Sharp Focus

Student life is busy. You’re juggling a constant stream of new information, meeting new people and settling into new surroundings not to mention the impact that mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, attention-impairing conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and epilepsy can have on the way you organise and process information.

Luckily, there are many tools and techniques that can help improve your focus and manage your time more effectively.

As study needs assessors, we have extensive knowledge in assistive technology and the various software programs that aid reading, learning, comprehension and organisational difficulties. Read on to discover some of our favourite free and DSA funded apps.

Trying to study in a communal area can really impact concentration but you can improve your focus by using Noisli to create your own calm space by custom mixing your own sounds to play while studying to block out annoying noises. This also works well while travelling and winding down after a stressful day. 

If constant pings and pop-ups on your devices are affecting your ability to concentrate, there’s a clever app and website blocker for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and Chrome from freedom that can give you control to temporarily block distracting websites and apps when you’re trying to study. This is a great tool to help you stay on track and build better habits.

Do you have lists coming out your ears? Global Tasks helps you do away with all those to-do notes by keeping all your tasks and projects in one place. Colour items to group them, prioritise important stuff and add due dates so you never miss a deadline. You can also temporarily hide less urgent jobs to improve focus and help reduce stress levels. It’s an effective way to plan and organise activities and can be used for everything including work, social and personal reminders. 

Students with conditions such as ADHD may find mind-mapping tools extremely helpful and MindView is a leader in this field. This intelligent piece of software turns critical information into visual maps where the user can quickly organise their ideas, time and resources by simply dragging and dropping pictures, text and more. These mind maps can then be easily exported into a range of different formats including Microsoft Word to create a polished piece of work.

Other useful (and fun) tools to boost memory include flashcard programs such as Anki which uses the evidence-based learning technique of spaced repetition to help you remember things quickly and easily and Quizlet, which enables you to create your own flashcards for any topic you like or the option to choose from sets created by other students online. 

As well as tech solutions, there are also many study skills anyone can use to improve concentration such as the Pomodoro technique. This simple time management method is based around breaking down work into short intervals which helps reduce overwhelming tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. 

Another free but powerful technique is a meditation method where you count your breathing cycles. This exercise in mindfulness focuses on your natural breathing rhythm which can improve your concentration skills and help you focus on the task in hand. Headspace, Stop Breathe Think and Calm are all great meditation apps.

If you struggle to stay focussed and keep on top of your workload due to a disability, long term health condition, specific learning difficulty or mental health condition, you may be eligible for the Disabled Students’ Allowances. The package of support you receive is individually tailored to your specific needs and equipment such as the specialist software mentioned here can make a huge difference to your studies. Find out if you are eligible for DSA funding here.

In the meantime, check out our extensive guide to find the software that best meets your needs.

What are your tips for staying on track when studying? Join the conversation on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

If you’d like advice or more information, get in touch and we’ll go through the options available to you.