With all the distractions around you, it can be tough to keep yourself on-task and concentrate.
You might have had times when you went online to find some study material and instead ended up checking your Facebook profile or uploading your latest picture on Instagram. Other times, your five minutes break from your study desk might have turned into a 30-minute phone conversation with your friend. Then there may have been times when you picked up your phone to check the time but instead browsed your text messages.
It’s easy to become engrossed and lose track of time. From constant noise and social world distractions to feeling fatigued and stressed, it is easy and common to lose focus. For an average student, the large part of the battle is maintaining focus.
Here are few easy-to-follow tips to help you concentrate.
1. Create a designated study area. Creating a space for working will maximize your learning efficiency. As much as possible, you should designate a special place to study. Do nothing else at that space. If you have a designated space, you will associate this place to studying. Once there, you will have no trouble getting started.
2. Your space should be well-lighted and ventilated. Your study room or corner should be well-lit and ventilated. Adequate light will help you remain alert. Lighting affects sleep, mood, focus, motivation, concentration, and hence, your performance. Avoid studying on your bed. Sit on a comfortable chair. The chair should not be overly comfortable, or else you will end up dozing off. Sit straight as it will help you concentrate and focus on studies.
3. De-clutter your space. The space that you designate for studying should be uncluttered and should have few distractions to allow you to concentrate. Clean your desk of anything that you deem as unnecessary. The only things that should be left in front of you are those that are necessary for your work.
This means any electronics, pictures, books, stationery, bags, etc., that you don’t need for the task at hand should be put away and out of sight. Also, keep aside the notes and assignments for other topics as they will make you worry about the pending work to be done.
4. Get your study materials and stationery beforehand. Most times, you need to get up from your desk either to find a missing note or locating a highlighter or a pen in the middle of studying. And this task ends up consuming a lot of your precious time. Ensure everything from your pens, notes, handouts, and books is out there within your hand’s reach so that you won’t have to get up in the middle of studying. Ideally, you should get everything prepared the night before or a few hours ahead of your study time.
5. Have something to munch on nearby. Keep some snacks nearby when you sit to study. It should be something nutritious.
Try walnuts, flax seeds, almonds, berries, or even dark chocolate instead of a pack of chips, instant noodles, white bread, etc. Avoid filling your stomach before studying, as being too full leads to lethargy.
6. Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated will increase your concentration abilities. Make sure you have clean and fresh water within your reach. Drinking water can improve the brain's ability to complete tasks that require a rapid response. Chronic dehydration can cause migraines or stress and reduce your ability to concentrate and focus on studies. (1)
Always keep a glass of water, green tea, or a sugar-free drink within your reach. Stay away from soda, fruit juices, smoothies, and other sugar-heavy drinks. Avoid consuming caffeinated beverages like tea or coffee. If you are tempted to grab a coffee, try having green tea or black coffee without sugar.
7. Block out distractions by turning off your phone, shutting down your computer, or blocking out social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other sites that distract you from your goals.
8. Play background music. Some people prefer playing music in the background. It might help you tune out all the surrounding noises. Make sure that you are not blasting off your favorite hits or any music that you can sing along to. Lyrics can be distracting, so play instrumental music. Ambient music like the sounds of rain, waterfalls, or white noise can help you calm and re-focus.
9. Follow a study ritual. Start by estimating the number of hours needed for every subject each week. Then allocate specific time for every subject. By this, you will assure yourself that you won’t need to worry about completing the other subjects as you have allotted time for each one. Also, preparing a daily-study timetable will help you stick to the schedule. Create a detailed to-do-list. Set a routine for everything from when to sleep, when to get up, when to have your meals, and most importantly how much time should you allot to studying and revision.
10. Be flexible with your study schedule. There is no set rule as far as the timetable is concerned, but be flexible with your schedule. If you feel you need an extra hour for a particular subject, then do a little rearranging or modify your timetable a bit.
11. Organize your study around your energy levels. For a week, try to see when your body and mind are most focused. Do you feel more focused in the morning or you focus best late in the night? Every person has their own biological prime time. Aim to study when you are highly focused and at your best. Try to study topics that require a lot of concentration during those periods.
12. Break down your goals into pieces. Make your goals achievable by segregating them. If you have an entire book to study, segment it into 20 pages a day.
13. Be an active reader. Before you dive in and start an in-depth study, briefly skim the chapter and topics to be studied. This will help you to prepare yourself for the impending study session mentally. Look at the headings, captions, and summaries. Try to get a picture as to what the chapter is about. When you read the heading, ask yourself questions. While reading, try to find answers for your questions. Read one paragraph at a time. Once you are done, recite or rehearse. Always take notes and highlight the important points. This will involve your entire body and will help you remain alert.
14. Readout loudly. Readout loudly whatever you are reading. Your thought process slows down when you are speaking. You tend to focus more on what you speak, which will help you block out distractions.
15. Writing and remembering. Writing anything down makes you remember things better. Writing down what you read helps place information into your long-term memory and will improve your recall. Write out the items to be memorized again and again.
