How to stay focused in online lectures in med school

How To Stay Focused In Online Lectures In Med School

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As students in med school, we usually have to study and listen to prolonged durations of online lectures, which we may find challenging. However, there are steps we can take so we can learn how to stay focused in online lectures — read on to find out more!

The brain is like a machine, which is prone to wearing out or losing out on focus. There are several factors that can affect this, especially from external sources, like information overload from the discussion, side effects if you rely on medication, or unavoidable distractions from your surroundings.

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How to stay focused in online lectures

Tip #1 Advanced Preparations

Just as we would run through lesson notes for memory retention, we can do the same for any future lectures. 

Have a quick read-through of the syllabus’ main points, and from there, create significant questions you can ask your professor about. This can help you maintain anticipation during the lesson and support the foundations of your learning as well. 

We can also utilize this as a similar repetitive review structure, wherein future discussion and focus are the focal points. This process can be integrated into chunking and mind mapping — focus and memory retention happens as the process goes by. 

There are different approaches that can be taken for any lecture, and the focus is the favorable result to keep in mind.

Tip #2 Create An Optimal Learning Environment

There are several opportunities for maintaining focus, and usually before attending online lectures, we can choose an organized and quiet learning environment for ourselves. This sets up a great initial advantage. 

We can opt to use headphones and adjust the volume to our preference. Additionally, if your professor provides recordings of discussions, you take your time using the ‘pause’ function to break down each video segment — allowing you to study at your own pace. 

Make sure to use physical or digital notes on your desktop application to set goals and record useful information. You can place the note beside or in front of the viewing screen to maximize efficiency. 

how to stay focused in online lectures - remove distractions

Tip #3 Remove Potential Distractions

Any possible sources of distraction that are within reach can prompt us to lose our focus during online lectures. 

You can do the following steps to prevent any risks:

  • Placing our phones away from our reach and perception
  • Locking social media applications on both phone and desktop applications
  • Hiding games or entertainment applications on the desktop
  • Using a website blocker application during research or online lecture

These notable habits can be practiced to prevent us from being preoccupied. We can begin to build habits to eliminate distractions. Aside from choosing a suitable environment and plugging in effective computer peripherals, we can also attempt these necessary steps. 

We can provide ourselves with many excuses, but we cannot make up for the wasted time spent. Learning to show up and being accountable can go a long way. 

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Tip #4 Set Realistic Goals

A general outline helps in retaining focus. The model can be attributed to the 5W1H model (Who, What, Where, When, Why, How), a method of inquiring about information. This process can be modified to create a well-structured, objective-oriented approach. 

Integrating this inquiry for an online lecture can be realistic and conventional, enabling you to retain focus throughout the discussion. 

An example can be the following: 

  1. What is the key concept? What structures are involved?
  2. Which system does it belong to? Which organs is it in link with?
  3. Where can it be located? 
  4. When does it get infected or work? 
  5. How can it work? 

You can modify the contents of the questions to the online syllabus and adopt a focused approach until all the questions have been answered. 

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Tip #5 Take Breaks

As important as it is to stay focused, we need to give ourselves a break as well. We can utilize the Pomodoro Technique to maximize our attention and time. It offers diversified study cycles ranging from 25-minute intervals and 5-minute breaks to an extended break after four cycles. 

There are Pomodoro applications on the internet that allows you to customize the timer to your setting and help you achieve the following:

  • Allow us to reevaluate our goals during the lecture
  • Create significant distinctions between the processed information
  • Give us time to refocus and ease on any body aches
  • Reduce our stress for the time being

Accumulated stress can divert our attention elsewhere during online discussions. We can identify the source during breaks and work on ways to eliminate it for the time being. 

Tip #6 Cycle Through Focus

Focus naturally fades out — to optimize our study schedules and attention in sync, we can devise a practice similar to the ultradian rhythm cycles

The cycle accounts for the alternating periods of activity and rests for sleeping. Similarly, during the day, the brain goes through the same Activity-Rest Cycle, lasting for around 90 minutes of activity and followed by 20 minutes of rest. 

Our focus is overcome by mental exhaustion when we forgo taking breaks. Otherwise, taking that 20-minute break can regularly set our minds to operate efficiently when we do so. 

To implement strategy, we have to make the necessary preparations to achieve a favorable outcome by adopting the method:

  • Determine our personal Activity-Rest Cycle – This process lets us know how we can utilize our ultradian rhythms. Set a timer for less than 90 minutes while listening to online lectures.
  • Identify the duration of focus – Record the personal duration of focus as you follow through the cycle and take a short period of rest afterward.
  • Increase the duration of the work cycle – Add five or 10 minutes of focus duration. 
  • Reach the general duration of activity – Repeat the process until you reach 90 minutes, and follow up with a 20-minute break. 

This process is similar to the Pomodoro Technique for keeping focus in an online lecture in med school. 

practice mindfulness

Tip #7 Practice Mindfulness

It allows us to be aware of what’s happening to our state of mind. Recognizing that our attention is shifting away will help keep our focus during an online lecture in med school.

The technique is not any different from meditation, but its purpose lies in observing thoughts in the mind. Simply being aware of our thoughts but not letting ourselves be completely absorbed into them

Consider taking the time to utilize this form of meditation during online lectures and notice the possible effects:

  1. Focus and learning concentration
  2. Improved attention and memory span
  3. Better psychological resilience
  4. Better sleep leads to a more significant consolidation of information while resting

While the goal is to notice our thoughts, learning to focus on the lesson material is the warranted result. Releasing wandering thoughts will help prevent deteriorating focus.

