Effective study can only be achieved if you’re able to focus your complete attention on what you are trying to learn. If you are unable to concentrate fully on what you are doing because you’re constantly being distracted, or your thoughts are going elsewhere, your process of learning will be interrupted. If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering if you can learn how to focus better.
Hand-in-hand with focus, is concentration. Concentration is the ability to focus all attention on the activity at hand and block out all other unnecessary thoughts and distractions. According to researchers at the University of California Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task following a distraction.
So, what can we do to increase our levels of concentration focus? Luckily they are skills that can be developed, you just need to know the right techniques.
In this guide, we will show you multiple ways of improving focus and concentration by utilizing various concentration techniques, and learn how to stop distractions from getting the best of you.
By the time you’ve finished this guide, you’ll know exactly how to focus better, boost concentration and avoid distractions. You can use the quick links below to jump to a particular area of interest.
How to Improve Concentration
A rested mind studies best. Therefore get a good night’s rest before you attempt to study. This should consist of at least six hours of sleep. Most people require at least 8 hours per night. Sleep is important as it allows your brain to recover and to help remember information more effectively. A good period of rest beforehand will refresh and relax your mind and enable you to concentrate easier.
Research has found that sleep plays a fundamental role in our ability to memorise information both before and after studying. Not only that but a lack of sleep and tiredness has a direct impact on our motivation and mood. It will affect our judgement and perception of events.
Regular exercise is a great way to help improve your concentration when studying as it speeds up blood circulation to the brain. As a result, your brain gets the nourishment it requires while getting rid of unnecessary waste products.
Physical activity will improve your ability to focus and improve attention, as well as provide you with a mental boost even if it is just done for a period of 15 to 20 minutes.
Breaks are an important aspect of effective learning. It is essential to stop at set regular intervals and go for a short walk, do some yoga or exercise, breathe deeply or have some food. Do something different from what you’ve been doing and in a different area. This can be done for 10 to 30 minutes and will allow you to refresh your mind.
It is important to take longer breaks, maybe twice during longer study days, where you can properly rest the mind and have food. Schedule a break period every 50 or 60 minutes as you will not be able to maintain focus for longer periods of time.
4) Make Learning Interesting
To keep yourself motivated it is a good idea to approach learning from different angles. This can be done reading from your textbook and then studying your own notes. You can read the topic out loud, try to teach the topic to someone else or even test yourself on the topic you have been studying.
other study methods include:
- Listening to audio on the topic and write down some keynotes on what they are saying that can help you better understand what you are attempting to learn.
- Watching videos on the topic. There are many useful videos of people explaining complex topics on youtube.
- Making your own notes from what you have read in the textbook.
- You can write questions and the answer them later. These can be questions from your textbook or even questions that you think is likely to come up on the exam. This is a good way to test your understanding of what you learnt and help you remember it, especially if you leave it a few days to answer them.
- Past exam papers. This is great for not only testing your knowledge but also familiarising yourself with the exam format and structure which will help you settle into the exam much quicker and easier on the day.
- Mind maps. Mind maps can be a great way to break down information into a simple diagram that can be remembered more easily. They’re also a good way to test whether you know the subject matter. You can redraw the diagram and deliberately leave blanks to see can you fill them in again or whether you can discuss the topic in more detail by only looking at the key headings on the mind map.
By doing this you are studying the same material but are using alternative methods that will require using different brain pathways. This will enhance your learning ability and help retain the information much better. It also decreases the likelihood that you will become bored while studying the topic.
If you’re looking for more guidance, check out our article: 15 concentration exercises for students.
Fueling the mind is an essential element of increasing focus and concentration. Research has indicated that students learn much better when they’re well-nourished. How often you eat can also have a powerful effect on your energy levels.
Be sure to eat the right foods and begin your day with a proper breakfast as this will significantly enhance alertness avoid fatigue. Foods with a high protein, carbohydrates and low sugar are a great way to fuel your mind for learning. Foods containing high sugar content can lead to poor concentration levels.
What foods are good for boosting memory and focus?
