Concentrating while studying can be hard, especially when the study material isn’t one of your favorite topics. While studying has never been the most exciting aspects of school, it doesn’t have to be the drag that it is made out to be. With a sense of determination, and by implementing some effective study techniques, even the dullest subjects can be conquered with increased concentration during a study session.
Preparing to Concentrate While Studying
Find an appropriate study environment.
Generally, it is a good idea to eliminate distractions as much as possible while studying, so you can concentrate on what’s in front of you. You want to find a place that is aesthetically pleasing and comfortable for you.
Find a quiet area, such as a private room or a library. If you like fresh air, go outside to an area that is reasonably free of distractions, and somewhere you can still connect to Internet, if necessary.
Keep in mind that everyone has their own studying environment preferences. While some prefer to study in quiet, others thrive in a bustling environment that mimics white noise.
Always believe in yourself.
If you don’t know your studying preferences, experiment in different areas, studying in a group or studying solo, studying with or without music, etc. Your ability to concentrate and be productive in different environments will reveal itself rather quickly.
Gather all of your studying materials.
Your studying materials include things like notes, textbooks, study guides, papers, highlighters, or anything else you might need to concentrate and be productive while studying; this includes a snack like a granola bar or nuts, and a bottle of water.
All your materials should be within arm’s reach so you don’t disrupt yourself by going to retrieve your things when you’re in the zone, studying.
Clear the study space.
Clear away materials you don’t need to study, and keep your space organized to reduce stress and allow for better concentration. Having any materials around you that don’t directly contribute to your concentration only serve as potential distractions.
This includes throwing away food containers, paper garbage, and other miscellaneous items.
Unplug from unnecessary electronics.
Turn off any electronics that you don’t need, especially cell phones, music listening devices, and perhaps computers (provided you don’t need a computer to study your material).
Your laptop or computer could serve as a huge source of distraction when you’re trying to concentrate.
Stick to a routine.
Arrange a schedule for study time, and keep with it. This allows you to build studying time into a habit, making you more likely to follow through on study plans. Be aware of your energy levels throughout the day. Are you more energetic (and therefore more able to concentrate) during the day or nighttime? It may help to study your harder subjects when you have the most energy.
Once you know the time of day that you’re more energetic, you can make sure you study during those times, increasing your ability to focus and concentrate on your work.
Find a study partner.
Sometimes reviewing material with someone else can help break up the monotony of studying, clarify confusing concepts by bouncing ideas off of someone else, and see things from a different perspective. This partner can help you keep on track with your studies, and concentrate on the task in front of you.
Some people may find study partners distracting. When looking for a study partner, try to find someone who is sensible and focused, maybe even more of an active student in class than you are. That way, you are always pushing yourself to stay matched with them.
Think of an incentive.
Before you start studying, think of something that can serve as a reward for you successfully studying. For example, after reviewing your history notes for 1 hour, talk to your roommate about your day, make dinner, or watch your favorite upcoming television program. An incentive can motivate you to concentrate on studying for a specific amount of time, and then you reward yourself for your solid block of time concentrating on your work.
For bigger projects, develop a bigger incentive to reward yourself for your extra hard work.
Maintaining Concentration While Studying
Find an effective study method.
Finding an effective study method that suits you can help you stay concentrated while studying. Again, every person studies differently, so you will have to experiment and find a method that works best for you to maintain focus. Essentially, the more ways you can experience and interact with what you’re learning, the better your chances will be of staying on task and absorbing what you’re reviewing. Sometimes, simply reviewing readings, notes, or quizzes can serve as an effective way to study, but some other study methods include:
Making notecards. For vocabulary or academic terms, making notecards and flashcards and repeatedly reviewing them can help with memorizing words, terms, and concepts.
Drawing. Some studying requires reviewing structures and diagrams. Copying those diagrams and structures, and drawing them yourself allows you to create and visualize what it is you’re trying to study, therefore making it more memorable.
Creating an outline. Creating an outline may help with mapping out bigger concepts including the smaller details. It can also help create visual sections and groupings of information that may help recalling details when exam time approaches.
Using elaborative interrogation. Elaborative interrogation is basically producing an explanation for why something you’re learning is true. It’s like you coming up with a defensive reason for why a fact or statement is important. You could also use this method to talk about concepts out loud and make yourself more familiar with the material by justifying and explaining it’s significance.
Be an active learner.
When reading or listening to a lecture, try to engage with the material. This means instead of just being present with the material, challenge it and yourself. Ask questions about what is being lectured, connect the material to your real life, compare it with other information you have learned throughout your life and discuss and explain this new material to other people.
Actively participating with your studies makes the material more meaningful and able to hold your interest, which, in turn, makes concentrating on it easier.
Practice some mental concentration strategies.
Working on improving your concentration takes time and patience. After practicing some of these strategies, you’ll probably begin to see improvement within days. Some concentration strategies include:
Be here now. This simple and effective strategy helps bring back your wandering mind to the task at hand: When you become aware of the fact that your thoughts are no longer on your studies, say to yourself, “Be here now,” and try to reign in your wandering thoughts, and focus back on your study material.
For example, you’re in class and your attention strays from the lecture to the fact that you’re craving coffee and the last bagel at the café is probably gone by now. As you say to yourself, “Be here now,” you fix your attention back to the lecture, and keep it there for as long as you can.
Keep track of your mental wanderings. Mark down every time you catch your mind drifting away from what you should be concentrating on. As you get better and better with bringing yourself back to the present task, the number of times you break concentration should be less and less.
Allow for some time to worry.
Research has shown that when people put aside a designated time to worry and think about things that stress them out, people worry 35% less within four weeks. That proves that when you let yourself worry and think about things during a certain amount of time, you spend less time worrying and getting distracted when you should be concentrating on other things.
If you ever find yourself worrying about something while you’re trying to focus and concentrate, remember that you have a special time to worry about things. You can even try the “be here now” method to bring yourself back to concentrating.
For example, give yourself a half hour before you start studying to worry about upcoming exams, your family, or whatever else is on your mind. Worry during this elected time so when you have to study, you can put all your attention and focus on doing that.
Set study goals.
While the subjects you need to study might not be the most interesting topics, you can shift your perspective while studying to make concentrating easier. By setting goals for yourself, you change your studying experience from having to “get through,” the subject, to reaching check points and continually succeeding in progressing with your study session.
For example, instead of having the mentality of, “I have to study all of chapter 6 tonight,” set a goal for yourself with something like, “I will study sections 1-3 by 4:30, and then take a walking break.” That way, conquering a study session transforms from a large, daunting task, to a smaller, more achievable portions. This sectional break up of study time increasing your willingness to concentrate and reach your studying goal.
Study with short breaks.
Normally, studying for about an hour at a time and then taking a 5-10 minute break is the most effectual study schedule to maintain concentration on a given task. Taking a short break gives your mind time to relax, so it can be ready to stay productive and absorb information.
Move around. Get up and stretch after sitting for about an hour. You could do some yoga, push ups, or any other kind of physical activity to get your blood pumping. These short breaks in studying will make the time you spend studying more productive and attentive.
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