It’s nearly the end of the school year, and everybody’s feeling the pressure. Final exams are just around the corner, the homework load is bigger than ever, and you still have to keep up with after-school activities.

No wonder students all over the country are struggling to stay focused - you’re all stressed out and exhausted! We’ve put together some helpful tips on how to stay focused as the year draws to a close.

How to stay focused at the end of the year:

Eliminate distractions

What are you doing when your focus is not on what the teacher is saying? Gazing out of the window? Checking your phone? Identify your distractions and get rid of them.

This tip applies to classroom lessons as well as when you’re studying. If you find yourself distracted by what’s going on outside, then move away from the window. If a “quick” social media check turns into half an hour of continuous scrolling, then it’s time to put your phone away (we’ve all fallen into that trap!). Are other students a distraction? Change seats. It’s far easier to focus when you aren’t distracted.

Get organised

Aside from eliminating physical distractions, you need to clear your mental distractions as well. How can you focus on the task in front of you when you’re constantly stressed out about homework deadlines, the 3 half-finished projects that are suddenly all due tomorrow (I’ll finish science during art), the oral you still have to write (when is our rugby match?), and then exams on top of it all?

It’s time to get organised and stop torturing yourself. Sit down and create a schedule. Map out all deadlines on a calendar, create a study timetable, and make to-do lists for individual tasks. Once you’ve cleared up head space, you’ll find that it’s much easier to focus on the task at hand.

Study early

Please don’t cram for tests and exams. Just don’t. Don’t put yourself through that. Start your studies as early as possible. It’s been scientifically proven that students should study closer to the day they learnt the material than the day of the test. The first time you hear a lecture or study something new, you will retain up to 80% of what you’ve just learnt if you review the work within 24 hours. Luckily, this effect is cumulative; so after a week, you could retain 100% of the same information after only five minutes of review.

Identify struggle areas

Now is the time to ask for help. If you feel you need extra lessons on a certain subject, don’t feel embarrassed! No one is naturally good at everything. Whether it’s a subject you just don’t get or just don’t like, failure is not an option. Find out if your teacher offers extra classes - and if it’s a teacher you don’t have a good relationship with, ask your parents for extra lessons outside of school.

Take mini-breaks

Make it a routine to take a 5 minute break after 30 minutes of studying. Get up, stretch, look around, drink some water and stand outside for a bit. These are MINI-breaks, mind you, not an excuse to play games for 2 hours during your study session and call it a “break”. Taking these short rests helps you stay focused on the subject in front of you, whereas studying the same thing for 3 hours straight actually decreases your chance of retaining information.

Reward yourself

It’s easier to stay focused and motivated when you’re working towards a reward. These rewards can be as small as “allowing” yourself to post to Instagram or as big as giving yourself the afternoon off to just relax. Stating a reward before you start a task is a great way to reset, get motivated and be focused. "If I complete ____, then I get ____."

Self-care

Don’t overwork yourself! Make sure that sleep is a priority. You’ll be able to focus more easily if you’re well-rested and hydrated, so drink plenty of water. It’s also a good idea to throw in a little exercise just before you study or start homework.

Studies show our brainpower gets a boost even after a short workout, as our bodies are pumping oxygen and nutrients to the brain. According to Dr Douglas B. McKeag, breaking a sweat before cracking the books can make you more alert, focused, and able to learn new information during your post-workout study session.

The holidays are nearly here - until then, apply these tips to help you focus better. Good luck!