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How I’ve mastered focus as an online student

July 17, 2019 · 3 min read · By Ashley Wineland

Ashley Wineland dishes on her tips to develop focus for schoolwork and life. Her three tips can be applied to earning your degree and accomplishing your personal goals.


The art of concentration is a refined skill one must learn, especially in this day and age where we are bombarded with so many stimuli and distractions! Even sitting here now, writing this article, I feel the temptation to go put on music or check my phone or pursue any of the other million ideas in my head. So, how does one tune all that out and focus on the task at hand? Every person will have their own unique combination of methods, but today I offer you a few of my personal tips to try the next time you need to sit down and get to work.


Make your own deadlines

I love to use this technique when I know that I’m feeling particularly unmotivated and really should get an assignment done before the due date. When establishing your own deadline, I find it helps to schedule things for the following days after your deadline. That way, you cannot fall into the trap of pushing it off. Having other priorities or things you want to do scheduled after a personal deadline allows your brain to have that pressure to concentrate on the task at hand. It knows subconsciously that if the work isn’t done now, it won’t be done on time. And if what you have scheduled is something that you are excited about, the brain will also be more responsive to getting work done because it knows it’ll get rewarded with a nice hit of dopamine or serotonin once the job is completed.


Break it down

Moving forward from the last point, breaking down your work into chunks can help you keep your focus and allow you to have longer, more productive working periods. Brain fog is real, and one of the best ways to combat it is to make sure you are giving yourself the time to let your brain stop working in overdrive.

I personally prefer to work in 40-45 minute blocks and give myself 20-25 minutes of break time in between. Working by the hour in this way allows me to dedicate a solid period of time to do nothing but work, and I’ll then have enough time during my break to get food or a drink, use the restroom, use social media, etc. The key to making this work is being strict with yourself!


Create the right environment

Now, this isn’t always the easiest to do- you may be traveling, have kids, be somewhere really loud, etc. With that said, knowing your best working environment will aid you greatly in helping you focus. For example, I prefer to work in quiet and be somewhere cozy. Traveling a lot with my job and living on a tour bus with up to six people at a time, this isn’t always achievable. So, I make do with what I have: I use noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to help drown out the noise, I have a blanket on me at all times when I’m working, and I try to find my own little space where there is minimal interaction with people. It’s going to take time, but finding the most minimal things you can do anywhere to help you create your best workspace is going to aid the effort in your goal to concentrate on your work. Find your must-haves and get creative with how you bring them with you at all times.

The ability to focus is a skill, one that must be conditioned and trained like an athlete in order to achieve one's full potential. We all have our own preferences and necessities in order to succeed. So find yours, set up that training program for your brain, and get working!

We're so excited to share Ashley’s story! Ashley is a part of our #LearnASULive team, an ASU Online brand ambassador program highlighting students who are earning their degrees while living their lives to the fullest. If you enjoyed this, be sure to check back for new articles from Ashley so that you can follow along with her journey. To check out all her posts to date, visit Ashley’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Website.

Want to hear from our other ambassadors, too? Use the #LearnASULive hashtag across your favorite social channels to browse through them!

Ashley Wineland wearing a brimmed hat in a farm field.


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