How to Focus on Studying: Introduction
We’ve all been there: Sitting at a desk or table studying intently, and then…Wham! Thoughts from all over the place invade our brains and we get distracted. If it’s not our thoughts, it’s our roommates. Or neighbors. Or kids.
These study intruders take over, causing us to lose focus. And focus, friends, is what you need to be able to study for any of the big tests.
So how do you focus?
These six steps will show you how to regain focus if you get distracted, and how to set yourself up for focus success before your study session ever begins.
1.Get Rid of Obvious Distractions
It’s not smart to study with your cell phone on, even if it’s set to vibrate. As soon as you get a text, you’re going to look. You’re human! You can’t focus on studying if you’re chatting with someone else, too. So the cell phone is off limits.
Turn off the home phone, too, along with the computer (unless you’re prepping on it) and any music with vocals. Study music should be lyric-free! Post a sign on your door for people to stay away. If you have kids, find a babysitter for an hour. If you have roommates, head out of the house to the least popular spot in the library. For that one study session, make yourself inaccessible to people and other external study distractions, so you don’t lose focus when someone wants to chat.
2. Anticipate Your Physical Needs
If you’re studying intently, you’re going to get thirsty. Grab a beverage before you open the book. You may even need a power snack while you’re working, so grab some brain food, too. Use the bathroom, put on comfortable clothes (but not cozy), set the air/heat to best suit you. If you anticipate your physical needs before you start studying, you’ll be less likely to need to get out of your seat and lose the focus you worked hard to gain.
3. Choose an Appropriate Time
If you’re a morning person, choose the a.m. for your study session; if you’re a night owl, choose the evening. You know yourself better than anyone else, so choose the time when you’re at the height of your brain power and the least tired. It’ll be much more difficult to focus if you’re battling fatigue, too.
4. Answer Your Internal Questions
Sometimes the distractions aren’t coming from the external – they’re invading from within! We’ve all sat down to study and had worries and other internal distractions invade our brains. “When is she going to call me? When am I going to get a raise?”
It seems silly, but if you answer your own internal questions, you’ll focus your mind back where you want it to go. If necessary, write the the worry down, solve it in a simplistic manner and move on.
5. Get Physical
Some people are just antsy. They need to be doing something, and their bodies don’t make the connection that they are doing something during studying. Sound familiar? If you’re one of these kinesthetic learners, get out a few things to anticipate an “ants in your pants” issue: a pen, a rubber band, and a ball.
Pen: Underline words when you read. Cross off incorrect answers when you’re taking a practice test. Moving just your hand may be enough to shake off the jitters. If it’s not…
Rubber band. Stretch it. Wrap it around your pen. Play with the rubber band while you’re answering questions. Still feeling jumpy?
Ball. Read a question sitting down, and then stand and bounce the ball against the floor as you think of an answer. Still can’t focus?
Jump. Read a question sitting down, then stand and do ten jumping jacks. Sit back down and answer the question.
6. Get Rid of the Negativity
It’s impossible to focus on studying if you have all sorts of negative ideas about studying. If you’re one of those people who say, “I hate studying!” or “I’m too upset/tired/sick/whatever to study, then you must learn how to flip those negative statements into positive ones, so you don’t automatically shut down when you open up your notes. It’s amazing how quickly studying can become an awful burden with just a poor frame of mind. Here are the top three negative statements people make about studying, and a quick, easy way to fix each one of them.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a little quiet if you’re studying in a public place. Here are four polite ways to get people to pipe down when you’re trying to study.
Use a good pen like the Pilot Dr. Grip. Sometimes a leaky or uncomfortable pen can undermine your study session.
Wear comfortable, not cozy clothes. Your mind will associate relaxing with sweatpants or pj’s. Choose something you’d wear to school or a movie.
Tell yourself something positive in case you get distracted despite following the steps above: “I know I lost focus, but I’m going to try again and make sure I’m successful this time.” Positive encouragement goes a long way even if it’s coming from you.
Drink your favorite beverage while studying as a reward for your ability to stay focused. Keep it non-alcoholic!
What You Need:
- A good pen
- A prep book
- Scrap paper
- Lyric-free music
- Your favorite beverage
- Brain Food
- A rubber band
- A tennis ball
- A quiet place to study
Conquer Time Management Once and For All
Time management is key to working efficiently. If you use the following steps, they’ll help get you feel less stressed and become more productive.
- Figure out where your time goes.
Print two copies of the “Where Do I Spend My Time” spreadsheet pdf at the bottom of this page. One chart is for your typical weekly routine right now. The other is for your new, organized routine. Fill out the first chart with your current weekly routine, and fill out the second chart with your absolute imperatives (work and sleep.)
- Reconsider the time drains.
Take a look at your chart and see what your time drains are – the useless portions of the day that are unimportant to you where you’re spinning your wheels and accomplishing next to nothing. Did you find that you spend three hours watching TV at night? Or messing with Facebook or Twitter? Are you running up to the store three days a week because you haven’t taken the time to make a list? That’s a time drain!
On your new chart, reevaluate your time drains. Where could you cut back to free some hours for other, more important things? You’ll gain more hours than you even realize if you cut out just a few of the time drains.
- Schedule productivity.
After you’ve freed up some time by banishing the time drains, mark some “productivity” time into your schedule. Physically set an appointment with yourself every day to manage your life, and things won’t pile up all at once. If you gain an extra hour in the evening by cutting back your Facebook time, then spend it catching up with what you’ve been leaving out – plan some meals at home, manage your bills, reorganize the closet, fix the leaky faucet, go through the mail, make a grocery list.
On your new chart, schedule some productivity time right now.
- Schedule leisure.
It might sound silly to plan free time, but if you don’t do it, you’ll take it anyway, and it typically cuts into the productivity time. So plan some fun, relaxing things to do in your week. Make them a priority by getting rid of time drains to do it. You’ll be surprised how truly relaxing it feels to have scheduled leisure time because there’s no guilt; you’ve taken care of everything else you needed to do, so you’ve earned it!
On your new chart, schedule some leisure time right now.
- Plan for setbacks.
You’ll never be able to stop that railroad crossing from pushing you off schedule. Your kids will inevitably throw a temper tantrum as you’re trying to get them off to school. But if you plan for the occasional disastrous day, it’s easy to recover.