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How do you stay focused in 3+ hour long night classes?

I took a class last semester that was 3+ hours long twice a week at night and it seriously burned me out. I would go right after work so I was tired and had a hard time focusing. Curious if others had a similar issue and how you went about staying focused? Our professor let us record the lecture so if I zoned out I would at least know I can listen to the lecture again later on. What were your strategies. I might have to take another one in the Fall #college #student and I'm already dreading it.

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Angela D.’s Answer

Hi Gwen! Working and going to college is a challenge! Can you take this upcoming class online? Or in a hybrid format, where you attend class face-to-face part of the time and online for the remainder? Some things that can also help are to stay hydrated, walk around during the break, chair/seated exercises (you can find some online), eat a mint, fan your face with a piece of paper/notepad, take notes even if you're recording the lecture, and sit closer to the front/professor to maintain focus. Wishing you the best in your endeavors, Dr. B

Angela D. recommends the following next steps:

Look up chair/seated exercises online
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the reply! There are some hybrid versions available but for classes like this that are heavy on sciences i tend to learn better in person. It's one day lecture, other day in lab. Lab is a lot more doable but sitting for lecture can be a killer! Thanks for the advice! Gwen
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Maliaka’s Answer

Three hour classes can be challenging especially when coming from work. I found sipping on cold water, chewing a piece of gum and carrying snacks helped. You definitely want to get up and walk around during the breaks and maybe even wet your face. Also if you work during the week & the class is offered on the weekend try rearranging your schedule.. Best of luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you! Gwen
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Katya’s Answer

Hi Gwen, I can relate to your experience. I also went to work and took night classes as well as early bird classes. It was very difficult to stay awake in the morning and I took accounting which was not my best interest but I needed for my pre requisite.

For the night classes- I made sure I had a peer in class at least two-I was able to recap with them after the class or during the week, check notes and have a conversation about the class material.

Try to take key points while professor is lecturing-you don’t need to write down everything but just the key and then do your own research when you have more time to understand the material.

Connect with your professor and see if he has an additional time to reconnect with you and go over the material. I had professors that were willing to put me into another similar class on weekly basis and I was able to listen to the lecture again. I also had professors that gave me additional assignments and I did them at home to add to the missing material and improve my grade. Ask for help-don’t feel like you have to be this alone.

Good luck
Thank you comment icon Thank you! Gwen
Thank you comment icon Very welcome! Katya Lev
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Emily’s Answer

I know this struggle well!!
I found that taking a nap midday was the best way to boost my attention span later that night.
Napping shortly before the class did not help, because then I was still sleepy when I got to class.

Writing notes or drawing diagrams related to what was being presented helped me to keep focus on the material.
Sitting in the front row helped me to not let my mind wander as much.
Standing in the back of the classroom for a bit during the later part of class helped me.
Asking questions helped me stay actively involved in the discussion and prevented daydreaming.

This is for sure a struggle!! Best of luck to you!!!
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the reply! Gwen
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Kevin’s Answer

Oh boy, back when I was in college, I had these 3 hour long night classes that were brutal because I also typically came straight from work. The class was often split into lectures and activities based around lecture material. What helped me was actually looking forward to the activities portion, because it meant lots of face to face interacting with my classmates. I don't know if your class is like that, but I found that the interactions helped.

If not, then these tips should help you out as well. First, I would always eat a light snack/dinner before the class, to get myself energized. Avoid fast food because that will carry you down; try and pack a salad and granola bars, or fruit and vegetables to snack on even during in class (if allowed). This really helps! Another tip is try doodling whilst taking notes or listening to lecture. It is actually very helpful in concentrating and remembering the material; in fact, it was encouraged by my professors as well. Of course, there's a balance of doodling and tuning out the lecture, and doodling while listening as well.

Hope these tips help!
Thank you comment icon Very helpful thank you! Gwen
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Megan’s Answer

Hi Gwen!

