All posts, Students, Undergraduates

How to make the most of those 50 minutes!

By Ciarán O’Sullivan, 1st year Economics & Sociology at UL.

Sometimes I find it quite challenging to fully concentrate in lectures. In some I will be completely clued in to what my lecturer is talking about. Then in other lectures I will entirely zone out because they may be speaking in a monotone voice or I just can’t focus. I have thought long and hard about what I can do to make the most of my lectures. Here’s a few tips:


  1. Stay hydrated

    We always hear the slogan “drink plenty of water” but do we really know what for? You might have heard before that over 70% of our bodies consist of water and that our brain is approximately 85% water. Water is essential for our existence for a variety of reasons but I’m just going to talk about why it can help us stay awake in lectures. Our brains have no way of storing water. If you are losing more water than you are replacing because you are not drinking enough then you will become dehydrated. This will affect your brain productivity. Water provides our brains the electrical energy for all its brain functions such as thought and memory processes. You will be more focused and think faster when your brain is operating on a full reserve of water. Water is also vitally important for not only delivering nutrients to the brain but for removing toxins as well. This will all run more efficiently if you are fully hydrated resulting in better concentration and mental alertness.


  2. Spotlight your lecturer

    There’s a term that has been drilled into me a number of times in the past and it’s called ‘human spotlighting’. Basically what this means is that you have to think of yourself as a spotlight and your lecturer is the human who you have to spotlight. I know you might think it’s a bit of a stupid idea but if you find yourself getting distracted by people who are arriving in late to a lecture. Or you can’t help but stealing a glance at some people who are having a chat behind you, remind yourself quickly that you are spotlighting the lecturer. That way it will bring your focus back to what’s important. Give it a go, it helps me a lot but you have to continuously remind yourself.


  3. Put your phone away

    This is one thing I struggle with the most. I am an absolute divil for whipping out my phone and seeing if I’m after getting an ole text or email. Once you whip out that phone and start scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, you might have missed something valuable that was said. It’s only 50 minutes, the phone will still be there at the end of it, those notifications aren’t going anywhere!

    hqdefault4. Sit close to the front

    I say this because you will be more likely to engage with what your lecturer is saying, not because you won’t be cool if you sit in the back row! Some of the lecture halls are massive and if you’re sitting in the back rows you will just about be able to make out your lecturers facial expressions. If you’re in close proximity to them you will be more inclined to fully focus on them and take in what they are saying. Also I’ve found that in some of the larger lecture halls if the mic isn’t properly fixed to the lecturer’s top it can be hard to make out what they’re saying. So if you are sitting up the front you will more likely be able to hear everything that’s being said rather than straining your ears to listen to them if you are way up the back.

    hush02235. Get some sleep

    Right lads so we are in college and we are here to learn just as much as we are here to have a good time and enjoy ourselves. I love a good session, I’m always up for a few drinks and a good night out. Saying that, if I have to be up at 8 o clock in the morning for a lecture at 9 I will probably not go out because personally I don’t think it’s worth it. The American National Sleep Foundation recommends for 18-25 year olds to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
    Why is it important to get a good nights sleep? Lack of sleep affects you in so many different ways. It slows down your thought processes, impairs your memory and makes learning difficult. It’s more difficult to concentrate, focus and make decisions when you are sleep deprived. Therefore you won’t be able to take in new information and cannot learn efficiently. Going to a lecture absolutely wrecked tired will probably be of no benefit to you what so ever as the probability of you learning anything is very low.

    These are my five reminders to make the most out of my fifty minute lectures. If you’re struggling to concentrate in your lectures I hope some of what I’ve talked about will help you too.


Ciarán O’Sullivan is a first year undergraduate student studying for his BA in Arts of Economics and Sociology at the University of Limerick. He is 20 years old and is a proud Cork man. You can follow him on Instagram.

1 thought on “How to make the most of those 50 minutes!”

  1. Thank you Ciaran! these are great tips! I am fully agree with number two (as lecturer), and I will probably add to number three (if it is not used as a learning tool). Let me share with you the perspective from the other side. These are the personal tips or teaching strategies I follow in lectures to keep my dear students fully concentrated and entirely zone in. Let’s start: (A) Starters: (1) Sulis updates (3′): time to remember the very last docs uploaded to Sulis; (2) Clip of the week (7′): and engaging youtube short video about the topic of the week to provoke emotional reactions and initial engagement (an example here:; (B) Main course: (3) Game questions (25´): one question per slide about the article/reading of the week, is projected in the class display. The students in teams of three or four have to answer the questions asap and justify their answer to class (four to five questions max). A count-down clock is also projected in the display; (C) Dessert: (4) Highlights (10′): time to remember what we learnt from the article/topic and what are the practical applications to real settings (and connections with assignments). Is led by myself, but also by free (or not free) volunteers; and (D) Table-talk (5′): Any other bussiness or doubts to sum up. As you could imagine, we break some days the times and we are not able ‘to eat all the menu’. I do think however that this is a normal fact when we are looking for powerful and meaningful educational experiences. There is a constant need to reflect about the weekly menu because the students’ interests, needs and backgrounds is vast and this complicates a lot the task of the chef (a complex matter). What do you think? Gonna come and try our weekly menu? hope you enjoy! 😉


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