The ability to concentrate effectively is an important skill for students in the MD Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Ever find yourself thinking about something other than what's in front of you? Everybody has a busy life and with so many things to keep track of, our minds tend to wander. So how do we stay focused on the task at hand? Try the following suggestions:

  • Read over objectives and notes before class. This will help focus your mind on the current topic.
  • Sit in the front of the room and toward the center. You'll be less distracted by students entering and leaving.
  • Turn off your phone. Don't just put it on vibrate in your pocket; you'll still want to look at it.
  • Turn off your computer. If you use your computer to write notes, beware! Unless you can stick to your notes and avoid looking at the Web, shut it down.
  • Be an active learner. Know why you are reading or listening to a lecture. Have a purpose.
  • Stay awake. Get enough sleep each night to be at your best.
  • Eat. Make sure you eat healthy. Carry a piece of fruit or carrot sticks in case you need a snack.
  • Make study time interactive. Find a study partner or group.
  • Take breaks. Section your study into 50-55 minute sections, allowing yourself five- to 10-minute breaks in between. This way you'll know you'll have time to check your e-mail and phone.
  • Places - find a space of your own. Have a couple of good study areas. Sometimes a change in chairs, scenery or music can make a difference. However, don't go to a café if you can't stop talking to others.
  • Set up your space. Have all materials handy so you don't lose time searching.
  • Stick to a routine.
  • Know your energy highs and lows. Choose your weakest subject for your best time of the day.
  • Keep a "to do" pad nearby. Jot down each thought that interrupts your concentration. Then during your break, figure out if the same issue keeps popping up, and do something about it to get it off your mind.