How to Concentrate on Studying: 15 Tips to Learn How to Stay Focused while Studying


Do you want to learn how to stay focused while studying?

Well, look no further. LearnU has compiled a list of 15 tips will teach you how to concentrate on studying when it comes to crunch time.

Having effective study habits can make a world of difference to your academic success. It could very well be the difference between being an average student and being near the top of your class.

The thing is, learning how to stay focused while studying isn’t all that difficult – all it requires is an understanding of what causes us to lose focus. For example, we all intuitively know that turning our phones off will probably help us concentrate better – and yet so many of us choose to leave our phones on the table when studying. Then, at the end of the day, we act shocked that we didn’t cover all the material that we planned to. 

In the tips below, we’ll answer questions like

  • Can I learn how to stay focused while studying?
  • When is the best time to study?
  • How long should I study for before taking a break?
  • How can I make studying more fun and interesting?

Why we Find it Hard to Concentrate on Studying

Before we get into the actual tips, let’s break down the reasons why we often find it hard to concentrate:

Distractions

This is probably the most common cause of a break in concentration. Distraction from technology, from people, from other visual or auditory stimuli – there are a huge number of things that we can be distracted by.

Anxiety/Feeling Overwhelmed

This is another extremely common source of lack of concentration. When we feel overwhelmed, we often end up avoiding the problem altogether – when it comes to studying, this often means avoiding doing any work at all. Feeling anxious and overwhelmed is a common cause of lack-of-focus.

Boredom

This is another common source of lack of concentration. It’s hard to concentrate on material that you find uninteresting or dull.

Failing to Understand how the Brain Works

There are a number of methods that you can use to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your studying – methods that are backed up with scientific data. Many of us fail to utilize this knowledge to our advantage, and then we end up wondering why we lack focus and concentration so frequently.

So – we’re going to go through these common sources of loss of focus one by one and come up with sensible solutions for them:

15 Tips that will Teach you How to Concentrate on Studying

The first thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter if you’re already a studying machine or if you have a really tough time focusing on studying – almost everybody has room for improvement. If you focus on improving and implement all of the following suggestions, we’re extremely confident that you’ll make leaps and strides when it comes to concentrating on studying.

Methods to Avoid Distraction when Studying

1. Leave your phone at home, or at the very least, turn it off. One of the biggest distractions we face in the modern day is our phone buzzing every time something happens on social media. Avoid it altogether by leaving your phone at home. Some people will say you should just turn off your phone, but we’ve found that just having a phone in the vicinity is often too great a temptation.

2. Try to avoid studying on a computer. Print lecture slides and practice papers out on paper where possible. If it’s impossible for you to study without a computer, then you should definitely be using website/software blockers to limit your access to things that will pull you away from your studying

3. It’s not just technology that can distract you. People can too. Avoid studying in places where you’re likely to bump into people you know. If at all possible, find a place where you can sit alone, where people aren’t coming in and out. At the very least, position yourself in an area where you can’t see people coming in and out of the room – and preferably in a place where there’s minimal foot traffic going on around you.

4. Humans are evolutionary programmed to notice visual and auditory stimuli (we’re programmed to notice and avoid predators). Try to find a place where you’re unlikely to see or hear distinct sights and sounds – for example, studying in a coffee shop is not necessarily a good idea if their grinding beans or operating a blender every 15 minutes.

On the other hand, you might also want to avoid a place where it’s oppressively silent (like the library) because in places like this, every time something creaks, you can hear it. The ideal place to study is somewhere where there is a good amount of white noise, but no distinctive audio or visual stimuli.

Methods to Deal with feeling Overwhelmed

5. Set yourself a To-Do list either the evening before or the morning of each day. Make sure you never over schedule yourself. Set yourself manageable, realistic To-Dos for each day, and think carefully about how long each task will take so that you don’t set yourself too much work. One of the great things about a To-Do list is how good you feel after you’ve completed the day’s tasks. When you feel great about finishing your To-Dos for the day, you’re training yourself to be productive, because when you have a productive day you feel rewarded and satisfied. In fact, this virtuous cycle is so strong that we recommend you under-schedule yourself at the start of your study period so that you can form the habit of being productive each and every day that you plan to study. Your body will get used to the reward of studying each day and feeling great, and you’ll find it easier and easier to be productive.

6. Break tasks into small, bite-sized steps. Don’t think about the fact that you need to read an entire textbook. Break it down in chapters (or even sub-chapters).

7. If you miss your tasks for a day, forget about it. Guilt gets you nowhere. Whilst you’re studying, try not to think about the tasks from yesterday or for tomorrow. Once you start studying, your only goals for the day should be to complete the day’s tasks – nothing more, nothing less. Set aside a time (maybe 20 minutes), either in the morning before you start or in the evening after you’re done to adjust your ‘big picture’ schedule and to organize your To-Do list – but once you start on a task on your list, your goal for the day is to cross everything off that list and nothing else. When you’re studying, focus on getting things done – try not to think about the ‘big picture’ schedule at all.