I find that spacing out my three and a half hour lectures throughout the week helps me to stay focused. Your brain can only take so much and bombarding it with back to back three and a half hour lectures can be a bit taxing on not only your attention span but also on your mental health as well. So, if at all possible, I greatly recommend taking your three and a half hour lectures on separate days and if you're able to, take them every other day as well. If that is not achievable, making sure you have ample time between each lecture to refuel. Give yourself a break from the material, get some water, take a lap, etc. It's also helpful to take these longer classes with professors you know and on subjects you like. It keeps the class interesting.

Now during the lecture. I personally like to take handwritten notes as for me I know if I'm given the opportunity to use the internet, I will 110% be scrolling on social media or playing a game on cool math games. So, using a good notebook and some colorful pens always seems to keep my interest for a bit. If you're excited to take notes then you'll be more inclined to do so. Another helpful tip I have is staying hydrated during the lecture. I like to take a large water bottle with me, preferably cold water as it makes me more focused. Having snacks, if you're able to eat in class, is also a plus. I like trail mix or anything that has a combination of sweet and salty and healthier options as well as a few not so healthy options. Its all about balance.

Finally, I recommend taking classes with people you know. From personal experience, there is nothing worse than walking into a class (especially a daunting long lecture) and not knowing anyone. If at all possible, try and take classes that you and your friends can take together. I find that having someone I know in the class pushes me to want to show up and pay attention, sort of like accountability. Friends can help pick up on things that you might have missed, and vice versa. It's also a good way to debrief during breaks.
Thank you comment icon Thank you great advice! Gwen
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Dierdre’s Answer

Hi Gwen,
College is all about finding those things that work best for you as well as finding out what your limits are. At least that's what I got out of it. It sounds like you already found the best solution. By recording the lecture you get to listen to it when you are more alert. Whenever I took a class that I became easily distracted in, I would sketch a picture of whatever was being discussed or at least something that would remind me of what was being discussed. This would keep my interest as well as give me something to refer to when I needed to study.

Hope this help,
D.
Thank you comment icon That's a neat idea thank you for your advice! Gwen
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Kim’s Answer

Hi Gwen!

So, the last semester of my schooling I had a full time job, on the midnight shift, with my first class at 9 a.m.. I went straight to school after work, found a place to sleep, and usually woke up at 10:30 am. Totally missed my first class, and half of my second! (before cell phones/alarms). I feel your pain.

A truck driver taught me to apply ice cold water to the back of my neck. That is how he would stay alert while driving. Anyway, I recently returned to school, and found a lot of relief in eye drops. Much of my fatigue was caused by eye strain. At least for me, knowing that I have the recorded back-up would make it easier for me to zone out, because, now, I don't HAVE to pay attention! I imagine diet plays a role in this, like, avoid eating carbs before class. I can do wonders with a steady supply of sugar/chocolate at regular intervals, but, I really don't think that's the way to approach this.

Have you asked the professor if it is okay to stand up when you get tired, perhaps walk to the back of the room, maybe do some stretches? Or even step outside for a minute? I hope you get breaks! We never did 3 hrs straight-thru! Perhaps just do some neck stretches at your seat? Sometimes I would doodle, little drawings to illustrate the point the professor was discussing.

Anyway, I wish you the best with this!
Kim
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for your advice! We luckily do get breaks and can get up when we need to, our professors are pretty awesome like that. Gwen
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Jimmi’s Answer

Hi Gwen,

Geesh, don't I remember those days. So, it's all about planning. I would look for class that would keep me engaged at night. i.e something that is directly related to your major or something that you're super interested in. If you try to take a really intense class after 6 pm, working all day, and/or maybe even after eating dinner. Then that when sleep is mostly to hit you and you will miss important content. If you have to take intense evening classes, then try to stay away from the back of the room. You are mostly to fall asleep. Also, try tricks like taking notes during class, having a snack, and pretty to drink. That would help you fight the urge to want to sleep.
Thank you comment icon Thanks for your advice! Gwen
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