One thing that many students struggle with during the course of their academic years is staying focused when studying. Distractions are everywhere – iPhones, video games, friends, parties - you name it. To improve your concentration and motivation to study, follow these 11 strategies for how to focus on studying, all backed by research.
1. Study in a Group
If you’re looking for ways on how to motivate yourself to study, forming a study group is a very effective strategy that enhances learning. In fact, more than 20 years of academic research has consistently demonstrated that fact. Groups share unique insights and learn from each other.
The benefits of group study include:
- Externalizes thoughts better
- Keeps study sessions stimulating and fun
- Maintains accountability
- Provides support and motivation to study
- Helps clarify any questions
2. Create the Right Setting
Where you study is almost as important as what you study. Studies have found that the place in which you study affects how you’ll remember that information.
- Pick one place and stick with it – over time, your brain will catch on and you’ll enter “study mode” much sooner.
- Get comfortable, but not too comfortable. Change out of your pajamas before you open your books to give your mind a signal that it’s time to get down to business and study, not lounge.
- You’ll remember something more in the place where you first learned it, so you may want to consider re-creating the environment in which you will be tested in.
- Look for natural light to bring real warmth and vitality to the space.
- Keep your space sacred. If you’ve created a space you truly love, you may be tempted to do everything there – watch Netflix, chat with friends, eat dinner – but whenever possible, keep your study space reserved only for studying.
When you finally sit down in your designated study spot, the last thing you want to be doing is getting up multiple times to go grab an item. When you get up too much, you often lose the momentum or the “study bubble” that was so hard to reach. Making the right efforts to make sure you have everything around you will minimize the need to get up.
Consider setting up your space with the following items:
- Water bottle
- Post-it notes
- Pens, pencils and erasers
- Non-messy snacks
3. Listen to Calming Music
- Music produces several positive effects on a human’s body and brain. Enhancing your studying with music activates both the left and right brain simultaneously. The activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory.
- Music is effective at reducing stress, decreasing blood pressure and anxiety and lowering heart rate. It’s a great way to strengthen your resolve with being overwhelmed. So, when you’re looking for ways on how to get motivated to study, turn on relaxing music to get your mindset in the right place and keep stress at bay.
4. Limit Distracting Apps and Websites
The goal of a study space is to maximize the attention you can devote to studying while minimizing the amount of effort necessary to do so. It can be extremely difficult to achieve this if your space is full of distractions.
It’s useful to start with what to leave out and then add things from there. Getting in the mood to study will differ from person to person. However, here are some things you should probably avoid in your space if you want to remain productive:
- Cell Phone
- Video Games
- Lots of Open Tabs
- Messy Food
Distractions threaten your study output. In fact, research shows that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus after being distracted. Considering this research, those seemingly small interruptions can really add up throughout the day, making it much harder to get back into your groove.
One of the top tips we can recommend how to motivate yourself to study is through regular exercise. A recent study suggests that what we do physically plays an important role in long-term memory. In the study, it is mentioned:
“The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.”
A workout session as little as 30 minutes long pumps extra blood to your brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients it needs to perform at max efficiency. Cardio exercises are especially known to flood the brain with chemicals that enhance memory function, including problem solving and decision making.
Benefits of exercise for students include:
- Increased energy levels
- Increased brain function
- Increased attentiveness
Your brain is a trainable “muscle” that needs daily exercise. For instance, meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. When you practice meditation consistently, you’re flexing your cerebral cortex, which increases your ability to absorb and understand new information and adapt to any situation, making this a reliable method to use when you can’t focus on studying.
The most extensive study to date on how meditation improves your ability to focus suggests that meditating could prevent age-related mental decline. It is the first study of its kind to offer evidence that intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention.
YouTube is a great resource for individuals getting started with meditation. Calm is also a popular go-to mobile app that is recommended by top psychologists, therapists and mental health experts for beginner, intermediate and advanced meditators.
Benefits of Meditation for Students include:
- Better focus
- Reduced academic stress
- Rise in IQ levels
- Brain integrity and efficiency
- Reduction in depression and anxiety
- Reduction in destructive behavior (i.e. drugs/alcohol)
Happiness and increased confidence
7. Eat a Nutritious Meal
The old saying, “You are what you eat” has never been more true. Science tells us that some foods increase awareness and mental sharpness, while other foods make us lethargic and give us brain fog.
If you are wondering how to concentrate on studying, choosing foods to eat beforehand that are packed with vitamins and minerals, good fats, and rich in antioxidants, is a great way to provide the energy needed to keep your brain sharp.
- Broccoli: Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Choline to keep memory sharp
- Avocado: Mono-saturated fats to keep blood sugar levels in the right range
- Blueberries: Gallic acid to protect brain from degeneration and stress
- Bone Broth: Collagen to help boost your immune system
- Dark Chocolate: Flavonoids to improve blood flow to the brain and heart
Walnuts: Antioxidants to improve your cognitive health
8. Take an Energy Supplement
- If you’re a student, chances are you’ve tried using caffeine to help you study at least once. But you’re probably more familiar with caffeine sources such as an energy drink or coffee. While the above do a good job at providing immediate energy, the negative effects can often far outweigh the benefits for students.
- For starters, coffee, energy drinks and tea provide many individuals with long bursts of energy that interrupt their regular habits like sleeping and can even give them heart palpitations or jitters. That in and of itself is enough to cause students to become distracted or sleep deprived.
- Luckily, there’s an alternative for students seeking a quick energy boost without the lasting negative effects associated with most common caffeine sources. Neuro’s energy caffeine gum contains vitamins B6 and B12, which have been scientifically shown to boost focus and cognition. Neuro’s products include 40mg of caffeine, which is just the right amount to kick-start your study session without giving you that dreaded crash or jitters.
9. Stop Eye Strain After Late-Night Study Sessions
- Sleep is crucial to keeping your brain in prime condition for effective learning. But we all have important tests, jobs and families to attend to, which can keep us up late trying to fit as much as we can into our day.
- If you’re someone who studies at night, whether by choice or not, you’re likely no stranger to eye strain, blurry vision and headaches. Even worse, the blue light from your screen can make it challenging to fall asleep. Fortunately, there is a solution to relieve your tired eyes.
- Software apps like f.lux and Twilight automatically change the brightness and color temperature throughout the day, depending on the sun outside. The blue light of a bright screen tricks our brains into thinking it’s still daylight, which messes up our internal circadian rhythms. Once you get used to the orange hue of the software, you’ll be more focused and have better sleep.
10. Practice Desk De-Stress
Our breath is not something we ordinarily pay much attention to.
It’s second nature, and something we do without even noticing.
When feeling overwhelmed and looking for ways on how to focus on studying, sometimes all you need to do is regroup and focus on your breath.
Try the 4-7-8 breathing method: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds.
11. Build a Routine
In a perfect world, studying would come natural to all of us. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case and for many of us, it can be hard to develop a consistent study routine.
Step 1: Figure out your learning style
Step 2: Plan what you are going to do and put it on a calendar
Step 3: Set a “Cue, Routine, Reward” Loop
BONUS: Follow the 5 more rule: When you are in the middle of a task or study session and tempted to give up – just do five more!!
If you’ve found these tips on how to stay focused while studying useful, leave us a comment and let us know what worked best for you.