Finding focus to succeed in college

You are staring at the white screen in front of you. Hands perfectly positioned on the keyboard, ready for the thoughts and creative ideas to come exploding out of you. Ready, like any second now… but then judging by the string of drool hanging from the left corner of your mouth you realize that you have been this way for quite some time. This sudden realization makes you panicked and frantic. The essay, research paper, presentation – whatever it is – is due soon, and your mind is everywhere besides where it needs to be. How do you focus on the task? Here are some ideas to try.

Go outside

 No matter the temperature or conditions – get some fresh air. If the weather is nice, go for a walk in a park. If the weather is not nice, bundle up and watch the rain from under a pavilion. Getting outside helps you clear your mind, especially if you were cooped up inside a library or stuck your dorm room for a long period. The change of scenery also opens up your mind to new ideas.

Take a nap

I honestly have to say this has never worked for me, but several of my peers swear by it. They say they dream about the project and all the ideas come to them through a relaxing and short nap. If you intend to try this idea, I encourage you to set an alarm for around 30 minutes, as this allows you enough time to relax but also enough time to get back to the project. After all, if you sleep the rest of the day, you’ll have even less time to get it completed.

Get organized

When it comes to essays or reports, sometimes the problem is having too many ideas and directions. If you get scatter-brained and can’t imagine the report going in a clear direction, your best bet is to grab a pen and paper to get your thoughts organized. I personally make outlines, with the main ideas, sub ideas, and supporting information. This way I can see which points have the most supporting information and which ones I could elaborate on. This helps you carve out a clear path for the project.

Change locations

Where you are can affect your creativity and thought process. Are you sitting at a cluttered desk, with scattered pictures, other projects, and the constant buzzing of your phone? Sometimes you just need to pick up the necessary things you need for the project and flee to a different location. Some students say the study desks at the library encourage focus. I personally like sitting outside on a picnic table. Coffee shops are also a good alternative. Read the blog about best study locations for ideas on what location might be best for you.

Mute your phone

This is probably the best advice I can give anyone, even though I know I might have just lost a few fan points with this idea. But let’s be honest with ourselves with how distracting our phones can be, especially when you need to get a project done. Either put your phone on mute, or if you have no self-control, take the battery out and give it to a friend! (One of my peers actually does this, and it works for him.) If you are in denial of how distracting your phone is, download the app BreakFree, which tracks how much, how often, and how you use your cell phone. At the end of the day, when you see four hours of Facebook browsing, you can think about how much farther along you could have been on your project.

Whether it be cramming for an exam or trying to come up with a creative way to begin you presentation, you have to focus to get through the project. Sometimes, it’s just too hard to focus. Whatever the cause, there are helpful ways to overcome this barrier and get on the right track. When you find yourself unfocused or frantic to get a task done, I encourage you to try some of these suggestions to help.

Have you ever been stuck on a project, and was able to successfully get right back on track without too much time wasted? Comment below to share your tips and tricks with the Pearson Students community.

Jessica is a junior at Missouri State University majoring in Marketing with a minor in International Management. She will be graduating with her bachelor’s degree in December 2016, and is accepted to an accelerated Masters of Business Administration program to complete her MBA the following year. Jessica is member of Beta Gamma Sigma International Business Honor Society,  Ad Club, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Fraternity.


  1. Victoria Bankowski 2 years ago

    I think its a little to earily for me. I will need to come back like i have ocer the year and challenge mtself to come up with a creative thought.

  2. Jennifer Brown 2 years ago

    I think these are some great ideas. It’s interesting that you are mentioning things outside of the normal realm of studying places. I am sure people who use these methods see a difference in their performance.

  3. Katie 2 years ago

    Great tips! Personally, I find going outside really helpful when I’ve got writer’s block or I’m stuck on an essay thesis.

  4. Josh Rone 2 years ago

    Wow Jessica! Great article! You are so well spoken, and had awesome advice in this!

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