Expert tips: How to stay focused while studying

Key takeaways

  • Staying focused when studying can sometimes seem impossible, especially if you’re easily distracted.
  • An inability to focus can make things like decision-making, sitting still or even thinking clearly almost impossible.
  • If you’re someone who experiences noise sensitivity or ADHD, noise levels are more likely to affect your focus.
  • There are things you can do to make it easier to concentrate, such as trying out breathing techniques, creating a study schedule, setting yourself clear goals and doing light exercise before study. 
  • Organizing your environment and creating the ideal study space are vital for helping you maintain your focus
  • Noise-reducing earplugs can help to block out any unwanted noise and channel your focus.

Snacks: sorted.

It’s study time. And you’re all set. 

*Starts reading first line*

Hold on. Your phone’s going off. You should probably check socials. You wouldn’t want to miss anything important, right?

Also, your coffee could do with a refill.

And, of course, the cat’s hungry. You forgot dinnertime, again. 

That’s how it goes. And before you know it you’ve read that first line 15 times over and your judgy blank notebook page is staring straight back at you.

Do you find it difficult to focus when studying? 

These days, there are so many distractions: apps, social media, noise. Not to mention your arch nemesis: your own wandering mind.

The thing is, we rely on concentration to get us through the day. 

And if we struggle to maintain that focus, it can have a detrimental impact on important parts of our lives. Not only is it frustrating and demotivating, but it can end up having a huge effect on your self-esteem.

To help, we’ve packed this article full of helpful tips on how to focus when studying. Before we start, let’s look at the symptoms that come with lack of focus.

Lack of focus: what are the effects?

We all experience the world differently. So it makes sense that being unable to concentrate affects people differently, too.

Some common symptoms you may experience include:

  • Problems with sitting still
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Short-term memory issues
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Losing things and not remembering where they are
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Lack of physical and mental energy
  • Anxiety or even depression

There are also other conditions that can contribute to your lack of focus, such as ADHD or noise sensitivity.

How to focus on studying

You often find yourself distracted. You’re missing deadlines and your dwindling concentration levels are now affecting your work. It’s time to rein in your focus and make sure you’re hitting your targets.

Here are some ways to focus on studying:

1. Create an ideal study environment

Humans are creatures of habit. You ideally want to choose a dedicated study space that you can make your own, so that when you return to it each day, your brain knows it’s study time.

Find a small section of space that you can call yours for a few hours each day. Maybe it’s the library that’s your secluded space of choice, or perhaps you function better with the background noise of a coffee shop. Whatever works for you, make sure that your chosen study space has the following:

  • A comfortable chair

If you’re going to be sitting for hours, then it needs to be on a supportive chair that’s good for your posture.

The last thing you want to do is constantly shift around in your seat.

The best study chairs have actually been shown to increase energy levels, boost productivity and improve focus.

  • Enough space

Studying takes up a surprising amount of room. You’ve got your mugs of coffee, notebooks, textbooks, laptop, pens, pencils (not to mention all the snacks).

Make sure that your space is big enough for everything you need – feeling like you’re crammed in is only going to make you feel frustrated and distracted.

  • A power supply

You’ve set yourself up in a café, and you’re on a roll with your study! Your assignment is almost complete. You’ve even got your head around Pythagoras' Theorem.

But then…your laptop battery dies. And of course, there’s no power supply available to you in the café.

If you’re studying for hours at a time, make sure you have access to a power outlet. Chances are you’ll need it to keep your laptop going.

2. Set clear, precise goals

What is the real reason that you’re studying? What’s the end goal? 

Have a think about these questions, then write the answers down. Having clear and tangible goals is a great way to remind your brain of the importance of your studies and why it’s important to stay focused. 

For maximum effect, go as detailed as possible. 

For example: 

“I want to achieve an [insert grade here] so I can go to my dream college.”

“I want to develop healthy study habits to always do my best and make my life easier”.

