Staying Focused and Motivated: EvCC Students Share Advice

EvCC students share tips on how to stay focused while taking classes from home.

Elisia Werdell, 17, is taking online classes from home this quarter. “Being in an environment that I am comfortable in is a challenge,” she says. (Courtesy photo from Elisia Werdell)

No matter the educational pathway, most EvCC students share a goal: graduating from college. School-life balance can be difficult to achieve, especially with elements outside one’s control. The ability to complete schoolwork is imperative to success and students are coming up with creative, personal ways to keep themselves focused and motivated. 

Elisia Werdell, 17, has only one quarter left at EvCC before she earns her associate’s degree in studio arts and sciences. She recommends keeping a distance from social media while doing schoolwork. 

“I believe that one major factor that plays a role in one’s academic success is their mood,” EvCC student Sergei Bakharev, 18, says. (Courtesy photo from Sergei Bakharev)

In the morning, don’t lay in bed on your phone. Get up immediately. That kick-starts your day so you feel like you have more energy. Try finding an exercise routine that works for you,” says Werdell. She has established a daily rewards system for herself. She allows breaks for therapeutic activities like going for a drive, doing yoga or playing with her cats. 

“My recommendation to anyone [is to] limit negative influences in their life and do something almost every day that makes them happy – whether that be working out, watching a movie or talking to someone they are close to,” says Sergei Bakharev.

Bakharev, 18, attends EvCC as a Running Start student and is planning on transferring to the University of Washington to achieve a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He says that planning out his day is vital and his mood deeply affects his ability to complete schoolwork.

A big factor in how well students focus on their classes is their physical and mental state. “Overall, I think doing school online has been difficult for a lot of students,” EvCC student Alex Dupras says. “I have had a lot of bad days where I didn’t stay focused and it was just a panic attack after a panic attack. I had to be put on medication for my anxiety and it has helped me quite a bit.”

Dupras, 22, is working while taking classes for an associate’s degree in nursing. She has invested in a coffee table that allows her more space for homework which she believes has helped her ability to focus.

“[This was] right after I had a big panicky episode and I was able to pull through by breathing it out and watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy,” says Alex Dupras, 22, of her schoolwork-from-home selfie. (Courtesy photo from Alex Dupras)
The Calm app is a resource that features guided meditations in podcast form and helps one track their progress in their meditation journey. (Screenshot from the Calm app)

EvCC psychology instructor Dr. Efrain Centeno says that mindfulness meditation can greatly benefit students, especially when it comes to anxiety and lack of focus. He defines meditation as “the process of being able to stay still.”

Centeno mentions studies by top universities like Princeton and Harvard, which have embraced a meditation program for students. “When you calm the mind the frontal cortex creates new pathways and better connections. This allows for improved memory, focus and concentration,” Centeno explains. 

Guided meditation could be a helpful addition to students’ daily routine. There are many resources that can help someone begin the practice of meditation, including videos on YouTube. The Calm app is a resource that has guided meditation in podcast form and helps one track their progress in their meditation journey. 

Ultimately, reducing stress and implementing habits that promote physical and mental health aids student focus. “Go outside and read for thirty minutes. Make your family dinner, go on a walk, pick up a new hobby,” Werdell says. “Getting a little bit of fresh air will help more than you think it will. My favorite thing is to just drive somewhere that’s far away and then get lost. Having the wind in my hair is my favorite feeling in the world.”