Concentration optimization: from online to onsite education (and back again…)

Niels Bakker | december 23, 2021
Concentratie optimalisatie Wake Up

 

We’re noticing an increase in psychological struggles and challenges among students. One of the most common complaints is focus difficulties. When the Covid-19 pandemic started, the main reason for this was the switch to online education. Suddenly most activities, both academic and social, took place behind a computer screen. Online lectures, online work groups, online exams along side the time you spend on Netflix, gaming, social media and Whatsapp. So much screen time. “You’ll go square-eyed!” my mother used to say. In an earlier blog we wrote about maintaining focus with all that screen time in your home environment.

When the summer passed and the corona figures improved, the world opened up again. Students found themselves in crowded lecture halls, busy libraries, full terraces and the lively night life. A major increase in daily stimuli. Lots and lots of stimuli! How on earth do you keep your attention on the lecture instead of all those people around you? How did this ever work out and how can you improve? A transition phase was to be expected once everything opened up again. Having gotten used to a slower pace, this increase had an impact. For example, absenteeism has increased by 35% since the easing. This is a good indication that the extra stimuli can do a lot to us!

However, at the time of writing this blog, the measures have been increased in line with the Corona figures. So many courses have to switch again from offline to online education. And soon this will have to be done the other way around. What is the best way to tackle this switch in order to maintain concentration? In this blog I will describe tips on how to deal with this better.

 

 

Attention
Above all, meditation and mindfulness can strengthen your focus. By doing a daily body scan or even a guided focus meditation, you can train your attention. It also strengthens your sense of calm. Try it for yourself through this video.

 

 

You may have noticed that walking, preferably in nature, can give a certain peace and focus. Try combining this with the 5,4,3,2,1 mindfulness exercise, where you consciously give sensory attention to your surroundings. First focus on 5 things you see. Then 5 things you hear and then 5 things you feel on your skin. Repeat this for 4 things (these may be the same things), then 3, 2, 1. The exercise also works fine before a performance moment and can be applied in another context, such as a presentation or during an exam when you don’t know a few questions and start to panic a bit.

 

Me-time

One piece of advice from the article on absenteeism is to pick up all activities gradually. In my opinion, this is really an illusion for most students. We want it all so badly! So we rush to any opportunity to enjoy all that we have missed out on earlier.! But even though you dive right back in, I would definitely advise a me-time moment. In between studying and social life, take half an hour for yourself. Write down your thoughts and plans in a diary or journal and don’t keep it in your head. Combine this me-time moment with making space for your energy balance.

 

Energy balance

It takes a lot of energy, processing all those extra stimuli while trying to study. This makes monitoring your energy balance a priority! With regular sports, walks, being outside in nature and daylight you will come a long way. Plan these moments consciously in your week or combine them more often when you go from A to B.

Also make your sleep rhythm important. At the very least, opt for longer sleep after a shorter night. An average sleep cycle lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes. Assume at least 4 sleep cycles. If a night was shorter or a day more intense, you can set your alarm clock to 5 sleep cycles at bedtime.

Perhaps you are short on certain substances? We started partying more when we could, and vitamin B deficiency is often caused by, for example, increased alcohol consumption. These substances help with energy, memory and concentration. You can supplement this via supplement B-complex. Keep in mind that healthier choices are also important and a certain balance is always good. A good multivitamin never hurts in your student days.

 

Studying

You don’t always have to maintain your full focus during all parts of your studies. You can also be more conscious of when you really need your focus. By going to lectures prepared, you can know where you really need your focus. Screen through the slides and ask a question or mark on slides you have questions about. Now you know when you really need to pay attention. Ultimately, this also saves a lot of work in the exam period since you have already answered questions for yourself at the right places within the material.

Work in blocks of 2 hours and use the Pomodoro technique. Every 25 minutes stretch for 5 minutes, take a sip of water and ask yourself, what does what I just read mean for the bigger picture. With this you guard the thread of the material. You also guard your energy balance and don’t cramp in 1 position.

 

Switching offline and online

Concentratie Wake Up Student

As mentioned, at the time of writing this blog, many studies are going back to working online due to the increasing Corona figures and the accompanying measures. The time of celebration is over again and everything has to be done from home from 17:00 onwards at least. How to switch more easily between offline and online and back again?

Write down what helped you in the previous online period and add tips from our previous blog. Do the same for the offline days; your own best practices and the tips from this blog. Share experiences and advice with fellow students, housemates and friends and do more of what works for you.

When a switch from offline to online or back again takes place, take a moment to consciously adjust using these tips and your own experience. By being aware of the increase/decrease of stimuli, you will harness yourself better and ensure you can keep your concentration to what is important for you.

Hopefully you read this blog with full attention, so you can work to keep your focus strong in off- and online days! 

 

 

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