Can’t Focus at College? 5 Ways to Get Back on Track


I have SO MUCH STUFF going on between home and college, and I’m having a hard time focusing on my studies.

When I get to the library and sit down to study, I THINK ABOUT EVERYTHING BUT MY COURSEWORK. When I walk across campus, instead of mentally preparing for my next class, I think about things that are bothering me.

I feel like I’m drowning in my thoughts, and I’m worried it’s going to affect how well I do this semester. What do I do?


“Where focus goes, energy flows.” - Tony Robbins

Most college students have a hard time staying focused at one point or another, but it can be especially hard for students who are the first in their family to go to college or from limited-income backgrounds. Things going on at home might need your attention, or you might think they need your attention. On campus, maybe you’re stressed about an upcoming exam, finding a job, weekend plans, or who you’ll sit with at lunch.

There are hundreds of things that could take your attention away from your studies, but

Maintaining focus is a prerequisite for achieving your goals. When you lose focus, you lose the energy you need to nurture the momentum that will get you there.


What ifs, should haves, worries, fears, and negative self-talk are enemies of your goals. Ruminating on them is not only tiring, but it robs you of your focus.

The following tips are guaranteed to help you get a handle on your thoughts, renew your focus, and get back to your studies and #lifegoals.


5 ways to get focused and back to work:

1. Recognize that focus is a choice

Focus is a choice that you have to actively make day in and day out. Most of the time, it’s not going to happen naturally. Even if you wake up feeling focused and ready to concentrate on your work on Monday, there’s no guarantee you’ll wake up feeling the same way on Tuesday. Not to mention, you never know what could come your way midday. This means you have to decide to focus. Then, you have to make that decision over and over and over again. Water your decision on a regular basis and watch your focus grow.


2. Tap into the WHY behind your long-term goals

Think about what you want to achieve over the course of your life. Take a few minutes to run through this exercise: (1) Visualize your most important goal, (2) Think about why it’s important for you to achieve that goal, how you’ll feel once you get there, and how you’d feel if you didn’t make it. Tapping into the emotions behind long-term goals will give you the focus you need to surpass many of the challenges you encounter. Plan to run through this process on a daily basis for at least three - five minutes.


3. Get out of your head

When your thoughts are running a mile per minute, you can stop them in their tracks by getting out of your head and into your body. Exercise is a great way to get oxygen and feel good hormones flowing. For best results, go for 30-60 minutes of heart-pumping cardio at your campus gym, outdoors, or complete a workout on YouTube. A walk is another good option, even better if you incorporate a walking mindfulness meditation. If you’re in the library or a tight space (e.g., your dorm room and the weather is terrible), do some jumping jacks, stretch, or walk around a bit. The mind-body connection is real.


4. Come back to the present moment

Often when we can’t focus, we’re not truly in the present moment: we’re stuck in the past or anticipating what might happen in the future. Where are you right now? That’s where you need to be. Get there by taking a few minutes to center yourself. On a piece of paper or in a journal, write down a description of your environment, what you want to focus on, and why it’s important. Or, close your eyes and focus on your breath, noticing each inhale and exhale. Bringing awareness to your breath for as little as 15 seconds will bring you back to the present.


5. Take action right now

It’s easy to tell yourself “I can’t focus” as an excuse for not getting work done. Change your thought patterns now by getting started on the task at hand. Make mini goals in 5-minute increments. Start with easy tasks like opening your book, reviewing your notes, or taking a look at project instructions, then transition to 5-minute increments where you’re actually doing work. Once you start, you’ll find it’s not as hard as you thought it would be to get into a groove.


Kori Crockett
CEO, Propeller Collective

Have other tips for getting focused?
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