by Abby

What to Do When You Can’t Focus in a Lecture

It happens to everyone.

You’re sitting in a lecture and suddenly find yourself staring at the clock 100% zoned out from what your professor is saying. But what can you do to pay attention again when you feel like you can’t focus?


Stop watching the clock

Seriously. It’s tempting, I know, but watching the clock is going to be the least helpful thing you can do for yourself if you’re bored in a lecture. We both know it’s just going to make it feel like time is moving slower- that’s like the scientific law of watching clocks. If you can, find a spot in lecture where it’s more difficult to see the clock.


Focus on taking good notes for when you go back to review everything before the test.

If you know you’re going to be tested on what your professor is teaching, at least write down as much as you can so that future you isn’t doomed to fail the test. Try looking at the information being presented as a puzzle you have to organize, or try to write your notes in a different style of handwriting to spice them up.



This may sound counter intuitive, but sketching as you’re listening can actually be super helpful for your information retention. It can also improve your drawing skills, which is always a good bonus. In design lectures, we’re usually encouraged to sketch while the professor is speaking for exactly that reason! If your professor is presenting images, try sketching those. If it’s a history lecture of some kind, try drawing the event or the people being discussed.

I use a bullet journal for all of my classes so I can easily draw little diagrams or sketches with my notes.


When listening to a lecture, “Look for ways in, not ways out”

This was what one of my high school teachers told us when we were all getting fidgety in class, and it has stuck with me ever since. Remember that you’re taking this class for a reason- and maybe it’s not your most favorite subject in the world- but there’s still something that you can and will get out of it if you focus your energy on paying attention to the lecture instead of trying to find something else to focus on.

You never know when the information you’re being taught might become applicable in a future project, job interview, or even a date. Hey, you never know. So pay attention. 🙂

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