[Free Download] Want to have everything you need to be a top student on your medical journey? Get FREE access to our Med School Success Handbook to get 60+ tips including the best study, time management, mindset tips you need to be a top student. Download it here. 

Tip #8 Relate To Real-Life Experiences

The relevance of relating real-life situations to lecture content can be meaningful. Not only does it allow us to comprehend the concept in great detail easily, but it also aids us in listening to online lectures as well. 

There is practicality in correlating the perceived information to our experiences, and it also stimulates our interest in the course syllabus. Linking our experiences beforehand leads to listening in on the discussion furthermore. 

Another motivating mechanism can be the ‘reward system’. By requiring ourselves to keep the focus on the discussion for a certain amount of time, we can motivate ourselves by allowing some break or a desirable result. 

Motivation can be an effective process in retaining focus on a task like learning. Our reasons for attending medical school can drive us to focus on online discussions. 

fix your posture

Tip #9 Fix Your Posture

Screen fatigue can occur when sitting at a bad distance from the screen — leading to the absence of focus. This can be incurred by having a bad sitting posture and desk placement. 

  • Place your chair in a favorable position supporting your back. Make sure your feet are well-placed. 
  • Ensure your desk is at the right height. This affects your viewing, arm length, and distance from the screen. 
  • Relax during the online lecture and take necessary breaks whenever you can. 

Tip #10 Train Your Focus

Consistency plays a critical role in focus. By keeping it as a matter of habit, we can use our compounded experiences and habits to establish focus in an online lecture. 

Our focus can be trained and improved in a variety of ways. Conditioning ourselves to focus on other focus-intensive tasks can translate to better results in listening. 

sleepy man

Tip #11 Check If You Are Hungry/Sleepy

Fogging out? It may be attributed to a lack of food consumption and nutrition, which ultimately affects our ability to focus. The lack of energy in the body is signified by the brain’s hunger hormone, ghrelin, causing us to think thoughts of food and palate. 

The lack of focus can also be attributed to the lack of sleep. It is an essential function that improves the body’s mental capacities, and this is why the lack of sleep impairs the brain’s thought processes, memory, and learning. 

  • The inability to focus disables the brain’s capacity for consolidating and picking up information. 
  • Caffeine and exposure to late-night screen light stimulate your brain far from being sleepy. 
  • You can opt for a night routine (e.g., winding down, keeping the room dark and quiet) to ensure sleep. 

Likewise, if you’re running low on either of these two needs, you can take some time to replenish to help improve your focus during online discussions. Keep snacks or pillows nearby!

DISCLAIMER: Fogging out on focus can be managed — however, if it happens way too often, this may indicate symptoms of an unknown condition. Consider contacting a professional to help you find treatments that can solve the problem. 

healthy lifestyle

Tip #12 Have A Healthy Lifestyle

Having an active and holistic way of life provides many benefits in several aspects. This includes our mind’s ability to maintain focus and our brain’s mental capacities to process information faster. 

A physically-active lifestyle can also achieve new brain connections and decreased release of stress hormones in the brain. Exercise directly influences our cognitive aspects — protecting us from aging and spectrums of neurodegenerative diseases. 

  • Seven to eight hours of sleep 
  • 30 to 90 minutes of aerobic exercise
  • Changing our diet to healthy meals
  • Adopting positive outlooks and mindset

These healthier options can help us achieve quality-of-life benefits and consequently boost our focus and productivity. By adding these changes into our daily routine, we can have long attention spans in online lectures.

[Free Download] Want to have everything you need to be a top student on your medical journey? Get FREE access to our Med School Success Handbook to get 60+ tips including the best study, time management, mindset tips you need to be a top student. Download it here. 

In general, our focus naturally wanes out as time passes by. We may find it challenging to stay focused in online lectures, but we can make efforts to maintain our focus. 

Here is the list of ways we can maintain our focus:

  • Advanced Preparations 
  • Create An Optimal Learning Environment
  • Remove Potential Distractions
  • Set Realistic Goals
  • Take Breaks
  • Cycle Through Focus
  • Practice Mindfulness
  • Relate To Real-Life Experiences
  • Fix Your Posture
  • Train Your Focus
  • Check if You Are Hungry/Sleepy
  • Healthy Lifestyle

Implementing these strategies can optimize our focus and retain information from online discussions. It is important to note that while we tend to lose focus — we can build habits to eliminate distractions and stay accountable to ourselves.

Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:

1. The Med School Handbook:  Join thousands of other students who have taken advantage of the hundreds of FREE tips & strategies I wish I were given on the first day of medical school to crush it with less stress. 

2. The Med School BlueprintJoin the hundreds of students who have used our A-Z blueprint and playbook for EVERY phase of the medical journey so you can start to see grades like these. 

3. Med Ignite Study ProgramGet personalized help to create the perfect study system for yourself so you can see better grades ASAP on your medical journey & see results like these. 

4. Learn the one study strategy that saved my grades in medical school here (viewed by more than a million students like you). 

If this content has helped you maintain focus and you’re interested in other beneficial resources, you can check out the list of other helpful blog content below:

Until the next one, my friend…

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