Focus is a challenging skill to improve. Along with initiation, it is often one of the key determinants in causing distraction. It’s hard enough to sit down and focus for long stretches, but, throw in some of the distractions that exist today, and it becomes almost impossible for a student. Youtube, Netflix, Reddit, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and on and on. Students can access these distractions within seconds and be sent down a 20 or 30 minute rabbit hole.
When trying to improve focus, there are a few areas that students should direct their efforts and attention.
Pick a singular task. Students should identify a specific task to focus on. This task should have a starting point and a finish line. It should be specific and easy to define. Saying something like, “I need to study History” is not helpful. This needs to be broken down into a specific task (hopefully in the 15-25 minute range) so students have a target to work towards.
Avoid the extras. Extra tidbits can often take away from focus. Try to remove these extra “starters” or distractions. What does this mean? So often students need to check their Instagram feed or Snapchat feed before getting started. Or they need to make a snack and eat it. These extra lead-ins can cause students to get distracted and not be able to get started or sustain focus. These need to be cut out of the routine. Getting started should be the main focus of a student.
Create an infrastructure. In order to be productive and focused, students need the tools to do so. This means being organized, managing time, and planning out study sessions. By taking care of these X’s and O’s, students will be able to more efficiently maintain focus through a task.
Practice. Students need to practice getting started and maintaining focus. The best way to do this is with someone else: a coach, parent, tutor, or teacher. The goal should always be to improve focus and stretch out duration. A coach can help a student get started and maintain. The more the student is able to initiate and practice sustained attention, the more likely they will be able to do this more effectively by themself. Of course, if there’s no other person to help them, students should use a timer and track their progress on their own.
The more that these components are utilized by students, the more likely they will be to get started and sustain their attention on a given task. Ultimately, the goal is to continue to improve the ability to focus on tasks.