- Green, Leafy Vegetables
- Green Tea
- Coconut Oil
- Fatty Fish
- Bone Broth
- Flax Seeds
- Egg Yolks
- Dark Chocolate
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Oats and fiber
- Nuts, walnuts and seeds
- Beans and Lentils
- Wild Salmon
Check out our guide on the best study food you can eat in college.
6) AVOID CLUTTER
It is important to have a clean and tidy work area when you are trying to study as a cluttered workspace can negatively impact your mood, ability to concentrate and process information effectively.
Organisation is key to improving focus and, not to mention, enhancing productivity levels.
Motivation is another element that can affect our learning ability. Having a clear understanding of why we want to learn a topic provides us with a why. Why you are doing it. What are your end goals and rewards?
For example, if you are learning german because you intend to go and live there for a year or two, you are likely to have more motivation to learn it and a greater desire to continue when you may be finding it difficult.
If this is an area you struggle with, check out our article: How to Study When You Have No Motivation.
Clearing establishing your goals for learning topics can enhance your motivation and improve your learning ability.
HOW TO FOCUS BETTER
1) STOP MULTI-TASKING
Multi-tasking is never a good idea when attempting to study. Playing with other things or texting while studying steals your full focus. These assignments take longer to complete and don’t have the quality that your projects do when you’ve devoted full attention. Make your learning goals simple, clear and precise rather than attempting to accomplish multiple goals at once.
This way you will be able to devote 100% full attention and concentration on the topic at hand, learn it faster and how to focus better.
2) COMPLETELY CLEAR YOUR MIND
When you’re thinking of other things while trying to learn a topic, you won’t be able to focus fully. This affects your ability to learn effectively, therefore, it is important to have a clear mind when you sit down to study.
If you have an issue or irrelevant thought that you keep fixating on, you should attempt to resolve it prior to studying. Obsessing about the particular issue will cause you to stress which will decrease your ability to learn and concentrate fully. In order to keep better focus, you need to make sure that the only thing you’re thinking about is your studies.
3) PRIORITIZE WHAT’S IMPORTANT
To help you study more efficiently, it is a good idea to prioritise your activities. Your mind is unlikely to settle if you are unsure if you’re learning the right topic, or correct subject, at the right time. You will spend much of your study time contemplating and worrying about whether you are learning the right subject.
To help avoid this list all the topics you need to learn and rank them in order of importance. You can start with the most important subject or topic and give it your full attention and then move on to the next most important topic. You can then create a timetable which will provide you with a plan to follow and more structure.
You can even break down the subject you are focusing on into a list of tasks to learn. This will provide you with something to check off as you finish and increase motivation and sense of accomplishment which will help you progress forward with your study plans.
Asana.com is a web-based tool that can be very handy when you are trying to plan your work activities and organise tasks. It allows you to conveniently manage projects and prioritise tasks.
4) MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS
Before you begin to study you should attempt to eliminate as many distractions as possible. These can include your phone, Facebook, emails, television, etc. The aim is to avoid having these things absorbing your attention while you’re trying to learn. By making your study area distraction-free and quiet, you are enhancing your ability to increase your study focus and concentration.
We’ll focus on ways to do this further down in this article.
Learning to improve focus and concentration can be done, but it takes persistence. Think of your concentration as a muscle. When you first start working out, it’s going to get tired quickly and might even be a little sore afterwards. You might get frustrated at your lack of progress as you don’t see the results as quickly as you’d like.
But think of any fitness training plan, it takes time to see the results but soon you are able to work-out for much longer than you were at the beginning.
You lose the parts of your body that you don’t need while your muscles grow and work better than they ever have.
This is the exact same as your focus and concentration levels. As you practice, you will begin to lose the negative thought patterns and distractions that were preventing you from properly achieving focus. Instead, the muscle is developing, growing stronger every day and able to go for much longer periods. You start to achieve feats you never thought were possible and before long you’ll wonder why you ever thought this was such a hard thing to accomplish,
Keep this in mind when you are beginning your journey to enhanced focus on concentration. Being able to focus on the benefits before they come will help you to stay committed, particularly on days that seem just that little bit tougher.
If you keep all of the advice in this article in mind, you’ll learn how to focus better, boost concentration and avoid distractions.