and all his classmates are ‘virtual’, so no one to meet in person in his city. For more than 2 weeks, he had not studied anything, not paying attention in class and he was not liking any of the subjects. He was spending hours just lying in bed, twiddling with the phone, playing games, etc. And he did not know what to do, hence he called me for advice. 

The situation might not be different for many other students, all tired and experiencing fatigue from online learning for more than 18 months. Hence I felt it might be good to share the points I gave to my nephew, as it might help other students.

  1. Accept that you are human: Understand that you are not going through a serious disease. This is NOT UNUSUAL, we all have these challenge phases and they happen frequently. It’s a sign that you are human and it’s good that you are willing to work on it. 
  2. Wake Up Early: This is the toughest one for students. If the school/college starts at 8am, 7:45, if not later, is the typical time they wake up. Having been up till 1, 2 or even 3 am, its inhuman to expect them to wake up any earlier. So the key to waking up early is to sleep on time, which is by 10-11pm, so one can wake up at least by 6am, if not earlier. There is great advantage of just waking up in time to see the sunrise, it has an impact on how your day goes, even if you do not accomplish a lot in the morning time. I know its not easy, but its doable.
  3. Meditate: The sooner one learns the importance of meditation, the better it is for him/her. 10-15 mins of meditation, even 5 mins, will help the student improve concentration and give him the ability to ‘manage’ distraction much better when studying.
  4. Exercise: 30-40 mins of physical exercise, heck,  even 15 mins to start with, is very important and best to do it in the morning. Go for a run, brisk walk, some easy free hand exercises, yoga, pilates, Zumba, any exercise will work.
  5. Maintain a To-Do list: By writing down what all you need to do in the day, you are making a promise to yourself, that you will do it. It’s slightly more difficult to ignore the task once it has been penned down.
  6. No Laptop on Bed: It’s time the laptop is renamed as TableTop, as it constantly gets used in the bed, lying down, slouching, etc and one just cannot get serious focus on what you are reading (forget about writing when lying in the bed) while in the bed. If you do not feel like studying, then don’t, but no point trying to do it while lying on the bed. 
  7. Pomodoro Technique: This is one of the smartest hacks that I got to know just a few years back. Human mind cannot focus on something for very long time. For students its a considered to be 25 mins. I always feel that periods in school should be 30 mins and not 45 mins, which is more common nowadays. So Pomodoro technique says study for 25 mins and then take a 5 min break. During the break, do anything u love: eat, browse your phone, dance, etc. but once 5 mins is over, get BACK to studying.  After 3 cycles, the break can be a longer one of 15-20 mins. Then get back to the original cycle. Try this, it really helps.
  8. Hydrate : We undermine the importance of drinking water regularly to stay attentive. We also tend to misconstrue hour thirst for water as hunger and tend to eat something instead, leading to weight gain in the long run. 4-5 litres of water daily is a must. It will also ensure that you will take enough pee breaks and ensure you are not sitting for a very long time continuously.
  9. Review your diet: No, I am not saying you go on a diet. I am saying you review what you are eating and make alterations. If breakfast or lunch leaves you grumpy and groggy, maybe you need to reduce your food intake. If you are having heavy, fried food, even in limited quantity, it might again be making you lethargic. Try to include lots of fruit and fresh juices in your daily diet, especially in the morning and evening. It does have a positive effect on your mind.
  10. Two to Tango: This is a hack that I learnt from my daughter and it’s an interesting one. Do joint study with a friend online. You both do not need to study the same stuff, in fact, choose someone who is not in your class, not in your school, not in your grade even, so that the no. of common social topics to chatter are down to bare minimum. Connect over a hangout or any video call which is NOT time restrictive, so you can have a 3-4 hour session at stretch together. The idea is for both to support each other in staying focused on work and not to distract and allow time-pass in between.
  11. Do joint study : While schools are selectively opening up, its much easier to meet up 1:1 and hence to catch up with a friend and do joint studies is very much a possibility and one should surely try it once a while. Not very often as it might end up being a ‘social’ meeting !
  12. Change Position/lighting: Apart from the pomodoro technique of taking breaks, one should also change position, place of work frequently if one is not able to concentrate for very long. So you can sit on an easy chair for a while, walk and read if its feasible, study in a different room, balcony, in the garden, etc. Yes, these have to be quiet places with not much distraction, of course.
  13. Read a book: Yeah, its impossible for me to not talk about reading, even when its about productivity hack for students. Well, reading for 30-40 mins on something other than your studies/work definitely helps as a good distraction which helps you to uplift your mind or take you into a world other than your own, depending on whether its non-fiction or fiction that you read. 
  14. Maintain a Journal/Diary: Rather than doing it at the end of the day, as one is generally tired by then, I prefer doing it the first thing the next day morning. So reflect on the day gone by, what were the high and low moments, what did one accomplish out of it, what did one go through, anything. Its a way to ‘talk to oneself’ and a good way to self-assess. 

Overall, being aware and knowing that one needs to ‘break the shackles’ of this unproductive phase itself, means you are halfway out of the ‘rut’ and important to stay positive, as over time, even the most complex of problems gets sorted out.

stay positive !

like all good things, this article has to end here, but of course, the list of tasks is NOT complete, so do share your own hacks in the comments and would be glad to include here.

pic credit: einstein marketer