How to Pay Better Attention in School

Ramisa Sharif
Edited by: Katrina Chang
Published on
January 2, 2024

Since the pandemic, scientists have been discovering a new trend lately— a decline in attentiveness. With our many sources of distractions and social isolation, we, as students, can’t help but have more and more difficulty paying attention in class and while studying. Knowing this, here are the best ways to pay better attention that are also ADHD friendly.

Review the material beforehand

Have you ever noticed that not understanding the material makes you less likely to be engaged in class? This is a common occurrence that is similar to rejection sensitivity where you are less motivated to do work that would lead to failure. The best way to combat this is to review the material before class which will allow you to engage in class better as the lessons would partially, or ideally, mostly be a review for you. You don’t need to review a lot in order for this method to work; oftentimes, being even somewhat familiar with the content can be enough to grab your attention in class.

Sleep and eat well

It is a common saying that we should take care of our bodies whenever we can. This isn’t any less true if you are trying to be more attentive in class. Studies have long shown that lack of sleep can disrupt your attentiveness and cognitive ability. Students should aim to get about 8 hours of sleep every night, although this number can vary from person to person by a number of factors. In addition, ensuring that you get enough nutrients and calories in your diets can greatly impact your energy levels. Eating good amounts of protein and staying hydrated can help you stay more alert during those critical testing hours and class times. 

Hiding distractions

Although easier said than done, minimizing distractions is one the best ways to address the root cause of common forms of inattentiveness. When you find yourself in a situation that needs you to pay attention for long periods of time, such as being in class or studying, keeping your phone in your bag or in another room if possible is one of the best ways to reduce your distractions. Phones are often the culprit of our distractions, so removing them from the equation is highly recommended if you really want to pay attention. If you find difficulty in keeping your phone away, try deleting or hiding any apps or notifications that draw your attention the most. Then, your phone becomes more of a practical tool rather than a tool of distraction when you are working. Deleting or hiding apps and notifications is also recommended for other devices that you use to work, such as a tablet or a laptop, as you may find yourself opening up apps even when you aren’t on your phone. If despite this you still find it difficult to stay away from your phone, you may have an addiction, and therefore should seek out further resources or counseling to address this problem. Phone addictions are a serious disorder that often gets ignored, and it is important that you take the time to address the root problem when it creates noticeable problems in your life. People can often break cell phone addictions on their phone, but don’t hesitate to get counseling or external help if needed.


Fidget toys are a great way to help relieve feelings of restlessness when trying to focus. If you want to bring one to class, make sure you opt for one that doesn’t create much noise so as to not distract other people. Fidgeting can also include activities such as doodling. You can test different forms of fidgeting that can help you ease restlessness without being distracting or distracted. If fidgeting doesn’t work for you, you can also try getting up and moving your body. You can do this by doing a short exercise, taking a walk, or just stretching. Whatever you think will make you feel more focused should be done. In addition, studies suggest that movement can help improve focus and reduce stress, a main component causing brain fog (a phenomenon which negatively impacts our ability to think clearly).

Trying to beat the clock

If you find it hard to complete work, you can try setting yourself a short deadline, to which you race the clock in order to complete the assignment. For example, if you have to do an essay and you start at 3:00, set yourself a one hour limit (ie; finishing at 4:00 pm). This is a common strategy for people with ADHD (a disorder that can affect attentive ability), and allows you to turn your work into a game.


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