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Concentrate to Improve Learning and Productivity

Put your phone in another room

  • Why this works: Research shows that people can concentrate on their work better when their phone is in the other room, as opposed to just silenced and in their bag next to them. The better your concentration, the more durable your learning. 
  • How to do it: Silence the phone and put it in another room. If your phone is still on your mind, you can set a timer on your computer to check the phone in an hour, or at lunch.

Make a day plan (AKA, a decision-making tool)

  • Why this works: If you’ve already decided and written your priorities for your free time, you’ll likely spend more time on your priority work even if you only follow the plan somewhat, like most people do.
  • How to do it: Take a sheet of paper and write the hours of the day. Write in your classes and meetings for the day (e.g., “10–11 C31A Lecture”). Write in breakfast, lunch, dinner, and relaxation time. Then write in the course work you’ll do in your free time (e.g., 11–12 “Do one problem in C31A pset.”).
    Think of your day plan as a decision-making tool you can modify when more important things come along, work takes longer than expected, or you procrastinate like most people do, not as a list of commandments to be followed absolutely.  It’s not a list of commandments, but a decision-making tool.

Use the Pomodoro Technique

  • Why this works: Given the immediate accessibility of digital distraction, to concentrate at the intensity required for college-level learning, you’ll probably need to consciously decide to concentrate for a period of time, resisting all distractions.
  • How to do it: Basically, you work without interruption for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, then do another 25 minutes. Remove distractions from your work environment, decide what you will work on, set a 25 minute timer, and work without interruptions. When the timer goes off, reset it for 5 minutes and get up and do something relaxing to give your brain a break. When the 5 minutes are over, do another 25 minutes. 

A note about habit change:

If you are like most people, doing any of these strategies consistently will mean breaking old habits and making new habits. Therefore, you can expect that integrating any one strategy into your learning practice will be challenging and take a couple of weeks or more. If you are not following through with a particular strategy, please don’t get discouraged and think you are the only one. Struggle is normal. Instead, troubleshoot the challenge with someone, or make an appointment with an Academic Coach. It’s our job to help you put the strategies in place to feel good about your learning and progress toward your academic goals!