Sit down, be still, listen, take notes, and… wait, how do I do this?

Everything eventually ends and vacation is no exception.

As the holidays reach their inevitable conclusion, many of us slip back to our daily routines and responsibilities, such as work and school.

And, during this process, one of my natural enemies rises from its short slumber: CLASS LECTURES.

Dear readers, lectures are NOT for everyone.

Some people have the capacity to sit down and absorb information through lectures like large dry sponges thrown to the ocean… but I’m not one of them.

I have friends that can dedicate 80 – 100% of their attention to 3-hour long lectures without having a mental breakdown.

I have friends that can remain seated for hours without their legs dancing or their eyes drooping.

And, to this day, I have NO IDEA how they can do this — it’s as astonishing and unbelievable to me as seeing a dog fly down from the heavens with a tailcoat suit and ask me for directions.

During lectures, a normal experience for me can be described as a rollercoaster ride of…

  • Falling asleep — my head lolling from side to side like a bubblehead as I fight against the heavy weight of my eyelids. My notes become a jumbled mess of undecipherable scribbles that resemble a two-year old’s drawing.
  • Distractions — when even the process of telling myself to pay attention can distract me for a full half-hour. No note-taking occurs, it’s all blank.
  • Hyperactivity — my body and soul get so agitated that I become overwhelmed with a desire to run away screaming from the room. My notes are only a few random fragments of information.

In an ideal society, people should be allowed to decide whether to attend lectures or study on their own without being reprimanded. However, since this is not usually the case, I will share a few tricks that I have learned through trial and error that can (hopefully) help those of you who go through similar dilemmas.

A few simple ways to avoid dozing off or getting lost in our own thoughts:

  • Coffee or anything with caffeine or sugar: These are classic ways to stay awake during lectures — however, this option is not for everyone, due to health-related reasons.
  • Mini-breaks: Take a short breather by going to the bathroom or getting a drink.
  • Mindless Doodling: Helps to keep you awake while you listen to the lecture.
  • Stretching: Even without standing up from the desk, you can stretch your legs forward and your arms upwards (but there’s the risk of the professor thinking that you want to speak up).
  • Participating: Although I am not a fan of talking in class, there are times that I force myself to over-participate in order to keep myself awake and focused.
  • Medication: This option needs to be approved by your doctor and is definitely not for everyone. I recommend considering this option if nothing else works.

But what if none of these work? What if you’re still wasting most of the lecture trying to find ways to pay attention instead of actually doing it?

Then stop.

Be productive some other way.

For example, during my current class lectures, I tend to spend most of the 3-hours doing other assignments on my laptop, making my own study reviews, and (as a mini break) play word games or write for fun.

This might not be ideal for some people, but it works for me — this method helps me meet the attendance requirement while not losing too much precious time trying to stay awake and attentive.

There are SO MANY methods to learn — i.e. listening to lectures, reading the textbooks, writing down notes, sketching diagrams, making your own review, discussing with classmates — and the “best method” varies on who you ask.

Know what works best for you and then work your way around that.

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