How to Stay Focused and Finish Your Homework

By Staff Writer Published on August 18, 2017

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with assignments and projects with your college classes. Having a well-organized strategy to guide your studying with help you focus and complete your homework efficiently.

Many students have full-time jobs and families, leaving little time for homework. If your lifestyle falls into this category, having a plan will be critical to your college success. Follow the tips below to learn how to optimize the time you have.

1. Have a Clear Plan

Make yourself a to-do list or an outline to follow so your study session has specific goals. Attempting to complete homework without any structure will lead to your mind wandering off-task.

Prioritize Your Homework

Do you have any assignments with pressing due dates? Is there a large project you could begin making progress with? Sometimes classes have daily tasks that must be completed. Here are a few helpful tips when prioritizing your homework strategy:

Alternate easy and difficult assignments

Easy assignments give a quick sense of accomplishment. Work on difficult tasks when you have the most energy and motivation.

Stay deadline-oriented

Complete assignments with the most immediate due dates first.

“Chunk” large assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks

2. Eliminate Distractions

Distractions will come. We’re surrounded by electronic devices that are constantly lighting up and buzzing with notifications that grab your attention. Learn how to drown out all of the distractions so you can focus.

Eliminate as many distractions as possible. According to research done by Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab, it can take up to 25 minutes to regain full focus after you’ve been distracted. That quick question a friend texted you or social media notifications are examples of distractions that will quickly derail your focus, making it difficult for your study session to be productive.

These are a few examples of common distractions that will keep you from focusing on your work:

  • Sounds—ambient or otherwise
  • Television
  • People around you
  • A messy room
  • Electronic devices
  • Extracurricular activities and hobbies
  • Social activities
  • Work and family responsibilities


Identify what there is in your life that distracts you most and do whatever it takes to eliminate those distractions. Here are some suggestions of solutions for your distractions:

  • Study in your bedroom rather than a bustling living room
  • Turn your phone off
  • Turn off notifications on your laptop
  • Some students find using noise-cancelling headphones very effective in helping them focus
  • Turn on white noise, New Age music, or other ambient sounds
  • Schedule your study time and don’t allow other activities to interfere. And stick to it!

3. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking is a great way to tackle all the work you need to complete for your classes, right? Wrong. Individuals can most effectively process information from short-term to long-term memory when they are focusing on only one thing at a time. Prioritize your tasks and take your assignments one at a time.

Humans cannot, in fact, focus on tasks simultaneously. We simply move from tasks quickly. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT, points out that the brain has to switch back and forth between tasks because each task will use similar parts of the brain, and that conflict causes interference. Because of this interference, we have to choose tasks. This process of choosing conflicting tasks is called “executive function.”

Trying to multitask is hurting college students. A research study by the University of Connecticut has shown that it takes college students longer to complete homework when they try to multitask, and their grades are usually lower.

Multitasking is physically impossible. Don’t try to listen to an audiobook while working on a statistics assignment and keep up a text conversation with a friend. You’re only hindering the efficacy of your study time.

4. Take a Break

Considering how long it can take to get back on task, the thought of taking breaks for better focus and productivity seems counter-intuitive. Have you ever gotten to the point where you feel like your brain is “fuzzy”? You just can’t seem to focus anymore, and you aren’t understanding the assignment?

A study led by Alejandro Lleras, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, showed that after focusing on a task for a long period of time (like doing homework), the brain loses its ability to maintain attention. Your performance actually declines. Taking periodic breaks will improve the quality of your study time, improving your comprehension.

Take a 10-minute break for every 45 to 60 minutes of studying. Stick to your time limits (setting a timer if necessary) to keep you on task.

At CollegeAmerica, our instructors understand the importance of prioritizing time and setting goals as a part of the academic process. Don’t hesitate to ask them for guidance with your studies. Use these tips to put together a homework strategy that works for you—and stick to it!

Making the most out of the time you have available for homework will set you up for success in your college classes. Contact us today to learn more about our degree programs. We look forward to helping you improve your future!