Study tips: How to stay focused | Top Universities

Study tips: How to stay focused

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Zain Nabi

Updated Mar 31, 2024



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A few months after arriving in Australia to start my Masters, I was met with my first tough challenge. I’d already got a student job and the burden of studies on my lousy shoulders was proving a little too much to handle. However, I was still doing reasonably well; flicking through piles of notes, skimming two or three books at a time and preparing rather slowly for my assignments so I would not go mad when the deadline came around.

Now, before I go any further I must tell you that I am a sports enthusiast and like to play both indoor and outdoor games. If someone told me that Arsenal were losers I would show them my latest edition of FIFA 2013 and beat any opponent of their choice (with difficulty level set to ‘easy’ of course). I also love to watch movies, so I do not miss any chance of going to the cinema – especially when I’m able to get a student discount.

If someone even hinted at any of these interests, I would easily get distracted and take my focus away from studies. And that’s exactly what happened! Result? I had fun, exercise and got opportunities to socialize. All sounds well? No. In the midst of all these adventures, I ended up falling behind my study timetable and could not prepare well for my next class.

Since I was already following a set study plan, I was able to deal with that mishap and return to my schedule. However, if you are among those who easily get distracted and are unable to make your way back to studies, give your priorities a second thought.

Here are some simple study tips to help you stay focused:

1. Set study goals

First things first; start with the basics and set your study goals. Ask yourself why you are here, at university, possibly (like me) having travelled across the world for this opportunity. Having fun is certainly one answer, but not the primary one. Knowing your objectives completes half the job.

2. Make a study timetable

Once you know what you want, the next step is to prepare a weekly study timetable. Set a routine for everything. Your timetable could include the time you should go to bed, the time you should have your meals, and – most importantly – the time you should spend on studies. There is no hard and fast rule and you should of course allow some flexibility depending on how things go. But establishing a routine is essential, and do try to stick to your study timetable as best as you can.

3. Learn to say no

Now, I am not asking you to give up all your social activities, but you have to take some bold steps. If you dine out daily, it is better to limit this to one day per week, which will help you save some money as well. If you go to the cinema every week, try to cut down to once a fortnight. If someone is asking you to accompany them to hang out at the mall when you know you should be studying, tell them you’re busy – and let them know when would be a better time. In short: learn to say no when you know you really should.

4. Stay focused on your priorities

Self-help is the key here. No one else is going to stop you from doing what you want, but you’re the one who will face the consequences if you fail to meet your targets. Remember you are at university for a reason, and if that reason is lost nothing else will fit well in the equation.

What I do to stay focused is keep a diary with me. I have written all my study goals and priorities in it and when I have spare time (while waiting for the train or travelling and before going to bed) I take a thorough look at them. You could do the same, or even paste some posters on your room’s wall.

Follow these study tips and stay focused on your goals, and you should find you’re feeling more confident about your studies – as well as still being able to enjoy all the other aspects of student life.

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