Let’s all be honest here: paying attention isn’t easy. For some people it’s easier than others, but most everyone eventually hits a point where they just can’t focus on their homework or their instructor anymore. It’s just human nature for the mind to wander off sometimes, whether you want it to or not.

Unfortunately, losing focus during class can be a major problem. It’s not unheard of for a single moment of spacing out to render an entire lecture unintelligible. And being unable to focus on your homework, be it from stress or spaciness or something else, can massively increase the amount of time spent working. All of those things are less than ideal.

It can be easy to fall into a trap of despair when concentration difficulties rear their ugly heads, but there are a few things you can consider to make things easier.

First and foremost, consider why you’re so distracted. No need to judge yourself here, just be honest. Is the homework or curriculum so stressful that you unintentionally check out? Are you so tired that you’re falling asleep during class and coursework? Are you taking breaks? If not, why not? Do you have some medical condition that could affect focus? Which is more or less all of them, but special mention goes to anxiety, ADHD, and anything that causes even minor chronic pain. And once you’re aware of the problem, is there anything you can do about them? Make sure that it’s a sustainable and realistic solution to the problem at hand.

Even when all of the controllable elements are under the utmost control, you’re likely to still have moments of lost concentration. Are there things you can do to reduce the impact of distraction? What are some things you could realistically do if you’ve realized that you just missed something crucial in a lecture? This could range from recording the lecture to be able to “rewind”, to taking the best notes you can and filling in the blanks later, to outright asking the instructor to go back over it.

As for losing focus during homework and studying, consider trying different study locations, especially if the thing distracting you is another person. Do you need more noise, less noise? More or less light? Is there some way to block out distracting websites or phone notifications? If your distraction is really out of your control, you very well may have to schedule extra time for homework to compensate, or (depending on your reasons) even see if you’re allowed disability accommodations to help you manage things.

Also, remember to be gentle with yourself if you can be. Losing focus happens to everybody! We did not evolve to sit in lecture halls for hours and hours and hours. And besides, beating yourself up over missing something is completely counterproductive. It just raises your stress levels and continues to distract you.

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