How to Stay Focused

You are here

Focusing on a task can be challenging especially if the environment is distracting or we are not excited about the task at hand. There are many strategies for helping yourself to get and stay focused.


  • Your environment can play a huge role in your ability to focus. Ask yourself what type of environment allows you to accomplish what you set out to do. Here are some things to consider:

    • Noise level (ambient noise like a coffee shop or quiet like a library)

    • Visual clutter (can you work in a messy space or do you prefer a clean and organized workspace)

    • Light (do you prefer bright, well-lit spaces or minimal lighting)

    • People (do you focus better with other people around you or by yourself)

  • Now that you have identified your preferred work environment, determine where the best places for you to work on campus. Schedule time in those locations to complete your assignments. 

How You Feel

  • Taking care of yourself mentally and physically can be helpful in preparing yourself to do focused work especially in areas such as sleeping, eating well, exercising, and drinking enough water.

  • It is natural for your brain to think about other tasks, events, and questions when working on something else. Create a “parking lot list” to write down ideas that you want to come back to later. Having this list will allow you to acknowledge the thought, get it out of your head and onto paper to revisit at a different time, and allow you to continue working on your task.

Measure Your Results

  • When trying to get yourself to focus, it is important to determine what it is that will be accomplished during that time. Every time you finish a task, you can cross it off the list to reflect the progress you have made.


  • We encourage you to spend time thinking about what you find distracting and ways to eliminate the distractions. For example, if you are often distracted by notifications on your phone, turn your notifications off for a window or time and schedule a specific time where you can check your messages. If people (even well-meaning friends) are a distraction, find a quiet place to complete your task and let them know when you will next be available.

  • Try preparing for your focused work time in advance. If you know that you will be working in your room, spend a few minutes tidying up your clutter so it is not distracting. Or if you are spending many hours outside of your home, be sure to grab a water bottle and some snacks so you are well nourished.

  • The Pomodoro method suggests users set a 25 minute timer for focused work and then take a 3-5 minute break. Repeat this process four times then take a longer 15-30 minute break. Be mindful of what you do during the break so you do not get distracted for a longer period of time than intended.

  • You can also use website blockers on your internet browser or your phone to encourage more focused use of time.