5 Tips to Help Students Focus Better.

This post was inspired by the one question students ask year after year:

“How can I focus better when I study?”

Focus has as much to do with what happens before you study as what happens while you are studying.

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1. Remove ALL distractions.

  • Shut off your phone. Better yet — put it awayJust looking at it takes up mental space
  • Research shows the mere presence of a smartphone on your desk impairs intellect and reduces brain power.
  • And if you can’t trust yourself to hit the switch – lock your phone in the trunk of your car and give a trusted friend the key until you are done studying. No kidding!
  • You’ll miss it for the first 20 minutes of your study session, then you’ll forget all about it.
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time.

2. Be an ACTIVE studier.

  • Do not passively read the textbook – you will fall asleep, I guarantee it!
  • Instead, engage with the material.
  • Get active. Make the chapter come alive!
  • Have a classmate or friend quiz you.
  • Do end of chapter tests.
  • Read the textbook chapters out loud.
  • Teach the subject to someone, anyone!

3.  Clear out MENTAL CLUTTER.

  • Empty your mind of your to do lists, worries, and what ifs before you study.
  • Write them down and put them in a worry box to be tended to once exams are complete.
  • Repetitive thoughts running through your head could be your biggest distraction.

4. Take frequent MOVEMENT breaks.

  • Burn off pent-up, restless energy during study breaks.
  • Get up. Walk around.
  • Do not grab your phone.
  • Move your body!  Sing a song.
  • Draw a picture. Clap out loud! 
  • Open a window. Smell fresh air.
  • Go outside. Hug a tree!

5. REWARD yourself… eventually!

  • Use the Premack Principle to reward yourself.
  • Delayed gratification can be an excellent tool for sustaining attention and motivation.
  • Make a list of all the things that are distracting you from studying and use them as rewards once all your studying is done.
  • Go to Starbucks as a reward for studying, not as your location to study. (Too many distractions!)
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time and you’ll have a special treat to look forward to when all your hard work is done.
  • Your success is worth the wait!

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Related Post: I believe in you.

Staying motivated in the midst of a challenge.

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Today’s story begins in the middle of my kickboxing class. The point in time where you feel like giving up the most.

Because the middle is always the hardest. Whether it be the middle of a semester, the middle of a week, or the middle of a dentist appointment. Ugh!

It was thirty minutes into class, and we had just finished a really tough round. I wanted to celebrate how far we’d come, so I began clapping and cheering.

Despite my excitement, my instructor gave me a curious look and said: “Why are you clapping Andrea? We are far from being done.”

She was right. We still had a significant amount of time left in our workout. But I wasn’t clapping because we were finished. I was clapping because we had hit the wall and survived. I was clapping to energize!

CHEERING in the MIDDLE

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A cheering strategy that I often use in my own classroom. Students are geared up at the start of the semester and pumped up at the end. It’s in the middle that their commitment starts to falter.

This is when I clap wholeheartedly simply because students show up to class. A fun gesture underscoring how much I value their commitment to education. And they love it!

Today I am reminded how small gestures energize big time in the midst of a challenge. Be it a high five. A wide smile. A kind word. Or calling students by name.

Because beginnings have their own ticker parades. And endings take care of themselves.

It’s in the middle of a challenge where we need positive energy the most.

What keeps you motivated in the midst of a challenge?

Related Post: What's your why?

Would you rather be liked or respected?

Liked vs. Respected

This question came to mind last week when I took over a college class halfway through the semester.

I know how tough it is for students to have 2 professors over the course of a 12 week semester. 2 sets of rules. 2 sets of expectations.

So it’s more important than ever that I play my “first impression” card right.

Students are more likely to “test the limits with the “new teacher”. Accordingly, I use a more strict than usual demeanour at the start of summer semester.

It usually works well. As my tough love approach becomes more on the love side, and less on the tough side as the weeks roll by.

However, this time I knew my first class authoritarian approach was not going to work.

Suddenly I had my hands full right off the bat. One of my students was not impressed in any way.

After laying down the law, the student looked up at me and said: “I’m not going to like you very much.”

