It’s early in the morning, 8am to be exact, and I’m half asleep as I drive down the highway in heavy traffic to get to my early morning class, then off to work. This isn’t a fun, exciting subject to keep my half-awake-self engaged however, this is the driest and most mind-numbing class I have ever taken; this is accounting. No offense to those happy number-crunchers who love what they do, but personally corporate cash flow statements and I have never been the best of friends, especially with a no-nonsense PHD student at the helm of our class who can’t understand why this mandatory prerequisite isn’t everyone’s future dream career. Our professor cracks the whip and puts the fear of losing points into us for every minute we walk in late to class, so we all get there early and drag ourselves through the classroom door by 7:30 am. By the way, the student coffee bar downstairs does not open until 9:00am. It’s hard times for first world accounting students and if there is such a thing as under- zealous, at 7:30 am on a cold dark morning, we are it.
Many of us have been up all night studying for three other exams we have in the same week for other classes. I myself on this chilly November morning have gotten only 2 hours of sleep. So how do we stay focused? I admit, it’s really difficult. Sometimes my mind falls asleep while I sit there with my eyes open, and I realize I’ve been day-dreaming when the professor asks me a question and it jolts my consciousness back into the room. I scramble for the answer, somehow to my astonishment managing to correctly recall the question and answer…this time. Phew!
This isn’t the best habit to cultivate however, especially when it comes to being engaged in class, learning, and taking early morning tests. Focus is a big issue for the burnt-out, overworked and extremely tired among us. I have early classes like this accounting class, as well as a 3 hour business law class from 7pm-10pm at night. All this after a long day at work. Late night math exams, and homework and studying around a full time work schedule has indeed impacted my brains ability to complete basic tasks. After 2 hours of calculus homework, you should see me trying to start the washing machine or simply tie my shoes! (It doesn’t go so well). It’s such a struggle that it has led me to research some useful tips for finding focus. Here is what I found:
Sleep is key. The well-rested mind is the only mind that can achieve focus. Period. This seems to be the basis of my problems – I don’t get enough sleep, and when I think I’ve gotten quantity, I haven’t gotten quality. My cat pounces on the bed and wants to cuddle at night. Cute, but it wakes me up. I go to bed early but my significant other stays up and comes to bed later, waking me up again. Some of you have kids that wake you up, or insomnia from an overloaded mind or too much smart phone usage. Those are all things that can affect your focus and it’s important to take measures to alter your sleep environment for good rest. Leave your phone on do not disturb at night, and establish non-negotiable rules for bed times.
Snacks! Complex carbs to be exact. Here is where I shine, I loooooove me some carbs. I have an A+ in carb-eating 101. If I could just have a piece of French baguette for dinner, I seriously would eat just that. When I read that the brain burns this for fast energy, I was pretty happy with my pre-quiz snack choices. Probably not the best diet advice to follow, so you will want to include meat and veggies into your routine for something more “well-rounded”. I have friends on diets who simply don’t eat enough, and they wonder why they feel awful and can’t retain anything from lectures. A carrot stick as your only meal for an entire day just isn’t good enough, getting into a size zero isn’t worth failing a class for. If you don’t want to eat bread, then meat, fruit and vegetables are all great sources for carbohydrates. Since that’s what the brain eats up for energy and focus, it’s one of the top things to consider in this list.
Water, Water, Water. It’s all about hydration baby! I don’t drink enough and I know it. I drink soda, and coffee, but not enough plain H2O. It’s something I’m working on. I came to realize that it was a huge factor in my ability to focus. The more water you drink, the better your mind works. Go figure!
So there are the best pieces of advice I’ve found, and you bet I’m going to start heeding this advice for those early morning classes, or heck, just starting the laundry after a study session on a Sunday! Who would have thought that just taking better care of yourself helps your brain to function better too. It’s so simple, yet it’s so hard for many of us to do. I hope some of you can find this useful while studying for various certifications while you’re also juggling life, kids, work tasks, etc. So eat, drink, sleep and get focused!