“I want to study but I can’t concentrate,” is the most common phrase we often hear people saying or rather complaining about. The willingness to study and getting distracted goes hand in hand. In this article, I'm going to show you how to stay focused while studying.
With the advancement in technology, it really is a struggle to stay focused, which is why many people give in to the temptation and later on regret it.
For me, the main source of distraction is social media and gaming. Yes, I can feel your pain if you are sailing in the same boat. The constant notifications from your Instagram and Facebook accounts could be a great source of distraction for any student, especially during their study hours or during important lectures.
In short, studying is tough. Whether you are a school going student or someone doing his/her Ph.D., finding the motivation to study, and staying focused is a big-time challenge. Many of us are also a victim of procrastination, since studying is tough, and requires hard work; hence we keep on postponing it till the eleventh hour.
But don’t worry; in this post, we’ve got you covered, with a variety of tips and techniques that will help you stay focused and minimize the stress of studying during exams.
1. Find a suitable environment that motivates you to study.
So the very first tip we have for you is to find a suitable environment to study. Yes, it’s true; some environments motivate you to study, while others just distract you. You are the best judge of which places or environments prove to be study friendly and work best for you.
For instance, some people find studying in their homes most distracting, hence they prefer studying in public/school libraries, where there is a study-friendly environment since everybody is studying, there are hardly any distractions, and their dedication towards studying also plays a major role in motivating you.
Hence, finding out where you feel motivated to study is an essential part of your successful study plan. While for some the quiet of a library does wonders, but on the other hand, for some people, a coffee shop serves as an ideal study/working place, as they prefer having the light bustle in the background that helps them to stay focused with an unlimited supply of coffee and snacks.
But whatever is your preference for a study environment, it’s important to have the following:
- Comfortable seating – when you are opting for a place to study, it’s important to choose a place that has the most comfortable seating arrangement to promote good posture for long, back to back study hours.
Make sure to opt for a place that has the necessary furniture to promote an upright sitting position, it’s known to increase your productivity, confidence and energy levels, where as sitting in a slouched position can cause muscle fatigue and tension that ultimately lead to poor posture.
Additionally, it can also make your brain more inclined towards hopelessness.
It’s a must to have a clear, flat and hard, surface with ample space to comfortably accommodate all your stationary, books and laptop.
Close power supply unit – if your studies require you to carry your laptop, ensure you have a close power supply unit so that you don’t have to be up every time you need to charge your laptop, this will prevent breaking your flow.
2. Create a study routine and stick to it
The second tip we have for you when it comes to staying focused while studying is to create a routine and stick to it. A routine can only help you find your flow and focus. You can also experiment with different timings and hours of the day to see which one works for you.
For e.g., for me, working late night works wonders, as the environment is normally peaceful at night which means fewer distractions and more focus. Similarly, some people prefer studying early in the morning, when their minds are still fresh, free from any thoughts and distractions.
The thing is you have to figure out which time of the day works best for you.
3. Pre study ritual
For some people pre study ritual also works.
Your pre-study ritual might involve clearing your desk and putting away unnecessary material, setting and arranging your books in form of a neat pile on your desk, putting on a light, calming music, making yourself an energy drink, tea or a light snack, creating a to-do list.
A small exercise like this to set up your workspace will hardly take 5 to 10 minutes, but it will physically as well as mentally motivate you to study.
Additionally, with the studying space clear and free of any distractions, your mind will better be able to focus more on what’s important.
4. Block all the distracting apps on your mobile
Another great way to ensure focus is to blocking all the distracting apps on your mobile phone.
Trust me, or not, distracting websites and social media apps are the main reason why students can’t have a focused studying session these days.
Imagine you have started studying; your study session is going in full swing, and amid your study session, you receive a notification from one of your social apps, and BOOM, all your attention is taken up by a notification, it might even need an action on your part, and before you know you will easily spend hours on social media, totally forgetting your initial goal to study.
Apparently, once interrupted during your study session, small distractions like these not only distract you from minutes to hours, but also makes it difficult for you to refocus on your goals.
However, you can make use of many available site blockers that can temporarily block distracting sites and apps on your Windows, Mac book or even on your iOS devices.
With these site blockers you can get to choose which devices to block, the sites or apps you want to block and how for how long, and voila – now you will be able to focus better without having any social media distractions, once your study target is achieved for a day, you can always turn the blocker off.
