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Peer Advice: Boost Your Focus

Image of city in the background with the word Focus overtop

When I was preparing to begin my journey at MBKU’s physician assistant program a year ago, one of the things I was most nervous for was the sheer amount of information, lectures, and studying that lie ahead of me.

As an incoming PA student, you’re repeatedly told that “PA school is like drinking from a fire hose”. This is not the most encouraging of images and I wondered if I was equipped to handle the load. It had been a while since I sat down and focused on studying for any extended period.

In this post, I’ll talk about the three things I find most helpful in optimizing focus as a PA student.

  1. Establish a Consistent Sleep Routine:

Man, oh man, is this an absolute necessity! Sleep hygiene is top of the list to optimize so many things, from physical health to mental health. It’s helpful to set a regular sleep schedule in which you go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep, no matter how much studying and work you have left. There will always be more work to be done but you will be infinitely more productive on a good night’s sleep. Adequate sleep improves memory consolidation and cognitive functioning.

  1. Prioritize Regular Exercise:

Engaging in physical activity is not only essential for maintaining physical health but also for sharpening your focus. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, releasing endorphins that enhance mood and attention. Find activities you enjoy and incorporate them into your weekly routine. For me, I try (aka force myself) to exercise in the morning before class. This wakes me up and increases my alertness for a long day of focus. I am not a morning person whatsoever, but incorporating this into my routine has made a huge difference.

  1. Take Regular Study Breaks

While it may seem counterintuitive, taking regular breaks can boost productivity and focus. PA school requires a lot of studying, but most people cannot successfully focus for hours on end! The way I accomplish this is by setting a timer for 45 minutes. When the timer goes off, I get up, walk around, stretch, and don’t look at a screen for at least 5 minutes. This way, I give my mind, body, and eyes a break. Utilizing breaks allows me to study more efficiently for longer stretches of time.

There are many other approaches to maintaining focus, but these are the top three that work for me. If you would like to discover more science-based, applicable tools for focus, motivation, sleep, and more, I have learned a lot by listening to the Huberman Lab Podcast.

Whether you use these tips or other techniques, I encourage you to be mindful about how you approach studying and always be kind to yourself. The journey is challenging, fun, incredible, and oh so worth it!