Student studying

Maintaining focus and concentration when studying

Staying focused while studying is crucial to making good use of your time, allowing you to be more efficient and accomplishing more in less time. However, in reality, it can be very difficult, especially at first, to maintain concentration when studying.

During my first year of university, I noticed that quite often, I was distracted by anything and everything. These small distractions would kill a few minutes at a time, and eventually, they would add up to an hour or two of time lost in a day. In this article, I will go over a few aspects you should consider to help you stay focused when studying.

Find or create a comfortable study space

A good study space is one of the most overlooked and underrated aspects of learning and studying. An adequate place to study can put you in the right mindset to learn. Try to use the space purely for studying. This means you should avoid eating, calling your friends, or doing anything else that isn’t related to learning in that space. I have found that this helps me stay focused on working, so that when I enter my study space, I avoid doing other activities that would derail my studying.

Listening to music can be a good way to stay focused but it can also become counterproductive. When I first started studying during my first year, I would listen to music that I would have listened to ordinarily, when not studying. However, after a while, I realized that I was often singing along with the songs and losing focus on what I was trying to learn. Later, when I switched to classical or instrumental music, I found myself staying more focused on my work. However, everyone has different tastes: you may study better when listening to a different type of music, sounds, or even silence. It is up to you to find what works best for you.

Most importantly…

Avoid distractions

It goes without saying: Remove any source of distraction from your place of study. To stay focused on the task at hand, put your phone in a different room or turn it off completely. It has happened to me so many times: a simple glance to see if I have received a message turns into 20 minutes of scrolling through Instagram or Twitter. Distractions come in many shapes and forms, such as the sound of a nearby television, your phone, the view outside a window, or even just something unrelated to studying that you may be thinking about. If you find yourself impulsively distracted by social media or the internet, you can download applications that allow you to block certain websites or apps from your laptop or phone for a specific period. If you are having trouble remaining focused during your entire study period, try the Pomodoro technique.

Pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro technique is a way of studying in cycles. First, you set realistic and measurable goals to attain during your study time. Once you’ve done that, you set a timer for 25 minutes. During this time, you study hard with complete focus and no distractions. When the timer rings, you take a five-minute break, during which you leave the study area. You can grab a snack, drink water, use the restroom, do anything you desire. After the five minutes are up, you return to studying and repeat another 25/5-minute cycle. After completing four cycles, you take a longer break of 30-minutes-to-an-hour. You can always change the time periods to whatever works best for you: they don’t necessarily need to be 25/5. 

I find this technique to be a great way to keep myself on task and accountable for my time. It encourages me to stay fully focused on the task at hand while limiting any distractions. In addition, the scheduled breaks allow me to pace myself so that I stay refreshed and maintain high levels of productivity. Taking breaks is crucial!

Take breaks

Taking breaks is crucial to maintaining a good level of mental sharpness and focus throughout the entire study session. Otherwise, I find that if I don’t take any breaks, I progressively lose my concentration and, consequently, I become less productive until I inevitably burn out. When studying, if I find myself becoming inefficient, it is usually due to a lack of concentration that can be attributed to any number of reasons: fatigue, stress, distractions, etc. In that case, as hard as it may seem at the time, especially when I have a lot of work to get done, I force myself to take a break. I do an activity that allows me to reset my brain, such as exercising or just taking a simple walk outside. Your break can be anything you enjoy: I know someone who knits during their breaks, which I find great! When I come back to study, I find myself feeling refreshed, re-energized and ready to tackle the work. 

Best of luck in the semester and in your future endeavors!