And I said: “Good, because I’m not here to be liked, I’m here to teach you something.”

The student loudly responded: “Good, because I just learned something!

To this day I am grateful for how much this student underscored my purpose in the classroom. 

I am not here to be liked. I am here to teach psychology.

A life lesson in self-worth that applies to us all.

“Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.”

Respecting the process.

Do you trust the process / evolution of your life?

Do you stir the pot before it boils? Do you open the oven before it bakes?

Or do you relax on the sofa trusting the recipe and the time it takes?

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Not long ago, I was interviewed by Adam Rochon on the topic of transformational change.

During the podcast interview, Adam and I explored a different way of thinking about change.

 

A more uplifting and empowering take on transformation.

Adam and I discussed how the key to lasting change isn’t to push yourself harder.

The key to lasting change is to understand yourself better.

To accept yourself more. And to judge yourself less.

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Trust the timing of your life.

Your good and bad habits did not develop overnight.

And neither does transformational change. 

Ultimately to grow, we must trust, let go, and learn to respect the process.

Excerpt from my interview with Adam Rochon: “For me respecting the process in my own life and in all the people I’m blessed enough to meet, is to realize the process is so much bigger than I am. It is our destiny. It is the 100 years – if we are ever that lucky to live on this earth. Whatever we experience, good or bad, is just a day in the life and that we need to pay attention to where we are. When we get stressed out, overwhelmed and are going through a lot of changes, take a step back and realize that there are so many forces at work that are greater than we are – which is the process. When we Respect the Process everything just falls into place. It sounds simple, but you need to just let go of what you don’t have control over and be inspired by the process.” Episode #15: Transformational Change.

Click here for access to full podcast interview. 🦋

How will you thrive today?

So many choices when it comes to stress relief.

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Which one will you choose today?

Psychology Today Checklist ⇒ Are You Thriving? 🌷

How do you prepare for work each day?

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

I value positivity and a sense of security in the classroom, above all else.

For it is only when students feel safe, supported, and uplifted are they motivated to learn.

Creating a harmonious classroom atmosphere happens long before the school bell rings.

Which is why my preparation for teaching psychology includes both physical and mental preparation.

Ultimately, the more relaxed and happy I am, the more calm and content my students will be.

I am grateful for every student I teach and I want to make sure that they get the best of me.

Physical Preparation for Work = Exercise

Mental Preparation for Work = Psychology

How do you prepare for your job each day?

There will always be critics.

Use their words as motivation.

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A glimpse of my psychology lecture on student motivation and success.

The world needs your unique kind of wonderful. So don’t let the critics get you down. Focus on your dreams. Not their doubt. Use their words as fuel for your success and empowerment. The sun always rises. And so will you. ☀️

Related Post: Face it - you're strong!

10 Tips to Help you Focus Better.

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“How can I focus better when I study?”

Preparation is half the victory.

1. REIGNITE your motivation.

  • Revisit why you are studying in the first place.
  • To one day save someone’s life as a nurse.
  • To protect vulnerable children from abuse.
  • To create a business that will employ displaced workers.
  • Your future self will thank you for the sacrifices you make today.

2. BORE yourself silly before you study.

  • Studying pales in comparison to relaxing on a comfortable couch watching your favourite tv show on Netflix.
  • Which is one more reason to do nothing (no television, no internet) long enough that hanging out with textbooks sounds like a party!
  • For example: Stare at a blank wall until you are so bored that all you want to do is study. No kidding!
  • The quieter your mind becomes, the better your focus will be.

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3. Create a SACRED SPACE for studying.

  • The physical act of preparing a space can be very calming for students.
  • Clear all visual clutter. Clean your room. Organize your desk.
  • Make your space a welcoming, energizing, inspirational place to be.
  • Add in vibrant colours, fresh notebooks, lightly scented candles, bright overhead lights.
  • Your studying deserves this level of respect.

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4. Prepare yourself PHYSICALLY before you study.

5. Clear out MENTAL CLUTTER.

  • Empty your mind of your to do lists, worries, and what ifs before you study.
  • Write them down and put them in a worry box to be tended to once exams are complete.
  • Repetitive thoughts running through your head could be your biggest distraction.

