4 reasons you can’t focus in your online classes

I know just how gruelling it can be to wake up and have to attend online classes. I’ve always seen my home as a safe space where I can relax. It’s not a place that allows me to be at my most productive. As such, there are many times where I can’t focus, but I’ve learnt to manage this problem before it snowballs.

If you have the same problem I’ve had, read on ahead to hear about how I conquered it. Let’s start with one reason you may not be able to focus during online classes.

1.  You skipped breakfast or sleep

If you don’t eat your breakfast, you’ll feel weak, and you’d be unlikely to focus in class, even if you’re simply lying in bed. It takes energy to stay awake, after all!

You’ll likely feel better if you make a habit of eating breakfast. Maybe start small with something light, like a sandwich. It would help to eat something you like. So, make a point of waking up a bit earlier to enjoy a breakfast dish that you enjoy, be it scrambled eggs or French toast.

As for myself, while I made a point of not skipping breakfast, I was pretty sleep-deprived on days where there were lessons. I slept late and woke up groggy. I realised it was really affecting my concentration in class, and I made a point to sleep earlier on days where I have lessons.

I would also recommend doing more relaxing tasks that don’t involve phones and computer screens before bed. Technology has been said to stimulate your brain[i], and using these devices will make it harder for you to fall asleep.

2.  Your laptop or phone is distracting you

How many tabs do you have open on your screen during a lecture? The correct answer is “only as many as you need”. Any more than that and you’d be distracting yourself. It can also certainly be tempting to use your phone to text your friends or even play video games, especially if you don’t have to switch on your webcam.

I’m no exception to the temptation. But to fight it, I make a point to switch my phone on to do-not-disturb mode so that my phone doesn’t vibrate when I get a notification. This allows me to stay focused in class.

It would also help if you entered full-screen mode on your lecture so that you don’t distract yourself with other tabs. But I believe what would help the most is if you switched on your webcam and participated actively in the lecture by asking questions. The knowledge that other people can see what you’re doing is a good way to keep yourself in check.

3.  You’re anxious about other things

It’s normal to wake up and start thinking about everything that needs doing today. Sometimes, I wake up to a head full of worries in the morning, and I start to make to-do lists. I take some time to get settled down, and I may remain stressed even when I’m attending the lecture. If you’re also the anxious type, I recommend waking up a bit earlier to get yourself in the mood to be productive.

Besides the daily stresses of life, we also tend to stress over things like relationship issues, money issues, family issues. While it’s hard to disconnect and disengage from such emotional entanglements at the snap of the finger, regulating your emotions and staying focused is an important part of self-management.

If you’re unable to focus during online classes due to stress or worries, you can try grounding techniques that help to immerse you in the environment. There’s the popular 5-4-3-2-1 method where you name five things you hear, then four things you see, then three things you can touch, followed by two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.

4.  You’ve lost your motivation

Maybe it’s simply that you don’t feel motivated to study this course or even just this particular class you’re having. No one can feel motivated all the time, so my advice is just that it’s all a matter of self-discipline. It may help if you remind yourself of your initial reasoning for taking the course or think about the benefits of this particular class in your future career.

However, it may be worth taking a further look at your motivations. One of my friends recently figured out that she didn’t enjoy her degree in Business though she had been doing it since her polytechnic days. She realised a degree in Mass Communication would be a better path for her, and she’s currently trying to figure out if she should change her course or take a double degree.

While you may not be considering such a drastic change, it’s still worth looking at yourself and figuring out what you truly want out of your course and time at university. It’ll help you to make the most of the rest of your uni days.


Focusing in class is hard enough. Focusing in an online class, where nobody might notice you secretly using your phone, is another mountain to climb. The trick is simply to remember why you decided to set up camp to climb the mountain and check if you’re well-equipped for the task. That means recognising your motivations and adhering to a strict no-distraction rule!

[i] https://health.clevelandclinic.org/put-the-phone-away-3-reasons-why-looking-at-it-before-bed-is-a-bad-habit/


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