Teaching Tips

Sharpen your focus! Six strategies for success  

We have two weeks left of the semester, and papers, project, and assignments are piling up.  Many students claim they are struggling to focus, so here is a list of six focus strategies that can apply to students, athletes, faculty and staff.  After you read this, feel free to share your own strategies.

  1. One thing at a timePeople think they can multitask easily but true focus requires us to concentrate on one thing at a time. Finish that and go on to the next task.
  2. Give each task its own time – Although this seems similar to #1, it’s a bit different in that it addresses all the things we do but don’t give separate time for. We check our email, but it’s not on our to-do list. Yet, it can take up significant time. Choose specific times for email, homework, working out, etc. and then – BE PRESENT at each activity.
  3. Build up your focus muscles – It’s just the same as building muscles for any sport – practice keeping your thoughts from distraction. Have a reminder word or phrase when you notice yourself drift off such as “Concentrate” or “No distractions.”  Some people use an object, such as wearing a rubber band, so they remember what task they are working on and sticking to it.
  4. Be confident in your developing abilities – It’s all about your mindset. If you say you can or you can’t, you’re right! No one is in the same place they were a year ago, or even last semester.
  5. Take time to breathe – Taking time out for a walk or some other exercise can help your creative and thinking juices flow.
  6. Get more sleep – It seems counterintuitive, but since it’s hard to focus when sleepy, you are probably wasting more time trying to concentrate than you would if you spend time sleeping, you can then spend time focusing and accomplishing more.

Cherie Hufford, MSEd and MA, is a student support specialist, visiting faculty, and assessment assistant at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. She recently completed a second master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. When Cherie isn’t teaching, she enjoys baking, rooting for the Packers, and caring for her micro “farm,” complete with a small flock of chickens, gardening boxes, and herbs in the window sill.

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