Schools are once again open. Dust is being scraped from desks, mice are finding themselves evicted from projectors and teachers are trying to remember how to write.
You’re going back to school, after maybe a year of learning from home (or in bubbles), separated from your teacher and your friends by a screen and the whims of the Wi-Fi. So, how on earth are you expected to concentrate?
You’re not alone if it appears overwhelming. A key point to remember is that everyone is in the same situation as you. Even your teachers will be a little stunned by so much human contact.
So accept it. It is perfectly normal to want to talk to your friends and enjoy being amongst people your own age again; it will be counterproductive not to acknowledge this fact.
Unfortunately, you will need to start focusing on your studies at some point. Assessments wait for no one.
The good news is that half the battle is won before you even enter the classroom, and it’s a battle you can win by sleeping.
All of our sleep schedules have changed for the worse during lockdown – one last episode on Netflix, one more video on YouTube and then staying in bed once you’re fully awake because there’s no pressing reason to get up.
Make sure you’re setting yourself a sensible sleep schedule because there’s no way you’ll be able to concentrate if you’ve not had a good night’s sleep. Being well-rested is the single biggest way to boost concentration – and it’s also the easiest thing you can do.
Not only is sleeping a simple and fun way of ensuring you’re in peak condition to concentrate and learn, it has a second, more psychological effect.
By changing your sleeping routine so that you go to sleep a little earlier – and get a good eight hours sleep before you need to get up - you’ll notice a significant difference in your ability to learn and engage at school. This is because your body will recognise that it’s got a new routine and it will lose the lethargy of lockdown. This, more than anything, will blow the cobwebs out of your head and help you get back into the rhythm of learning.
Once you’ve got to school, make sure you’ve got lunch, a drink, and some snacks. Keeping full and hydrated is crucial. A recent study actually suggests that judges are more likely to acquit a case after they’ve had lunch, which illustrates the importance of looking after your stomach. Folklore also has long maintained that your stomach is your second brain, and there’s a lot of truth to this saying. A happy stomach is a happy brain, and a happy brain is a lot likelier to pay attention during chemistry.
Snacks are important to keep you topped up between lessons, but you need to avoid snacking solely on sugary treats. Sugar is amazing and delicious because your body needs it, and, crucially, because our ancestors got very little of it. In the modern world, however, we’ve got access to all the sugar we want, and it’s all too easy to snack solely on chocolate bars and sweets. Eating too much sugar is not only unhealthy, it is ruinous to concentration – the price you pay for that initial rush is a crash where you feel sluggish and drained, and you cannot learn in that state.
Finally, and perhaps the hardest of all to implement, make sure to put your phone on silent and leave it in your bag during a lesson. Phones are pesky creatures. They’re small and sleek and its far too easy to find you’ve picked your phone up and glanced at it before you really know what you’re doing. Modern technology is created to pray on our evolutionary weaknesses, and lockdown has eroded the self-control of us all.
It might be a challenge to keep yourself from looking at your phone, especially in a maths class that seems to last all day, but your phone is an unnecessary distraction. You control your phone, not the other way round, and it is important to remember that it’s a good education that sets you up for happiness later on in life – not your phone.
Remember that these tips to focus are because of the unfortunate events of the last year – not from any fault of your own. However, if you integrate these three simple things into your daily routine, you’ll be surprised to find how much easier refocusing is. Remember that it might take a few days to adapt to a new sleep schedule or to not keep checking your phone, but despite the initial struggle, these simple things are achievable, and the benefits they can bring are immense.
Guy Reynolds is a graduate of Cardiff University with a BA in Ancient History and an MA in Ancient and Medieval Warfare. Guy’s plan is to gain his doctorate and spend his life studying increasingly niche areas of history. Guy has lots of experience working with wild animals, from Falconry Centres to Wetherspoons, and he loves anything to do with books.
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