University Guest Post: Staying Focused in Lectures

I do confess to having a mind that likes to go on a bit of a wander, so for me staying focused in lectures can be really difficult. Add in unlimited university wifi, Bloglovin, Pinterest and Twitter – and some lecturers have little to no hope in keeping me engaged. When Jennifer (who write one of my favourite blogs, Ginevrella) offered her guest post on Staying Focused in Lectures I knew I had to share – and with my first day of lectures in nearly 18 months today I’m hoping to pick up some tips!

 photo Staying focused in lectures title picture_zps38kg45wa.jpgAhh, lectures. Having made it through four years of university, I’ve sat through my fair share of lectures (granted, clinical years of med school do have significantly fewer lectures than pre-clinical). And sitting in a warm, windowless room with two hundred and fifty other people while someone stands at the front talking at you is not exactly the most exhilarating of learning experiences.

But, it’s kind of what you pay for. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not snooze my way through £9,000 of lectures. (Admittedly I’m one of those museum relic students who actually still only pay just over £3,000 a year. We do still exist, just about). Or even if you do kind of fancy treating lectures as one big, daytime sleepover, it doesn’t generally do much for your exam results…

So having sat through literally hundreds of lectures, I thought I’d share a few pointers on how to at least remain conscious in lectures… and maybe even to make them worth getting out of bed for.
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Take Notes

Lectures can be very passive, and this is one of the reasons I sometimes find myself zoning out a bit. I notice that I concentrate far better if I’m writing down the key points delivered by the lecturer. I like to annotate our handouts with things to help me understand the slides and concepts, other people like to write straight into a notebook, iPad or create flashcards as they go.
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Stay Hydrated

Taking a bottle of water into lectures seems to help (especially if you drink it). Sipping on water or juice makes me feel like I’m ‘doing something’ so I don’t get quite so bored, and there’s probably something scientific about water and concentration too.

Take Advantages of Breaks

If you’re lucky enough to have entire days of lectures, you’d better hope that they’ve scheduled in a bit of break time too! It can be tempting to spend the breaks remaining in your seat, but it’s far better to move about, get some fresh air if you can, and refill your water bottle. During an intense block of lectures at the start of last year, we made a habit of going to a local coffee shop for a pick-me-up in the middle of the morning – a little treat to keep us going!
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Put your Phone Away

During first year, my phone didn’t connect to the internet properly anyway, and most of my uni friends were sat in the same room as me, so it was never a huge distraction. But since getting a smart phone, it’s been very tempting to spend entire lectures scrolling through Twitter or Instagram, or texting friends now that our year is split into four. Nowadays I try to leave my phone out of sight for at least most of a day’s lectures (nobody’s perfect, ok?).

Position Yourself Wisely

I’m not suggesting sitting middle of the front row necessarily, but somewhere in the middle usually works well for me. Sitting in the back corner just feels like an invitation to daydream, while sitting right at the front makes me feel pressurised to be focusing intensely. Also any lecture theatre I’ve ever sat in seems to have about three climates of its own – it’s usually tropical somewhere near the top.

 photo lecture notes 2_zpsloo6ccjh.jpgSo there you go, my top tips for maintaining concentrating through lectures. I’m now rather conscious of the fact that I’ve made my lectures sound like they’re all mind-numbingly dull, but I’d like to point out that this isn’t actually the case! I love my course and the things we learn are fascinating – it’s just that by the fourth hour straight of lectures, even those with the best of intentions start to drift off… Hopefully with a few of these tips you can make the most out of your lecture time!

What are your top tips for staying focused?