Methods to Deal with Boredom

8. One way to avoid getting bored is to change the subject you’re studying for every few hours. Humans often find it hard to concentrate on just one thing for too many hours at once. By changing the subject of study every couple of hours, your re-stimulating your brain and tricking it into honing in and focusing again.

9. Mix up your study methods. If you’ve ever wondered about how to make studying fun – well, it’s probably the unfortunate truth that studying is never really fun – but it can be interesting. On top of switching the topic of study every few hours, you should also be using different methods. For example, in a single day, you might schedule 2 hours for reading and note-taking, 2 hours for a ‘teach it to learn it’ session with a friend, and 2 hours doing a practice test. Variety is the spice of life, and one great way to keep your brain engaged is to challenge it in different ways throughout the course of the day.

10. Respect the material that you’re studying. If you approach a subject or topic with a bad attitude (e.g “Who cares about Freud – his theories are outdated and inaccurate) – you’re almost guaranteed not to learn it properly. Can you blame your brain for ignoring/forgetting information that you think is stupid?

We’re not saying that you need to find every single subject or class that you take fascinating, but at the very least you should try to understand why other people find it interesting or important. After all, if it’s being taught on a college campus, that means someone at your school deemed it important enough to teach a class on. (Borrowing the example used earlier, while Freud’s theories can be a little out there, he was one of the first people to really think about how the mind works – and while he may have been wrong, much of modern psychology and psychiatry likely wouldn’t exist without him).

11. Reward yourself when you reach your goals. Some people give themselves a tasty snack everytime they finish a chapter or task. At the end of the day, if you’ve completed your entire To-Do list for the day, reward yourself by doing something that you find especially fun, whether that’s going out for dinner with friends or a couple of hours of Netflix.

Methods to get the Most out of Your Brain

12. For those of you who’ve ever wondered “How long should I study for before I take a break?” – here’s a concrete answer for you. Studies show that the optimal way to maintain focus is to work for short periods, then take short breaks, then rinse and repeat. One well known iteration of this is known as the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 minutes, then take a 3-5 minute break. There are apps and software that you can download to put this technique into action.

In more general terms, studies have shown that focus and concentration tends to break down after anything more than an hour – so if you want to maintain your focus, we recommend you take a break at least once an hour.

13. Exercise, eat right, stay hydrated. Studies have demonstrated that  exercise improves focus, eating the right foods can improve cognitive functioning, and that hydration is essential for maintaining cognitive ability focus.

14. Don’t pull all-nighters lack of sleep is one of the biggest impediments to brain power. Scientists have known for quite a while that lack of sleep can have a serious impact on brain functionality, and most college students have been told over and over that all-nighters are a bad idea. Despite this, many students for whatever reason still think that pulling an all-nighter is a good idea. Don’t do it. If you often find yourself in a situation where you haven’t covered all the material and you NEED to pull an all-nighter – well, it’s likely that your issue is the inability to plan ahead (and not a concentration issue).

If you’re asking yourself “When is the best time to study?” – well, the answer is up to you. There is evidence out there that suggests that different people function best at different times (there are “night owls” and “early birds”).  However, regardless of which group you fall into, getting enough sleep is still vitally important – so if you feel like you’re more effective at night, don’t feel bad about staying up late to study and then waking up late. Getting enough sleep is almost always going to be more important than getting in an extra two hours of studying every day.

15. If you listen to music while you study, make sure you avoid music that has lyrics. If you ever found yourself mentally singing or humming along to a song whilst you’re studying, that song needs to exit your study playlist immediately. The best music for studying is background music. Also, you might want to consider buying a old-school MP3 player that doesn’t have a screen – this way, you really don’t have an excuse to bring your phone with you when you study.

 

5 comments
  1. Sarah

    October 16, 2015 at 5:54 am

    Fantastic article. I’ve found the best way to stay focused is to be really organized and stay on top of my work. I’m using various online study tools to help me achieve my educational nirvana.

    Reply
    • Janet

      October 19, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      What sort of apps are you using?

      Reply
  2. Janet

    October 19, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Fantastic article. I would just add that I’ve found preparing a todo list the previous evening rather than in the morning to be essential. That way I end up thinking about what I need to do last thing at night and find myself waking up ready to get started.

    Reply
  3. Andreea

    October 31, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    I love how the article asks to switch off your phone or leave it at home and then advises to use a pomodora technique app.

    Apart from that great post

    Reply
    • admin

      November 2, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      Hi Andreea!

      A solution to this problem is to bring a watch with you rather than a phone =). It’s a little bit more old school, but it still works.

      Reply

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