Mind | Written by: Valerie Sizelove

13 Ways to Focus When Studying

No matter how old you are, studying can be a daunting task. From middle school students to adults in college, all face points when they need to sit down for some power-learning.

But, it wouldn’t be learning if it wasn’t difficult. In fact, people face all kinds of challenges while studying for tests, presentations and projects. Sometimes it’s just hard to focus when studying.

Luckily, many people’s study issues can be identified and improved upon to make study time become more of an enjoyment than a dread. The challenge is identifying those problems and working actively to fix them so that you can study effectively.

Common Study Problems

Successfully studying involves so many factors that there are lots of reasons it can go wrong. These are some common problems people face when they’re trying to study:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Distractions
  • Lack of motivation
  • Procrastination
  • Dislike of the subject
  • Time management issues
  • Boredom
  • Pressure and stress

Each study culprit can be addressed in multiple ways. Sometimes it just means finding the methods that match an individual’s unique problems and learning style.

13 Tips for Focusing When Studying

Once you’ve identified the reasons you’re having trouble studying, you can begin looking for solutions. You may have to try a few strategies before you’re studying more productively. With persistence and the right combination of study strategies, you’ll be acing tests in no time.

Here are 13 study tips to help you get started:

1. Find the right environment

Everything surrounding you affects how you study. Distracting background noise, lighting, temperature, phone alerts and more can be responsible for breaking your study focus.

Study somewhere you’re comfortable, relaxed and focused. This may mean closing yourself off in a room or going to the library, depending on your personal preferences.

2. Plan your study session

If there’s a lot to study, don’t just dive right in. Determine how much study time you have and how you can spread everything out in that time window. Set time limits for each topic of study so you know you can at least visit all of them.

3. Eliminate technology distractions

Today, study often takes place on your computer. That puts social media right at hand, and it’s easy to use as a distraction when you’re bored or stuck. Now, you’re spending precious study time avoiding studying by clicking through your friend’s wedding pictures.

Make a rule to not open social media during study time, and stick to it.

4. Take regular breaks

Rather than exhaust yourself by pushing through long tedious hours of study, take breaks at set intervals. Perhaps every 45 minutes you do a few laps around the hallway or perform a small tidying task you’ve been meaning to get to.

Taking regular breaks from studying will let your brain rest and your mind process other thoughts that might be desperate to get through. It will be easier to study at a steady pace and absorb information effectively.

5. Exercise regularly to improve concentration

Regular exercise improves your learning and memory function. In 2018, The Harvard Health Blog stated that people who exercised at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week, or 150 minutes per week, showed increased memory abilities compared with those who didn’t.

Aerobic exercise increases the size of the brain’s hippocampus, the part that controls memory and learning.

6. Choose one thing

When you have multiple study beasts to tame, work on just one topic at a time. Allow yourself to devote all your attention to this one study goal until it’s complete and you feel good about it. Only then should you move on to another topic.

It may seem like multitasking or switching between topics is the quickest way to get through your studies, but by focusing on just one thing at a time, you’ll be able to better absorb and remember the information.

7. Get enough sleep

Like exercise, sleep is also important to optimal brain function. When people don’t get enough sleep, their brain is less able to control focus, attention and memory function while studying.

Your mood can also be affected by lack of sleep, which can impact the way your study session goes, too. Get at least eight hours of sleep a night and eliminate distractions which could wake you so your brain receives the restorative deep sleep it needs.

8. Create a routine

Humans are creatures of habit, and that applies to studying too. If you have trouble making yourself get started, create a ritual where you will study after you perform a certain task, like eating dinner.

Or, have a special place you like to go study, so getting yourself there will automatically awaken the study mode within your brain.

Perhaps there are particular snacks you enjoy while studying, which you can save only for that time. Routines help you look forward to studying and going through the actions more easily.

9. Figure out what motivates you

Say you’re studying the least interesting topic in the world. You could care less about the information, so what motivation does your brain have to remember the useless details? Find motivation. There has to be some way this topic can relate to your life.

Does it affect you? Those you love? Is there one small sub-topic you find interesting?

If you can find a way to be interested in at least part of the topic, you can reframe the way you think about the rest of the information. If you understand how the topic relates to yourself you’ll be more motivated to learn about it.

10. Find the right learning style

The problem could be that you’ve never been taught a learning and study style that works well with your personality. Whether you’re a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner, your study style should reflect that.

You’ll never absorb information the same way in an inappropriate learning style as you will in one that fits your needs. Seek a tutor or a friend who can help you explore new study styles.

11. Be patient and believe in yourself

Don’t expect to become a master of all the information in one short study session. Take patience in the learning process and understand that speed doesn’t mean mastery. At the same time, believe in your ability to learn the information.

If study is slow-going, don’t give up on yourself. Get the help you need, but believe that you will do the learning you need to do.

12. If it’s a distraction, don’t listen to music

The common trend is to listen to music while you study. It sets the ambience and keeps your mind occupied while you work. But for some people, music keeps their minds too occupied. It could actually be a distraction from studying, especially when you’re paying attention to lyrics or guitar riffs.

Perhaps a simple adjustment to the style of music could help your distraction, or you may need to eliminate it altogether. Some people just need silence to be able to focus. If you often use music, give studying a try without it. That could be what’s holding you back from full concentration.

13. Perform physical activity if you’re a kinesthetic learner

Some people just naturally need to feel on the go, all the time. Often, these people are kinesthetic learners, meaning they need to be moving in order to absorb information effectively.

You can find creative ways that allow you to “fidget” as you learn. Perhaps you’d learn well while sitting on a yoga ball and gently bouncing. Some people benefit from moving their hands, using a fidget spinner or stress ball to keep them grounded.

Could It Be a Deeper Issue?

If studying is an issue for you, it’s probably the way you’re doing it.

After giving the above tips a try, if you’re still having trouble studying, you might want to seek the help of a professional who can assess you for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or another learning disability.

These learning conditions sometimes present in adults, even when they didn’t previously have trouble with learning and studying.

If you have a learning or attention disability, you’ll be able to seek more specific help to meet your needs and help you become a successful studier.

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