13 Ways People With Short Attention Spans Can Survive Finals

I know what it's like to have a short attention span. Trust me: this is coming from the person whose primary purpose for studying all summer for the ACT was so I only had to take it once. Did I want to avoid spending another $40? Sure, but the real bane of my existence was having to stretch my attention span from ten minutes to multiple hours.

I'm not even kidding when I tell you I got distracted by the ticking of a wall clock.

Normal "sit down and study tactics" don't always work for people like us, but that isn't an excuse not to study, or not to do well in a test. You've just got to work with your brain instead of against it!

1. Don't study for everything all at once.

Some (and by "some," I mean "very few") people can pull off studying for all of their finals in a day or two. However, those of us with short attention spans know that sitting down and cramming for eight hours and for multiple days just isn't going to work for our brains. But if you have so many classes to study for, what else is there to do?

2. Divide and conquer.

Instead, give yourself only about 30-45 minutes to focus all of your attention on one subject. Then, when those 30-45 minutes are up, you can move onto the next one! If you don't get through everything from the semester for that class; don't worry! That's the point. You can always come back to it in another session.

3. Avoid burnout; take breaks!

Unless you want to look like our good pal Lieutenant Dan here, beat the burnout and reward yourself with breaks between study sessions! Go for a refreshing walk, find a friend with a dog you can snuggle, eat some delicious snacks, or even take a quick nap. Sometimes, you might even need a break in the middle of a session, and that's okay! Don't get frustrated; go for a walk outside and let the winter air calm you down.

4. Clear off your studying area.

When you're trying to study with a short attention span, nothing is outside your limits of distraction. No, not even your Harry Potter mason jar that houses all your colored pens. (Not that I'd know or anything.) Clear everything off your desk, or find somewhere with a large, clear space like your dorm's commons, the library, or the student union to work.

5. Put. Your. Phone. Away.

Let your phone have a vacation, and put it on its charger for a couple hours. Better yet, give it to your friend (or an understanding roommate) to hide from you until you're done studying. The temptation to look at Facebook or Twitter for five minutes could easily turn into an hour (read: hours) when you could have been using that time to study for Calculus. Tsk, tsk.

6. Avoid distracting music.

"Distracting" means something different for everyone. Maybe a little bit of Kanye sets your soul aflame, or perhaps there's just something about Elton John that makes you break out your dancing shoes. Either way, save your fun music for a time when it won't impact your academic success!

7. But if you have to listen to some tunes...

Listen to something you can study to! There's no right genre for everyone; although classical music might work for some, it might be the dancing-trigger for others. I like to listen to German music when I'm studying, or even when I'm writing articles. It sounds similar enough to English, but because I can't understand the words, I don't get caught up in the lyrics! If that interests you, check out this song, or this one, to get you started.

8. Hack your brain by taking fun notes!

That's right: notes can be fun! One of my favorite ways is to make references to other classes, or to things that happened to me as a kid. For example, when I had a hard time remembering what "storming the Bastille" was, I compared it to "heads up, seven up." You know, because the French did what the French do during revolutions: put people's heads up on pikes. Also, seven people were in the prison: seven up. *insert dark laughter here* You can also draw meaningful doodles, make puns, add humorous commentary, make memes, or whatever else works for you!

9. Walk around while studying.

A recent study found that walking while studying actually improves memory! (That was the cue for all of my short-attention-span comrades to start cheering!) Although this tactic might be difficult if, say, you're trying to work out some complex physics problems, I find it very useful for studying vocabulary--especially in Spanish.

10. Use small rewards for motivation.

If you want something, work for it! Maybe you reward yourself with a little Hershey's kiss, or with a small nap, rescuing your phone from the prison you put it in, or with the next episode of "Orange Is The New Black." Just remember that rewards come after the work you've done for them, which brings me to my next point...


Unless you want to a) not finish studying, b) not study to the best of your ability, or c) emerge from your room completely confused when you realize finals already happened, DON'T. WATCH. NETFLIX. BEFORE. STUDYING. I'm currently addicted to "House," and so if I know that if I watched it before studying, it would be all too easy to watch the next one. Or finish the season. Or finish the whole series. Don't do that.

12. Reduce stress.

You can't study well if you're stressed out about tests, what you're eating for dinner, or whether or not your roommate is mad at you for eating the last Oreo. (Sorry, Maddie.) Clear your mind before you clear your desk through meditation, going on a walk (hopefully you're seeing a theme with that one), listening to some calming music, or calling your mom or best friend for advice!

13. Finally, get more (and better) sleep!

Don't lie to yourself: you can't survive of off coffee for your whole life. Even in college, it's recommended that we get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Trade your cups of coffee and late night studying for an earlier bedtime, and your body and test scores will thank you.

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