If you want to be concentrated and productive in your lectures from now on, a few simple changes to your way of working will suffice.
Stick to these seven points:
Step 1: Prepare Your Lecture!
For your productivity in the lecture, a short, concise preparation is worth its weight in gold. If you walk into the classroom without a clue and just let everything come your way, you’ll quickly lose the thread and never stay focused for the entire period of time. Therefore, prepare each of your university events – like this:
- Download or print out the lecture notes or slides! (Effort: 2 minutes)
- Skim the contents of your upcoming lecture and get a thematic overview! (Effort: 3 minutes)
- Make your first notes and briefly summarize the main ideas! (Effort: 5 minutes)
- Read the appropriate chapter from the accompanying textbook! (Effort: 10-15 minutes)
- Formulate questions that arose after your first review or discussion of the topic! (Effort: 5 minutes)
With this short preparation, you will get in the right mood for your upcoming lecture. Because you already have a solid basic knowledge, it will be much easier for you to follow your lecturer and understand the content.
Step 2: Set Goals for the Lecture!
Many students see their lectures as a nice pastime and give them a non-binding status accordingly. They do not pursue any goals with their visit to the lecture hall and thus waste 100 percent of their time. Do it better and define clear goals for your next lecture. The following questions will help you:
- What do I want to achieve with the lecture?
- Why am I investing my time?
- Where do I stand before the lecture and where do I stand afterward?
- What content-related questions do I want to clarify?
Try to define the main goal for each of your lectures, which you definitely want to achieve. This way you stay focused and create your own landmark to work towards.
Step 3: Name Your Enemies!
Your concentration in the lecture depends not only on what you are doing – but also on what you are NOT doing. In other words, while you’re sitting in the classroom, you’re constantly exposed to distractions and distractions that want to get your attention. And you have to avoid these “enemies”. It is therefore worth clearly naming your potentially biggest distractions in advance and collecting them on a not-to-do list. For example, this could look like this:
- Don’t talk to the person sitting next to you!
- Don’t play with your cell phone!
- Don’t surf the internet!
- Don’t read off-topic books!
- No sleep!
Fighting old, unproductive habits will become easier with this list. Your not-to-do list raises your awareness of distractions and helps you stay alert.
Step 4: Eat and Drink Beforehand!
Even if it doesn’t always feel like it: Your lecture is exhausting. And if you face this challenge without the necessary physical support, you will find it very difficult to stay focused and receptive. Your body will only function optimally over a long period of time and deliver a consistently good performance if you provide it with the necessary input. That means concretely:
- Drink enough water!
- Eat something light and healthy!
- Avoid excessive sugar!
- Pay attention to a balanced diet!
Although these basic rules have long been clear, they are neglected by almost all students. But without the right fuel, you can wait a long time for your lecture to be productive and stay engaged to the end. You trip yourself up, so to speak, and inhibit your metabolism – and thus make your brain’s work more difficult.
Step 5: Get your Fellow Students on Board!
If you find it difficult to get through your lecture all by yourself, you should rely on teamwork and involve your fellow students. Make a pact with your friends and develop a common strategy on how to get the most out of your lectures. A few ideas:
- Designate a “supervisor” for each lecture to keep group members under control and keep you focused!
- Distribute fixed tasks that each individual has to fulfill in relation to the lecture for the group!
- Agree that you will not talk to each other during the lecture!
- Introduce a catalog of penalties in the event that one of you does not stick to the common not-to-do list!
If you coordinate with your fellow students and approach the lecture together, you will find it much easier to use this time efficiently. The positive peer pressure will strengthen each individual and ensure significantly better results.
Step 6: Think Along!
As soon as you switch to autopilot in your lecture and just let yourself be sprinkled, you’ve already lost. Your brain then automatically switches to energy-saving mode – a mental comeback is then almost impossible. Therefore, try to keep your gray cells busy and think along with you during the lecture. How to do it:
- Try to understand the content!
- Think about application examples for the presented material!
- Find matches for your preparation (Step 1)!
- Think of questions to ask after the lecture!
- Look for connections to other topics or lectures you already know!
- Think about how the current topics could be queried in a possible exam!
If you deal with the content of the lecture and think along with it, you will achieve the greatest possible learning effect of your lecture. However, be careful not to digress too far and bring your thoughts into a structured form. So note the next step:
Step 7: Write Along!
The biggest lie a student tells himself in class is, “I don’t need to write that down—I can remember it.” days again. Therefore, get in the habit of writing down during the lecture – not only the explanations of the lecturer but also your own conclusions. At the same time, this increases the output of the lecture and ensures that you remain focused on the matter at hand. Therefore:
- Write comments in the lecture script!
- Underline important passages or key passages!
- Collect important definitions or keywords!
- Prepare a mind map for the lecture!
- Draw diagrams or sketches!
The more you take notes during your lecture, the better. The only exception: Your notes ensure that you fall behind and can no longer follow the actual lecture. In this case: Take a step back and limit yourself to essential notes. Yes, this isn’t the case as it is with the assignments where you can turn to a professional and say “write my paper.” Here, you’ll have to do the writing on your own.
With this 7-point plan, you will be able to stay focused and motivated during the lecture – whether alone or in a team with your fellow students. If you need an extra shot of concentration for emergencies or particularly challenging lectures, I have five more suggestions for you. But be careful: these alternatives can hurt – but they work.