Being Present In Lectures

A picture of my phone
A phone is great and all, but putting it away during a lecture can greatly benefit you by helping you stay focused on what the prof is saying!
    If there is something that I've learned in my three years of university, it's that attending a lecture and being present in a lecture are two very different things. What do I mean by that? Take a look at the picture below!  
A picture of me sleeping in class
An example of a time I attended a lecture, but I clearly wasn't present!
  Attending a lecture requires your physical presence within the lecture hall. However, being present requires both your physical and mental presence, which can be a little tricky. Ensuring your physical presence is relatively straightforward - you just have to reach the classroom in time and sit there for the duration of the lecture. But how do you ensure your mental presence?   The key to increasing your mental presence is reducing your mental distractions! Here are some of my favorite tips on how to do so:   Firstly, to limit mental distractions due to drowsiness, hunger, or bladder-calls - make sure that:
  1. You get enough sleep (or caffeine, if it's a really busy day)
  2. You have eaten or packed a nutritious snack
  3. You have gone to the restroom prior to class
  Another way to limit mental distractions is to wear comfortable clothes to class. This reduces the amount of physical discomfort you feel when sitting down for long periods of time, allowing you to focus on the lecture material. As someone who almost always wears jeans in social settings, I wear leggings or joggers to class because, otherwise, my focus would be on how my belt is jabbing into my abdomen!   The next most important thing is to put your phone – or any other technological devices not used for note-taking – far far away! This is definitely easier said that done, especially if you are heavily reliant on your phone like I am! As an avid texter, active meme-er, and angry bird pro... putting my phone away (and keeping it away) was initially extremely challenging. I had developed the habit of using my phone as a mental stimulant to keep me from getting bored during lectures. In a way, my phone used to be my "lecture-companion," always at my fingertips whenever I needed some entertainment. However, sometimes that got out of hand and I lost focus for 10-15 minutes straight, especially if my text conversation with a friend got too interesting. The tricky part was, without my phone, I'd be bored and fall asleep! So how did I combat that mental distraction? Personally, I invested in a fidget cube. These cubes allowed my hands to stay busy but my mind to stay focused on the lecture, and it has proven to be extremely effective. Now, I put my phone away at the beginning of the lecture and use this cube to keep me entertained instead! I'm not saying that you should go and get yourself a fidget cube, but if you are currently reliant on your phone, definitely try to find a replacement "lecture-companion" which is less distracting (and doesn't connect to the internet).   Finally, practicing mindfulness will help you increase your mental presence in class, and in general. This month, you may see the "Mindful March" campaign around campus – this campaign raises awareness about the art of mindfulness, which, as described on the student life website, means to purposely and nonjudgmentally pay attention to the present moment. For certain time-intervals, stop focusing on the past or worrying about the future, and nonjudgementally be aware of your surroundings. For example, if you are sitting in a lecture, stop yourself from daydreaming about your crush, or wondering what mark you got on that midterm, or planning out what you want for dinner! In that moment, appreciate that you are currently sitting within a classroom and the professor is trying to communicate new ideas to you within this allocated time period. Focus on that, and it will greatly help you increase your concentration levels. For more information on mindfulness techniques, and the workshops the university provides regarding this topic, visit the student life website!   Next time you go to a lecture, try some of these tips out and let me know if you found them helpful!   Until next week, Slesha

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