5. Create a strategy for time management
Most of the time stress related to studies is a result of having poor or no study plan and lack of time management skills
Hence, when we finally start studying the night before an exam, we can easily get overwhelmed by the great amount of material to learn and start cramming which leads to severe anxiety and panic attacks.
Hence, it’s recommended to create a proper plan prior to start studying for exam, create your study goals and divide them into small manageable chunks. It’s also popularly known as the Pomodoro Technique.
The technique is extremely simple to work around with– select one task to work on at a time, set an alarm (that justified for the task), work on the task until your alarm rings, and then take a break.
The Technique normally demands you to work on a task for 25 minutes, completely uninterrupted.
Once the alarm rings, it requires you to take 3 to 5 minutes short break. Then, repeat the cycle for three more times, then finally take a break for 25-30 minutes.
This technique ensures that studying doesn’t cause you burnout and keeps you motivated and focused on your study goals.
According to a research dividing your study goals into short, multiple sessions greatly enhances your learning capability and your grasp on the subject for a longer period of time.
For some people cramming could work out best and they may even pass their exams, but the information learnt is more likely to be forgotten quickly as your minds haven’t fully grasped the concept.
Studying for a short 30 minute session is easier than studying everything in the last minute in one go.
6. Make use of tools
Sometimes having the right tools is all that’s needed, really.
What tools can do, you might ask?
Tools can help you organize, stay focused and manage your goals easily.
- Todoist– Todoist is a great free app that’s used for easy task management and a to-do list that breaks your tasks, and projects into manageable tasks.
It’s a great app to remember deadlines and build habits.
You can also easily share and team up on lists with others, and visualize your productivity trends.
Schooltraq – Schooltraq is a great online resource when it comes to an online academic planner for students. It lets you sort out, plan and organize all your homework and assignments and allows you to access them from any part of the world on all your devices.
Trello – Trello is another great resource for the organization and easy management of projects.
Trello allows you to better organize your tasks by visually breaking down large assignments into small; easily manageable tasks, into list and categories, assign due dates and members and hence help you predict your progress as you go.
Habitica – it’s a free but great habit building productivity app that almost turns your real life struggles into a game.
Habitica makes it easier for you to achieve your goals and envision your success by introducing in-game reward and punishments and a social community to support your cause.
7. Focus on skills, not grades
The aim of education should be to prepare students with the necessary skills and knowledge that enables them to contribute more effectively to the society. But it’s sad to see how easily one gets caught up in chasing a grade game.
One of the most common mistakes students make while studying is focusing too much on grades rather on the learning side.
They become so obsessed with grades that the passion for learning is almost killed.
However, if we focus on the learning rather than grades, it can drastically reduce stress and pressure associated with studying and achieving high grades, we would ultimately start enjoying learning and stop getting distracted.
8. Take frequent breaks that allow downtime
Scheduling downtime is crucial in your study sessions.
If you continuously study without having any downtime you will soon find yourself exhausted, and run out of energy as mental energy and self control are finite resources that soon burn out as the day goes on.
Hence, it’s recommended that you take frequent breaks, eat healthily, and go from coffee breaks to a short stroll in your garden in order to prevent yourself from burning out and staying focused for long.
Also, don’t forget to reward yourself after each study session to stay motivated.
Exercise comes with numerous benefits that not only benefit you physically but also mentally.
According to a research, exercise increases your blood flow to the brain which helps improving your ability to focus.
Regular exercise has also been associated with improving your mood swings, sleep and reducing stress and anxiety which ultimately improves your overall quality of life.
10. Keep tracking to measure your success
There’s a famous quote by Peter Drucker, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
So the point here to understand is you can’t achieve your goals without tracking your progress and measuring your success.
It hardly takes five minutes to assess your progress every week, review which routine, pattern or habits worked better for you and produced fruitful results, it will also help you spot your, not so successful strategies, modify your habits, and re-evaluate your workflow.
With the above tips, we have finally come to an end to our topic. It’s now up to you to decide which tips work best for you and which don’t.
There’s no quick, one solution that fits all, with a little trial and error, and with the help of above tips, we are certain, you would find yourself more focused this year while you set out to study.
Now it’s your turn, we would love to learn about the different tools and techniques used by you to staying focused.