16. Use flashcards to help you remember. Once you finish reading your topic, take some time and quiz yourself. Make charts or flashcards to help you remember. Any types of charts, cards, or notes will make your brain process information faster. Also, while studying highlight some points in your book or make notes to help you remember fast.
17. Associate your topic with practical things. Relate your topics to practical situations. Associate it with something practical that makes it interesting for you. This will help you make your subject interesting and prevent distractions. For example, if you are studying history, watch a documentary on a similar topic or try to relate it to a movie you watched. It gives you the opportunity to build a story around the subject you are studying and helps you remember better.
18. Find a study partner. If you find the subject pointless or boring, try to seek out a study partner who motivates you to concentrate and focus on studies.
When you see him/her staying focused, you feel inspired to be productive. Your study buddy can also help you see the subject very differently, through his/her point of view. This will help you view the subject very differently and can help you make it interesting.
19. Do the least pleasant tasks at first. Cover the most challenging and difficult subjects or portions before moving on to the easier ones. This will cut out procrastination. Also, if you get the least unpleasant tasks out of your way, the rest of your to-do list seems manageable. If you do the easier ones first, you will waste a lot of your time worrying about the hard topics. This will reduce your productivity and ability to focus. That said, avoid spending a lot of time if you get stuck on a challenging part of your assignment. You will end up wasting a lot of your available time on it.
20. Reward yourself. To keep you focused, you need to reward yourself and offer yourself some sort of motivation.
For instance, allow yourself some TV time or a quick chat with your friend. Some sort of reward will help you stay motivated and focused.
21. Take regular breaks. Studying for long hours will overload your brain and will reduce your productivity and creativity. Take regular breaks every 20 to 30 minutes. Set a reminder every 30 minutes if need be. Try not to do anything productive during your break time. Make sure to get up from your desk and walk around the room for a couple of minutes. Walking will improve your blood circulation and will help you become more alert. It will restore your focus and energy when they're depleted.
22. List down your distractions. While studying, write down the things that pop up in your mind other than what you are studying. This will help free your mind and let you focus on your work.
23. Schedule a time to worry. During your break time, take some time out to think about the list of things that crossed your mind while studying. This will reduce your urge to worry about frivolous things while studying. You can also use this time to check and answer your email or chat with friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Whatsapp.
24. Try the five more rule. Whenever you are about to give up, tell yourself that you will quit once you study five more things or give an extra five minutes. Once you have finished those, aim for another five. Breaking your tasks into smaller bits will help you concentrate more and will help your mind stay alert for longer.
25. Stop your urge to measure time while working. Control the urge to track time while studying. If you do this, it won’t let you concentrate and focus on studies, and you won’t be able to give your best.
26. Stay in the present moment. Stop thinking about what will you do afterward this, or how long will you watch TV. When you come across such distractions, simply ask your mind to just stay quiet. Focus on the present moment.
27. Stick your chest out and lift your head up. When you notice losing concentration, stick your chest out and lift your head high while flinging back your arms. Take a deep breath and tell yourself, “I can do this.” This will instantly make you feel alert and will bring your mind on focus.
28. Chew gum. Gum increases the flow of oxygen keeping you more alert and maintaining longer focus.
29. Meditate regularly. A daily meditation ritual can help you concentrate better. Deep breathing, meditation, or yoga allows you maximum renewal in minimum time. Meditation and yoga can be effective in relieving stress. Over time, cultivating a meditation ritual can help you concentrate and focus better.
30. Visualize your goals of completion. When you visualize your goals, it will give you something to strive toward. Keep visualizing the future and things you want to achieve. This will empower you to work and create your goals.
31. Sleep well. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is important for you to stay alert. Your body needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep. (2) Studying when you are sleepy and tired wastes time.
32. Eat healthy snacks. Your choice of food will definitely affect your mind. If you are not eating a healthy diet, it will reduce your concentration skills. The more you gorge on items such as sweets, ice-cream, and junk food, the more restless your mind will be. Unhealthy foods can make you lethargic. Eating three meals a day helps you to concentrate and focus on studies. Fish, meat, eggs, dairy products, berries, fresh fruits, and vegetables boost your memory and aid concentration.
33. Avoid multitasking. Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance. Simply focus on one thing and do it well.
34. Avoid studying near your bedtime. Never study near your bedtime. If you usually fall asleep by 11 pm, do not schedule your study time at 10.30 pm. You will eventually end up feeling sleepy by 11 pm and will be wasting most of your time trying to stay alert.
35. Avoid organizing a group study with friends. Study groups might be fun but definitely not always the best way to study. No matter what, in most of the cases, you might end up discussing something or the other. Unless everyone in the group is committed to reserving all the chit-chat post the study session, it’s difficult to concentrate and focus on studies in a group.
Note: The content has been edited and reviewed by Angela Webb, Licensed Psychologist.
- Popkin, M B, D'Anci, E K, Rosenberg, H I. Water, hydration, and health. OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/68/8/439/1841926?redirectedFrom=fulltext. Published August 1, 2010.
- Diekelmann S. Sleep for cognitive enhancement - PubMed Central (PMC). Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3980112/. Published April 2, 2014.