Keep your goal list visible and on easy display in your study space. Maybe even write them on a Post-it to stick in front of you.

Then each time that pesky concentration slips you can remind yourself of the end game.

3. Block out all distractions

Out of sight, out of mind. That’s how the saying goes, right? Well, that’s where your cell needs to go – somewhere you can’t see it.

Did you know it takes us 23 minutes and 15 seconds (on average) to refocus on our work after an interruption? 

We all do it. Picking up your phone every time the screen flashes. Checking an email every time you see an alert.

The truth is, phones are the death of productivity. 

Here are some ways to get rid of those distractions: 

  • Use site blockers
  • Turn off notifications 
  • Put electronic devices completely out of sight

There’s no doubt that one of the major contributors is social media. 

According to Harvard University, our body goes through a certain process when we receive a social media notification, one that makes it impossible to stay focused. 

Our brain produces a chemical called dopamine. It’s responsible for giving us all the good feels and is associated with all the things we love: food, exercise, animals, gaming, and of course, social media validation. 

And dopamine hits are addictive – the more we get them, the more we want. Which is one of the reasons why we’re constantly checking our phones. And our attention spans get shorter and shorter in the process.

So eliminate those ‘feel-good’ distractions when you need to focus. You’ll not only improve your concentration for longer periods, but it can also help reduce that compulsive smartphone addiction.

4. Create a study schedule

Setting a schedule is a great way to manage your own time, track your progress, and get a routine in place.

Here are our top tips on how to create a schedule that suits you:

  • Add deadlines

Are you studying for finals? Or is an important assignment deadline looming? 

Whatever your deadline may be, make sure that you create a schedule with all of these important dates in mind. Having something to aim for can help to fine-tune your concentration and keep your focus. 

  • Allow free time

Having a healthy study-life balance is vital. So make sure you add in regular breaks, days off, evening downtime and moments to relax and recharge. 

Taking breaks can actually boost productivity, lower stress levels and improve focus. 

  • Use some color-coding

If you’re more of a visual person, color-coding your timetable can be a great way to make sure you’re spending enough time on each subject or topic.

Allowing yourself to see that you are actually balancing your time in an effective way can work wonders for keeping your focus on the end goal.

5. Record yourself studying

OK, so this may sound weird. But for some, it can honestly work.

Think about it: it’s all about accountability. If you’re being recorded, then you’re more likely to keep going instead of taking constant unnecessary breaks.

It’s a constant reminder that you’ve made a commitment to study. You don’t need that extra snack break. The ever-watchful eye will see you.

6. Check out Focusmate

It’s new and different - and also happens to be the ultimate tool for accountability when studying. 

How does it work? 

Focusmate is a free service that pairs you with other students around the world. Once linked with a real-life partner, you both make a pre-commitment to study for a 50-minute period at least once a day.

You both turn your webcam on during the 50 minutes, which means you can both see and hear each other while the study is in session. 

If you are non-compliant with your commitments, the system will mark you down. And if your score falls below a certain level, the system will eventually lock you out. 

But if you stay committed and complete your session, the system will reward you with points. 

So if you’re the type of person where a points system keeps you motivated, this is for you (hey, gamers).

7. Master the Pomodoro Technique

The ultimate tool for beating procrastination and maintaining focus, the Pomodoro Technique follows a simple yet hugely effective pattern.

Here it is: 

  1. Select a task
  2. Set a timer
  3. Work on it completely uninterrupted until it beeps 
  4. Take a short break

Then repeat. 

It’s usually recommended to study for 25 minutes then have 5 minutes off. But of course, it all comes down to what works best for you.

Allowing yourself break time gives your brain time to revive and prepare itself for the next study session.

Not only will you achieve better focus, making your study sessions more effective, but the Pomodoro Technique will also give you better awareness of the time it takes to complete tasks, allowing yourself to build a more effective schedule.

The key to success is zero interruptions. No coffee breaks, no restroom breaks. Just working straight through until that timer goes off.

