This post was inspired by the one question students ask year after year:
“How can I focus better when I study?”
Focus has as much to do with what happens before you study as what happens while you are studying. Preparation is half the victory.
1. REIGNITE your motivation.
- Revisit why you are studying in the first place.
- To one day save someone’s life as a nurse.
- To protect vulnerable children from abuse.
- To create a business that will employ displaced workers.
- Your future self will thank you for the sacrifices you make today.
2. BORE yourself silly before you study.
- Studying pales in comparison to relaxing on a comfortable couch watching your favourite tv show on Netflix.
- Which is one more reason to do nothing (no television, no internet) long enough that hanging out with textbooks sounds like a party!
- For example: Stare at a blank wall until you are so bored that all you want to do is study. No kidding!
- The quieter your mind becomes, the better your focus will be.
3. Create a SACRED SPACE for studying.
- The physical act of preparing a space can be very calming for students.
- Clear all visual clutter. Clean your room. Organize your desk.
- Make your space a welcoming, energizing, inspirational place to be.
- Add in vibrant colours, fresh notebooks, lightly scented candles, bright overhead lights.
- Your studying deserves this level of respect.
4. Prepare yourself PHYSICALLY before you study.
- Think of yourself as an academic athlete!
- Fuel your mind. Energize your body.
- Drink more water. Hydrate!
- Research has tied dehydration to lack of focus, low energy, and negative moods.
- Eat small meals frequently throughout the day.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Exercise. Meditate.
5. Clear out MENTAL CLUTTER.
- Empty your mind of your to do lists, worries, and what ifs before you study.
- Write them down and put them in a worry box to be tended to once exams are complete.
- Repetitive thoughts running through your head could be your biggest distraction.
6. Remove ALL distractions.
- Shut off your phone. Hide it away. Just looking at it takes up mental space.
- And if you can’t trust yourself – lock your phone in the trunk of your car and give a trusted friend the key until you are done studying. No kidding!
- You’ll miss it for the first 20 minutes of your study session, then you’ll forget all about it.
- Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time.
7. Be an ACTIVE studier.
- Do not passively read the textbook – you will fall asleep, I guarantee it!
- Instead, engage with the material.
- Get active. Make the chapter come alive!
- Do practice tests. Read the textbook chapters out loud.
- Have a classmate or friend quiz you.
- Teach the subject to someone, anyone!
8. Be slightly UNCOMFORTABLE while you study.
- Do not sit or lie on your bed when you study.
- Sit up straight in an office chair.
- Keep the temperature cool.
- Be slightly uncomfortable.
- This will help keep you alert and awake.
9. Take frequent MOVEMENT breaks.
- Study breaks are optimal at 5-15 minutes in length.
- Study sessions should not be longer than 45 minutes at a time.
- And when you take your breaks aim to burn off your restless energy.
- Move! Sing a song. Draw a picture. Clap out loud!
- Open a window. Smell fresh air. Go outside. Hug a tree!
10. REWARD yourself… eventually!
- Use the Premack Principle to reward yourself.
- Delayed gratification can be an excellent tool for sustaining attention and motivation.
- Make a list of all the things that are distracting you from studying and use them as rewards once all your studying is done.
- Go to Starbucks as a reward for studying, not as your location to study. (Too many distractions!)
- Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time and you’ll have a special treat to look forward to when all your hard work is done.
- Your success is worth the wait!