Motivation station: concentration (published FuturemindS, October 2006)

It's been a long road, but final exams are almost here! If you've been working hard to this point, it's easy for your concentration to waver. But don't despair - our practical solutions will help you reach the finish line!

Are you disinterested in your subjects? Whether you're bored of your electives or stuck with a compulsory topic, you can always become more enthusiastic.

  • Active learning can help make any topic interesting. Don't just passively read through your textbook. Instead, have a mental conversation with its authors by questioning their viewpoints, guessing their conclusions and attempting to disprove their theories.
  • Reading to study requires different techniques than reading for pleasure. Skim the material first, raise questions and then search for answers. Finally, recite what you have learned.
  • If the course doesn't interest you, relate it back to something that does. You'll be surprised how easy it is to relate coursework back to your life, hobbies, current affairs or pop culture.

If you lack the background knowledge in a subject, it's easy to lose heart. Don't worry! It's easy to fill in the gaps to make more sense of any subject.

  • While study guides can never make up for classroom lessons, they are very useful for helping you understand when you're struggling. A range of study guides are available in most libraries and book stores to make your life easier.
  • Your textbook may confuse you, but your local library should have an easier reference guide about the same topic. Sometimes reading a different interpretation can make all the difference.
  • Teachers or friends studying the same course are valuable sources of information. If you're unsure about anything, remember to ask!

We all know it's easier to motivate yourself to study when you have goals. But what happens when you can't think of any?

  • Your first goal should be achieving something during your study session. This may be completing a past paper, a number of Future School lessons, or reading a textbook chapter. Remember to work until you achieve this goal.
  • Reward yourself for achieving your goal with something enjoyable. You'll always work better if you have something positive to look forward to.
  • Remember the biggest goal of all: doing your best on your exams. This final goal, and the opportunities it will bring, should help keep you motivated if nothing else will.

Often the biggest stumbling block to studying is getting started. With some simple steps in place, finding this motivation will be a little easier.

  • Choose a regular place to study. Ideally this should be at home so you can keep any resources you'll need handy.
  • Set a definite starting time. It's harder to procrastinate when you work to a schedule. And remember, the earlier you begin the sooner you'll be free to do other things.
  • It can be difficult to kick-start your brain, so start your study time by reviewing what you learnt during your last session. This will help you commit knowledge to your long-term memory, and get you into a studying frame of mind.

Finding motivation if you're fatigued can be almost impossible. But rest assured, we can help boost your energy.

  • While study is important, looking after yourself is just as crucial before exams. Allocate time for sleeping, eating the right foods and exercising in your daily schedule.
  • Are you an early bird or a night owl? We all function better at different times of day. Working out which study time suits you is the key to success. Remember to revise difficult topics at your most effective study times.

Sometimes students aren't sleepy until they start to study. Before you decide the work is making you yawn, read our other ideas.

  • A well-ventilated room is essential for keeping your energy levels up and mind active. You'll be amazed what a difference opening a window makes.
  • Hours spend at your desk is enough to put anyone to sleep. Ensure you're taking regular breaks to keep focused.
  • If you're still nodding off, you may be spending too long doing the one thing. Tackling another subject, or even changing your study approach will do wonders.

It's easy to distract yourself with daydreams, but we all know now is not the time! So how do you concentrate and stay on task?

  • Keep your study space free of clutter and distractions. Visual and auditory diversions like photographs and music, should be kept to a minimum. If you find they're disturbing your study time, they don't belong in your study space.
  • If you find irrelevant thoughts creeping into your head, write them down on a piece of paper. Then you can leave them to think about after you've met your study goals.
  • If you're actively learning it'll be harder for your mind to wander. Practice active study techniques like taking notes and reading aloud.

If you're a worry wart, your anxious thoughts will dominate your study time rather than your lessons. No matter what you're stressing about, we have the cure.

  • Are personal problems getting you down? Speak to a trusted relative, friend or professional counsellor to help sort these issues out.
  • Most students worry about getting poor marks, but there are ways to combat this too. Talking to your teacher is often the best strategy. If you've been performing poorly throughout the course, they should be able to tell you whyboy and teacher and suggest ways to improve. You could also ask your teacher for extra tuition, or hire a tutor, to help boost your marks. If your problems are in mathematics or English grammar, don't forget Future School!
  • So much to learn, yet so little time? If deadlines are getting you down, organisation is the key. Keep a calendar showing your exam times and other appointments. Add your study schedule to the calendar and do your best to stick to it.

If you're distracted by noise don't put up with it! Get out of there!

  • There are always places to go for peace and quiet. School study rooms, local libraries, or quiet places outside are all worth visiting. Two of three hours of study in quiet surroundings will do more good than ten hours study in a noisy environment.

(c) 2006 Lauren Katulka