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Distractions come in a number of different flavors. When it comes to class time, doodling is one of the most common. It also happens to be the subject of this week’s question.

I can never take good notes in class. I try to focus but I always end up distracting myself with doodling or some other stupid thing. I just can’t focus through class.
-Tim

This inability to focus in class is usually a symptom of something that’s deadly when it comes to success in school. It’s typically a symptom of your brain actually working in the way it’s supposed to work. Not being able to focus through something you find particularly boring is what your brain is supposed to do. (It’s supposed to not get distracted by the boring background noises in order to focus on potential tigers in bushes.)

I’m saying this to try and emphasize a major point. Not being able to focus is not something you should feel bad about for any personal health reasons. It’s a good thing. The only reason you might want to feel bad about it is because you’re not maximizing your efficiency through class time. Don’t lose sight of the difference. The problem probably isn’t you. The problem is probably your class.

That being said, now that you know your class is all screwed up and boring to you, you can change your behavior to adapt to it. It may never be the most interesting thing in the world but you may be able to dig in and find details that you can find interesting. Finding those things can help you get distracted from class less often.

Notepad Brain

One of the most useful strategies I’ve found for increasing my focus on a class is to change my approach to taking the class. I often don’t take notes in class. I don’t hold onto anything. I just sit and watch the teacher. Then I focus on, instead of taking notes, what the teacher says and writes. I try to treat my brain as my notepad. I repeat things the teacher emphasizes in my head.

This is one of the most basic ways to push yourself into a better position for studying. When you’re not taking notes, you may feel a pressure that you have to remember what your teacher is teaching. That pressure can help you remember significantly more of what the teacher says. Since you don’t have a pen or paper to worry about, you’re also much less likely to get distracted.

One of the other major advantages of this strategy is that, assuming you’re watching and listening carefully, the teacher will notice how much you’re actually focusing on the class. This can help when it comes to the subjective grading situations.

Notes may help but they’re often overrated. For someone that loves to doodle, they can be such a miserable distraction that they’re not even close to worth the extra trouble.

If you have perfect focus in class then you don’t need notes. If you don’t have perfect focus in class then you won’t have good notes anyway.  It’s probably better to put your focus into some other area like learning memory tricks that can make perfect focus in class less valuable.

I should add one note though. Some studies have suggested some students play with their pencil and doodle to focus better on what their teacher is saying. People aren’t designed to sit motionless during class. These little movements can help focus particularly active students. That being said, if you say that it’s hurting your ability to focus then trust yourself and try stopping. You can always go back if you realize you’re wrong.

You can still study in less than 15 minutes a night while still scoring near the top of your class. This blog is all about teaching those strategies. Be sure to follow along, read the archives, and check out the ebooks in the sidebar.

Q/A – How To Stop Doodling And Start Working

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2 thoughts on “Q/A – How To Stop Doodling And Start Working

  • December 8, 2015 at 8:18 am
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    I know what Tim’s talking about from experience. I’ve always been borrowing notes from someone else, because I’m horrible at taking them. I always end up doodling, and even when I write down what the teacher’s saying, I have so horrible writing style when I have to hurry that the notes are not good at all.
    I remember hearing from people that they didn’t have to study for a test because they reminded a lot of information from the class. I was envious, because I could never do that! I think that they have trained their brains to act like a notepad. I never knew that it’s possible! Thanks to this post, I’ll try it too.

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