Online Learning

7 Proven Ways to Improve Your Focus When Studying

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We’ve all been there.

You’re trying to study but your brain is like a wet sponge – it just isn’t taking any more information on. You keep getting distracted.

You promise yourself that you’ll just watch one more YouTube video of cute cats and then you’ll get back to work. 

There are days when it seems like, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to get our heads in the right place for study. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Focusing and concentration are vital to studying and learning information in a sustainable and productive way, and they can be improved.

So, to help you improve your concentration, we’ve created a list of 7 methods you can use to improve your focus when you’re studying.


1. Identify and eliminate physical distractions…

Just as we all learn in different ways, we can all get distracted in different ways too.

For example, music helps a lot of people concentrate when they’re at work or completing a task. For some people though, it can be just as distracting as a fire-alarm sounding at full-blast.

Identify the things are that distract you when you’re studying and try to eliminate them.

If you get easily distracted by staring out the window at the street, shut the blinds or curtains. If you have a noisy neighbour or flatmate, put some earplugs in. If you have a dripping tap in the kitchen, tighten it.

Basically, identify the problem and try to fix it – or lessen its effect – as much as you can.


2. ..and digital ones too!

Distractions aren’t necessarily just physical things, either. They can also be digital. Your phone is probably the biggest digital distraction that most of us have. So is the internet.

Unless you’re a complete learning machine, you’ll probably find that your attention starts to wander after a prolonged period of studying, so it’s natural to get distracted occasionally. That said, it’s something best avoided because it can really affect your productivity.

A recent survey of 34 education professionals found that the most common ways students got distracted when studying were mainly digital ones:

  • Checking emails
  • Texting/talking to others
  • Browsing the internet
  • Socialising

Do you get distracted in any of these ways? Turn off your phone and consider using some of these great tools to limit the risk of getting distracted online.


3. Set study targets

No matter what you’re studying, whether it’s human resources, marketing or accounting, science says that setting study targets can significantly improve your focus when learning.

Studies by psychologists Latham and Locke have suggested that setting goals can improve productivity by 11% to 25%.

When we’re completely concentrating on a task, and we’re 100% committed to it, our brain enters a ‘flow state’ – its optimal performance level. This helps us to devote as much brain power as possible to getting a task completed.

It’s not as rare as you might think and you’ve probably experienced this state before in your life – it’s that feeling of being utterly absorbed by a particular task.

Having clear goals which tell you what you want to achieve and how you’ll achieve it can make it easier for your brain to get into this state.


4. Take short breaks regularly

It sounds counter-productive, but taking short breaks more often can help you improve your focus and concentration.

We take breaks all the time without even realising it. Breaks are essential for recharging our focus, motivation and willpower.

Science has suggests that the part of your brain involved in mental tasks for instance, the prefrontal cortex, benefits from regular breaks when it’s focusing on one task.

And a famous study of judges suggests that breaks can even alter the quality of our decision-making. Psychologists found that they were more likely to grant parole to prisoners when they had taken two breaks in their working day, than if they had not taken any at all.

Further studies suggest that the human brain can only concentrate on a task for an hour and a half before we need a 15 minute break.


5. Pick the right time to study

We all have different times of the day where we just seem to be more productive. Our bodies have a natural ‘circadian rhythm’ – a routine that regulates hormones, alertness and metabolism.

Here’s a simple explanation of it. The human body has evolved to match the cycle of day and night, which is 24 hours long. Our brain and body are at their most active during daylight, and at their quietest during the darkness.

Of course, in reality, predicting when we’re going to focus the best is a different story. The routines of writers can tell us a lot about productivity. Ernest Hemingway, for instance, found that he wrote best really early in the morning – just after dawn. For Franz Kafka, it was late at night. The best time to concentrate will vary between individuals.

Finding the time when you’re at the peak of your productivity can help you work with your brain and not against it. Do some investigating, discover when your most productive period is and work out a study plan based around it.


6. Train your brain!

If you have trouble concentrating, don’t worry – you can actually train your brain to improve your focus.

Just like you’d train your leg muscles and respiratory system if you were going to run a marathon, it also makes sense to train your brain when you’re going to need to use a lot of concentration. You can do that by completing activities that exercise your cognition – your memory, attention and attention.

How do you do that? With games! Here are some that are good for developing your cognitive skills:

  • Crosswords
  • Jigsaws
  • Sudoko
  • Word games
  • Riddles and brain teasers

7. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep doesn’t just help your body to heal – research has shown that it affects a range of mental functions, from learning and memory through to motivation and concentration.

Cutting down on your use of digital devices before bed can help you to get a better night’s sleep, which, in turn, can help you to improve your focus when you’re studying.

Devices like laptop screens, mobiles and digital televisions give out blue light – a type of light which messes around with our body’s circadian rhythm that regulates sleep patterns. Being exposed to blue light directly before bed can make it harder to get to sleep, so make sure you don’t have any screen-time for at least an hour before bed.

After reading these tips, we hope that you’re able to improve your focus and concentration and ace your study objectives!


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