Give it a try! You’ll be surprised at the effect.

Our earplugs

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8. Use noise-reducing earplugs

For some, noise can be the biggest distraction of all. Noisy housemates. Construction works. Loud conversations. 

And when you’re frantically trying to hit a deadline, it can result in a really stressful experience. 

Noise-reducing earplugs like our Loop Experience Plus will help you channel your focus and get your studying back on track.

Their cleverly designed acoustic channel, membrane and filter help to reduce noise by up to 23 decibels (dB), making them the ideal earplugs for maintaining focus and concentration. 

They’re designed with the ultimate comfort in mind, which means they won’t be bugging you when you’re trying to concentrate.

They also come in a convenient little case, so you can pop them into your desk drawer, study bag or even attach them to your keychain.

9. Try breathing exercises before you start

Deep breathing exercises are proven to increase the ability of your mind to focus. 

By breathing deeply your body produces more noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter that affects your concentration. If you regulate your breathing, it can optimize your levels of noradrenaline, providing a more focused and steady mind.

Here is a simple breathing exercise that will bring calm and focus to your brain.

  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds.
  • When you feel that your lungs are full of air, hold your breath for 2 seconds.
  • Then slowly exhale through your nose for seconds.

Try this exercise out three times before the start of every study session.

10. Make sure your study room is the right temperature

When you’re studying you want to be as comfortable as possible – so it’s important to be aware of how room temperature can affect you.

If you’re sitting in a room that’s too hot, chances are it’s going to make you tired, frustrated and can shorten your attention span. Research shows that the optimal temperature for learning is 71.6°F (22°C)

So if you’re finding it hard to grasp how to concentrate on studies, check out the room temperature and see if it can be adjusted.

11. Check out apps like Brain FM or Coffitivity

Do you study more effectively when you’re surrounded by background noise? Or does silence help your concentration?

Whatever works best, there is an app to help!

For those whose concentration thrives with noise going on around them, try an app called Coffitivity. For some, it’s known to not only boost performance but also brain function.

But for those who crave quiet, give a try. It’s an app that offers scientifically backed music to help you achieve and maintain deep focus.

12. Make a note of what distracts you

This may seem strange, but it’s a powerful little tip. Imagine: you’re sitting studying for your exam. Then your phone pings.

Instead of rushing to check what’s up, jot it down:

Check messages.

You’ll feel as though you’ve dealt with the distraction for now, and you can prioritize it later when you’re not busy, making it easier to get back to your study.

Why does it work so well? 

Because by simply trying to resist the urge to do something, you’ve taken action by writing it down. You’re not blocking the urge, you’re telling your brain that you’ve acted on it, and you’ll deal with it later.

13. Do some exercise

We all know the effects of exercise on our physical health. But did you know that exercise is also essential for our brain, improving its ability to stay focused and retain new information? 

In fact, research shows that increasing blood flow to the brain with exercise can help you to improve your focus for up to two or even three hours.

Exercise can also improve our overall sleep and mood, which in turn reduces anxiety and stress – all of which can affect our ability to concentrate.

So try and fit in some exercise before a study session. It will get the blood flowing to your brain and help stimulate you through those more lethargic moments.

14. Learn to say no

No, I can’t talk right now. 

No, I can’t come out tonight. 

No, I can’t watch a film at the moment.

Of course, you don’t have to give up all of your social activities. But you do have to be strict with yourself.

If you have to study, let people know. Stay strong. And make sure that phone stays out of sight.

Find what works for you

How to focus while studying Well, it isn’t always easy. It can seem like your mind is battling itself, trying to stay focused and ignoring the many distractions that life throws your way. Finding what works for you is key to maintaining your focus, as different things work for different people.

Work out what your triggers are. Is it noise? Or maybe you need a more comfortable learning environment? A little bit of experimenting may be needed to find out how you study best but with a bit of patience, you’ll be on your way.

Happy studying!

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