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9 Tips on How To Stay Focused While Studying

06.02.2023 • 8 min read

Jennifer Rivera

Subject Matter Expert

This article explains the main reasons that cause a student to be unable to focus while studying and provides tips that will help you study smarter, not harder. It also explains why maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good study habits are important.

  1. Why Can’t I Concentrate While Studying?

  2. Best Practices To Stay Focused While Studying

  3. Why Develop Good Study Habits?

Want to know what’s super frustrating?

Sitting down to study and…you just can’t concentrate.

You’re fidgeting. Exhausted. Your brain is whirring over 1,000 different things.

There’s a big test tomorrow, and you need to study.

But your brain isn’t cooperating.

What can you do?

In this article, we will explore how to concentrate on your studies and things to help you focus while studying.

Why Can’t I Concentrate While Studying?

Many distractions can derail studying. Sometimes, the environment around you makes you lose your focus. Other times, your body is worn out and not ready to concentrate.

Let’s look at the common reasons students can’t concentrate while studying.

You’re Sleep Deprived

Not getting enough sleep does more than just make you tired; it makes it hard to do the things you have to do and the things you love to do.

According to this Harvard study, sleep is not prioritized in college, but it should be! Inadequate sleep causes a brain fog that makes it difficult to focus while studying.

Setting a schedule, having a bedtime routine, and making sure you get good sleep on a regular basis is one of the best ways you can promote concentration.

You Haven’t Practiced Concentrating

We don’t normally think of concentration as something to practice. But we need to. If you find your mind constantly distracted when you’re trying to work, start small.

Try concentrating for 15 minutes during a study session.

But don’t forget to set up your environment for success which means:

  • Your study space should be quiet

  • Phones on silent mode (or in another room)

  • Computers on full screen mode (or not on at all)

Be sure to turn your TV off, and find instrumental music that helps you study. Each week, increase your concentration time until you are up to 2 hours at a stretch.

You Aren’t Getting Enough Exercise

Exercise is fuel for the brain as much as food is. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise releases endorphins that help you relieve stress. Exercise also raises your dopamine levels, which makes you feel good. So don’t just limit your exercise to your morning or evening treadmill sessions.

Exercise while you are studying as well! At least once an hour, take a 5-minute break to get up and take a walk. Don’t take your phone—or if you do, put it on silent mode and don’t scroll through the apps or social media. Just take a 5- or 10-minute walk to stretch your legs.

If it’s too cold to go outside, take a trip up and down the stairs in the house. Do enough movement to get the blood flowing.

Best Practices To Stay Focused While Studying

You can practice several tactics to improve your focus. Everything you do will affect how you perform during study time—from what you eat and drink to where and when you study.

So here are 9 effective study tips you can incorporate to make your study time even more productive.

1. Good Food Increases Productivity

Fuel your body and your brain. Eat healthy foods that are well-balanced.

Too much sugar and/or caffeine can stimulate your body and keep you awake—but you’re in for a big crash afterward. Balance what you eat and drink, and don’t eat or drink to “stay awake.”

Foods that will help you concentrate on your studies include fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, ginseng tea, and drinking lots of water.

Foods to avoid while studying are energy drinks, anything with a lot of caffeine, sugary desserts, or greasy snacks like potato chips and french fries. These are more likely to put you to sleep and make it hard to concentrate on your studies.

2. Go to Bed and Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day—yes, even on weekends—can do wonders for your productivity, especially your energy levels. Getting your body into a routine will help you be able to concentrate when it’s time to study.

As a bonus, you’ll be getting the nightly sleep your body needs, instead of trying to make up for sleep deprivation by sleeping in on weekends. You’ll reap the benefits in your health, stress levels, and alertness.

3. Put Your Distractions to Sleep

When you’re studying, put your phone on “do not disturb” mode. Make sure it includes all of your social media. If you’re worried about emergencies, you can override the do-not-disturb function so someone can contact you if needed.

Turn off the TV and the video games, and put the remotes in another room. Try loading a focus program—like Freedom—on your computer to block any distracting websites you might be tempted to visit while studying.

Finally, set a timer and put on some relaxing music to set the mood and eliminate any background noise. Take a deep, slow breath, and start studying.

4. Have a Study Space

Find a place where you can study without disruption. Your study environment can be in your apartment or dorm, but it might also be a library or a coffee shop.

Wherever your workspace is, make sure it's the right temperature for you, and that it's the right comfort level—not so comfortable you will go to sleep. Be sure you have good lighting and a space for all the books you might need.

5. Know Exactly What You Are Studying

It’s not enough to know what subject you’re going to study. Prioritize what’s most important—which may not be the assignment due next.

Make a study plan and know your specific study goals: what pages you’re going to read, what assignment you’re going to work on, or what test youre going to study for.

Plan to work for a set amount of time. You might not estimate correctly, but your estimates will get better and better after you do this for a while.

6. Stick to a Schedule

Just as you need to get up and go to bed at the same time, it’s best to have a schedule for studying as well.

While it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same time each day, it should be the same time each week if possible. For example, your body and your mind will get used to studying English on Tuesdays at 3 pm, and that regular routine will make it less of a struggle to get started each time.

7. Practice Good Focus

To increase your focus time and decrease procrastination, try the Pomodoro technique. This is a technique where you stay in focus mode for 25 minutes, and then take a short 5-minute break.

After 4 of these sessions, you take a longer break of 20 minutes. By using a timer like this, you can train your brain to focus in longer stretches.

8. Teach Yourself

Sometimes the best way to learn a concept is to teach it. Practice teaching yourself the material you’re studying to be sure you understand it clearly. If you are actively involved in studying, you will stay focused.

Depending on where you’re studying, it might be a good idea to get up and talk through a concept out loud. Or go into an empty classroom and draw out formulas or theories on a whiteboard or chalkboard. This type of active learning can help you remember things more deeply.

9. Have Some Downtime

Sometimes people spend much of their downtime worrying. Maybe you’re thinking about an assignment you have coming up or worrying about a test the next day.

Let your downtime be your downtime. If you spend a scheduled session studying, you’ll be less likely to worry. But if you do, take a deep breath and tell yourself that you have a schedule and a plan. And then allow yourself to enjoy your downtime.

Why Develop Good Study Habits?

As we all know, college is expensive. If you don’t find ways to focus on your studies, then everything has gone to waste. Learning can be fun, but only if you are able to find ways to train your brain and your body to get the most out of school.

Having good study habits is part of a healthy lifestyle for any student. Taking care of yourself with adequate sleep, healthy food, relaxed downtime, and a structured schedule will help you focus while studying and give you a better college experience overall.

Good study habits will give you a strong foundation that allows you to do your best in college and beyond. When you focus on studying, you’ll naturally become better at tasks like writing and staying organized.

You’ll be motivated to go to class and apply your increased powers of focus and concentration during lectures.

If you focus on studying, you’ll get the best of everything college has to offer.

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