We all know the scenario: it’s hot, the lecturer is droning away, you were out late last night and all you want to do is close your eyes and go to sleep. What if you miss some crucial piece of information though? Making the most of a lecture is a matter of staying focussed. Here’s how to do that:

Keep your eyes focussed

When your eyes are focussed on something (anything!), your brain stays focussed. Put a bright sticker or picture you love on your notebook, whether that’s the paper or electronic kind, so you can focus on that when you feel yourself zoning out.

Disconnect

If you’re taking notes on a laptop, make sure that everything, apart from the document you’re working with, is closed and you’re disconnected from the wireless network. Put your phone out of sight too. It’s just too tempting to have a quick look at your mail or Facebook page, and once you go down that rabbit hole, it’s difficult to pull yourself back.

Take notes

Figure out whether you take better notes in bullet point or mind map format, and use that as your foundation of note taking. Wherever you can, connect the pieces of information to what you’ve already learned. This keeps things interesting, helps you stay engaged and improves your retention of the information. Coloured pens and highlighters really help here too.

Sit in the front row

This may seem a bit intimidating, but it works. You won’t be distracted by anyone else in front of you, and you’re far less likely to engage in distractions yourself when you’re right under the eye of the lecturer. It also makes you look keen and eager to learn, which always creates a good impression.

Prepare and participate

Before the lecture starts, spend a few minutes going over your notes from the last lecture. This helps you to bridge into lecture mode from whatever else you were doing, and also gets your mind thinking about the subject matter. In the lecture, ask relevant questions to clarify complex subjects, for yourself and others who may be nervous to speak up.

Finally, it goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway: if you’re tired, hungry, thirsty or generally uncomfortable, your focus is going to be patchy. Aim to get enough sleep, eat and drink well, dress appropriately, etc, and you’re far more likely to maximise your lecture time. Go on now, focus!

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