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6 best ways to stay focused

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Ok, so last week I  posted about the importance of having a life in nursing school. I still believe this is true, BUT sometimes, life gets crazy. Crazy good and crazy not-so-good, life goes there.

This weekend – I got some crazy GOOD coming my way – I got engaged! My fiancé and I are super excited, but getting back to class on Monday was a majorly grounding – BACK TO EARTH ANI! – type of moment.

Thinking through everything from this weekend, and looking at how much work was ahead of me (midterms next week!) made me realize that I needed to take my own advice and learn to balance the good stuff (life!) with nursing school. So here are some of the best ways that I’ve found to stay motivated and get to work.

  1. Make a list – plan out your day piece by piece. Think about what it is you have to get done today. Being able to write it down somewhere and cross things off makes you visually see your progress.  This only works if you’re realistic. If you have to read three 100-page chapters, you don’t have to expect yourself to get through one in a day. Write down that you’re going to get through pages 1-50 (or a reasonable goal for you). Base it off what you know you can handle, and what you know you can get done, because getting it done means checking it off the list, and I love checking things off my list.
  2. Get in “the zone” – whatever or wherever your zone is – go there. It’s that place you know that you work best. I have a desk for all my studying, but 9 times out of 10, I am in the dining room getting work done. It might be a coffee shop, or a library.  Pay attention to where your mind feels most comfortable.
  3. Turn off your computer! I know it’s not easy, but the computer is a huge distraction. If you’ve got to type up your notes, turn of your wireless connection. The more access you have to the outside world, the less studying you’re going to get done. This goes for when you’re in class too… you’re more likely to “look something up” online during lecture when you’re “typing notes”. Yes, this means get off Facebook – no Farmville, no Bejeweled.  Just turn off the connection to help you tune in.
  4. Knowing when it’s break time – When you’re reading the same sentence over and over again, each time saying, “Wait, what? I don’t get it!,” or when you’re looking up from your book every paragraph and contemplating your desk lamp, or deciding that it’s time to rearrange your desk, it’s time for a break! No need to get up and run a marathon, but walk around, straighten things up, get a snack. Give yourself 10 minutes to relax and gather your thoughts before sitting back down again, and that sentence will make a LOT more sense.
  5. Talk to your friends – no, I don’t mean call them up for a chat, but get together for a study sesh. Split up study guide or lecture material from class, read and take notes, and then come to a group session and go over it all together. Review info you looked up and teach that bit to the group, and have them do the same for the sections they covered (this should be done after you’ve all read the material over at least once!). Hearing someone talk about the things you didn’t quite understand, and explaining the concepts you’ve figured out will help reinforce what you’ve read and help you process it a different way, bringing you one step closer to learning instead of cramming.
  6. Keep at it. Ok, so what does that mean? Well, it’s not always easy to stay motivated, so on those days when I am struggling to stay focused, it helps me to step back and think about where this is going to get me in the long run. Picture yourself as that nurse you want to be, and remind yourself of why you’re doing this. Find what it is that keeps you motivated. Remember those patients who’s life you helped change, about all those nurses you’ve met in your experience that you want to be like once you start working. Remember that they went through this too! Maybe I’m a little sentimental, but when I’m studying for a class that I’m just not really into, I remind myself that we’re all going through it together, and that if all the nurses before us have survived somehow, then we can too!

Staying focused is definitely a big challenge in nursing school, and a major component in keeping the life-nursing school scale from tipping to far to the side. These are a few of the ways that have helped me out.  Nursing students – got any more tips to share?

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Ani Burr, RN

I'm a brand new, full-fledged, fresh-out-of-school RN! And better yet, I landed the job of my dreams working with children. I love what I do, and while everyday on the job is a new (and sometimes scary) experience, I'm taking it all in - absorbing everything I can about this amazing profession we all fell in love with.
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8 Responses to 6 best ways to stay focused

  1. Halie

    Congrats on getting engaged Ani!

  2. Miriam Bookey

    Whoo hoo!

  3. Paris Lia Fan

    Congratulations, Ani! Wonderful news!!!

  4. Ani Burr Scrubs Blogger

    Thanks girls! :)

  5. Sondra

    Love the article…. you touched on some really great advice. That reminds me, time to get back to the books. Again, congrats! You two make the perfect couple!!! =)

  6. anastasia

    thanks for this. i’m trying to study for boards and i’m just so distracted sometimes it makes me wanna scream. feels like i’ll never get there. but this does put it into perspective ..thanks!

  7. Dawn

    First off congratulations!
    Secondly thanks for the tips! I especially like the one about splitting up a chunk and teaching it to each other!

  8. Tieneasha

    Thanks Ani, I am starting my first semester of nursing school this upcoming fall and I am very excited yet terrified. I am more so nervous about what to expect because I don’t really know. These were some excellent pointers and moving forward I feel a little more confident.