It happens every day. There’s the ever-piling list of things to do.
You can continue to sleep in, but it won’t disappear. And while we know you don’t want to hear it, every decision you’re making now impacts your future. Better grades mean more opportunities after high school.
We know completing homework can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a few easy changes you can implement now to start seeing improvements today.
Tips to Focus on Homework
Tip 1: Exercise First
Studies show that cardio-based exercises boost your memory and thinking skills. Cardio based means doing something that accelerates your heart rate. This can include jogging, riding a bike, playing a sport or anything you like to do that’s fast-paced.
If you exercise right before starting schoolwork, it will get your blood flowing. This will help your brain become more active and ready to focus on homework.
Tip 2: Set a Routine
With the benefit of flexibility in online schooling comes the need for discipline. As Primavera Online High School Assistant Principal Donald Mitchell said:
“To be successful in your courses…create a daily schedule for yourself. Remember, you are required to spend at least three hours on each course that you are assigned on a daily basis.”
In other words, it can be easy to fall behind. But it’s also easy to stay on track if you stick to a schedule.
How to Make a Schedule:
- Get a planner, or use a free online application.
A planner is still the best way to stay organized.
- Think about your week; include every plan.
Write everything you want and need to do that week. Do you want to fit in some time to skateboard? Great! Schedule it in. Just remember: Try to be active right before starting coursework!
- Be realistic:
“If you are a night person, then be a night person,” said Russell. “If you know you only like to work online for 30 minutes at a time, then plan breaks between your 30 minutes.”
- Stick to your schedule.
Things happen, and you might have to adjust your schedule. But stick to it, even when it’s time to do something you’re not looking forward to. If you decided to start that project Tuesday right after school, that’s when you need to do it.
- Keep writing out your weekly schedule
It takes work and a lot of upkeep, but stay motivated. Don’t fall behind on that planner.
When planning, try to do schoolwork about the same time every day, in a familiar location. It will do wonders for your brain! It won’t take long before your brain automatically recognizes that it’s homework time. Then you won’t have to take as long to get started.
Tip 3: Be Prepared
If you have to stop what you’re doing to go grab a snack or a notebook, you’re going to get distracted.
“Have all the materials you need to work ready to go before you start each day,” said Primavera Online High School Executive Director of Academics Sarah Gamble. “Keep a list of your teacher’s and guidance counselor’s phone numbers, note taking materials, your daily schedule, a glass of water and you are ready to go. This will keep you from getting distracted when you have to leave your work to go find something.”
Tip 4: Establish a WorkSpace
We’re not saying you have to go to the store right now and drop hundreds on a desk, chair and supplies. Your workspace doesn’t have to be traditional. But it does need to be a set place in order to better focus on homework.
Maybe that place is an office in your home. Or perhaps you have a fuzzy bean bag in your room that you love. Whatever you choose, make it a habit, and make sure you’re comfortable to work. After all, that bean bag might be comfy to relax in, but might not be best once you have a laptop and notebook to juggle.
“Make sure your chair is comfy, your computer screen is at eye level and your favorite items are next to your computer,” said high school math instructor Lauree Russell. This can be items like photos, music, lotion, candles or a favorite soda.”
Online instructor Amber Day also suggests that you separate your workspace from your sleep space.
“If you do homework in your bed where you sleep, it’s likely going to make you want to take a nap rather than do math homework,” said Day. “Go somewhere you know you won’t get distracted (or leave) until you finish homework. Make that your routine and doing homework there will become as natural as taking a nap in your bed is.”
Tip 5: Remove All Distractions
A distraction is anything that deters you from working on courses. This can range from music to your loud little brother.
Let’s take a moment to talk about those smartphones. They’re more detrimental to your homework than you might think.
A study showed that having your phone on silent isn’t enough. Small disturbances like a screen notification could increase errors in your work. It also could prolong the time it takes to complete assignments. Here’s why:
As a researcher from the study stated, “Although these notifications are generally short in duration, they can prompt… mind-wandering, which has been shown to damage task performance” (PsychCentral).
Even just being aware of a missed call, an unread text or another notification causes your brain to lose focus on homework. It knows there is something else to do, and it diverts your attention.
We recommend setting all smart devices (phone, tablet, etc) in another room. If you are able to forget about it, you will likely finish your homework quicker and make fewer mistakes.
“Turn off your phone, video games, and yes, even your annoying little brother,” said Russell. “You might need to consider moving your laptop in a private space or a closet if necessary (smile).”
It’s also best to ask your friends and family not to disturb you during homework.
“Talk to your friends and family about how they can support you,” said high school science instructor Brie Benjamin-Baker. “If you work on schoolwork from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. each day, tell your friends not to text or call during this time.”
Tip 6: Take Notes
Studies show that physically writing on a notebook improves your memory. So if you want to do better on homework and exams, try writing down notes.
“Although we use computers for everything, you are more apt to remember something if you write it down,” said Gamble. “Write words, draw pictures, use color! Anything you do that will allow you to touch what you are learning will help!”
Tip 7: Take Breaks
The beauty of online school is that you can take breaks whenever you need. Do you have a hard time staying focused for long periods of time? Then break it up. Try studying for 30 minutes at a time. Remove all distractions and set a timer.
Once the 30 minutes is up, take a 15-minute break, but do something active! Get up and move around, go for a run. Do something other than sitting.
After 15 minutes, you can return ready to focus on homework. See if you can increase to 45 minutes before taking your next 15-minute break.
Tips to Stop Procrastinating
So, now you know what to do in order to clear your mind and stay focused on your homework. But actually starting is the hardest part, right? If you’re needing motivation, try these tips.
Tip 1: Create Rewards to Stay Motivated
If you know you have six assignments to complete in a day, then set aside a small reward for each.
“Know your weaknesses and turn them into rewards,” said Benjamin-Baker. “If you like to surf YouTube videos or SnapChat with friends, then reward yourself with these activities AFTER you complete your schoolwork, but not until then.”
Tip 2: When you get bored, get up and move
As Russell said:
“Take a short break and turn on your favorite YouTube music video and have a dance fest. Getting your blood circulating will help your brain and spirit. Nothin’ like rockin’ out to your fave music!
Now this is the way to do homework, right??!!!”
By breaking up coursework with small, fun tasks, your brain will have more positive associations. This might help you dread starting less.
Tip 3: Reach out to your guidance counselor
Your guidance counselor’s job is to help you with your academic struggles. If you are having trouble starting coursework, reach out to your counselor for help. They are state-certified and dedicated to you.
Coursework is never easy, we know. But by following the tips above, it can become less stressful, and you will be able to stay more focused.
We’ll leave you with one last quote:
“I am here to tell you that you have the power to be as successful as you want to be. Never let others dictate who you are destined to become!” – Assistant Principal Donald Mitchell