6. Remove ALL distractions.

  • Shut off your phone. Hide it away. Just looking at it takes up mental space.
  • And if you can’t trust yourself – lock your phone in the trunk of your car and give a trusted friend the key until you are done studying. No kidding!
  • You’ll miss it for the first 20 minutes of your study session, then you’ll forget all about it.
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time.

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7. Be an ACTIVE studier.

  • Do not passively read the textbook – you will fall asleep, I guarantee it!
  • Instead, engage with the material.
  • Get active. Make the chapter come alive!
  • Do practice tests. Read the textbook chapters out loud.
  • Have a classmate or friend quiz you.
  • Teach the subject to someone, anyone!

8. Be slightly UNCOMFORTABLE while you study.

  • Do not sit or lie on your bed when you study.
  • Sit up straight in an office chair.
  • Keep the temperature cool.
  • Be slightly uncomfortable.
  • This will help keep you alert and awake.

img_00209. Take frequent MOVEMENT breaks.

  • Study breaks are optimal at 5-15 minutes in length.
  • Study sessions should not be longer than 45 minutes at a time.
  • And when you take your breaks aim to burn off your restless energy.
  • Move!  Sing a song. Draw a picture. Clap out loud!
  • Open a window. Smell fresh air. Go outside. Hug a tree!

10. REWARD yourself… eventually!

  • Use the Premack Principle to reward yourself.
  • Delayed gratification can be an excellent tool for sustaining attention and motivation.
  • Make a list of all the things that are distracting you from studying and use them as rewards once all your studying is done.
  • Go to Starbucks as a reward for studying, not as your location to study. (Too many distractions!)
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time and you’ll have a special treat to look forward to when all your hard work is done.
  • Your success is worth the wait!

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What’s your stress threshold?

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Recently, a fellow blogger asked an excellent question regarding tipping points and stress response.

They were curious to know if each of us has a tipping point when it comes to stress management.

And if so, how does it differ from person to person.

I love questions like this because they encourage me to dig deep, reflect, and imagine new ways of perceiving stress.

 

Stress Thresholds.

Tipping points and thresholds are often used synonymously in the literature. Especially when discussing economic, historical, and ecological phenomenon.

That said, there is a clear distinction between thresholds and tipping points in psychological applications.

Thresholds are more individual (unique to each person), while tipping points are more universal (shared by the majority).

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Which is why I see each person’s stress response as more of a stress threshold than a tipping point.

  • Thresholds vary from person to person (e.g., Type A vs. Type B), situation to situation (e.g., Work vs. Personal), and are based on individual strengths, challenges, and personal history.

See diagram above to help understand how thresholds affect your individual stress response. This graphic also depicts why a certain level of stress (below threshold) can be good for you.

  • Assess when you cross the threshold from your optimal stress zone (eustress) into your overload stress zone (distress).

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Situational Stress and Thresholds.

In addition to overall stress response patterns, thresholds differ from one situation to the next.

Situational fluctuations in thresholds reflect our strengths, challenges, and personal preferences.

We may be good at some things, but we are not great at everything.

  • For example, the more challenging academic work is for me (high stress threshold) the more I flourish. (Above Left Photo) ❤️📚
  • While this is not the case with other areas of my life (low stress threshold) and thus I tend to react (too quickly) when under pressure in certain personal situations. (Above Right Photo) 😂😩
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Techniques for staying in your optimal stress zone.

From Negative to Positive Stress.

Finally, I believe that our ability to cope and thrive under pressure is a lifelong practice. Something that is never mastered – only strengthened.

And the more we learn about life and ourselves, the higher our thresholds will become. As the majority of our stress is beating ourselves up – long after the stressor is gone.

Related Post: Thriving Under Pressure

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Questions for Your Reflection.

  1. How does your stress threshold differ from others?
  2. In what situations is your stress threshold lower vs. higher?
  3. When (if ever) is stress good for you?
  4. How can this post help you be more accepting of yourself when stressed?

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.” Mary Dunbar