Thursday, November 24, 2016

How to Stay Focused While Studying

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans! BTW, today's post has nothing to do the holiday or gratitude or anything like that. Anyway, since it's almost December, we only have about a month left in the semester, and that can only mean one thing: finals are almost upon us, and with finals comes lots and lots of studying.

This year, the classes I'm taking are significantly harder compared to the ones from last year, so I've had to really step it up with my study game. It can be really hard to not get distracted in this day and age (when there are so many other things that could occupy our time), so today, I've decided to teach you how to stay focused while studying!

Note: even though I created this post with students and with studying in mind, a lot of the tips and methods covered in this post can still be applied to staying focused in general. So whether you have a desk job, an art project, or whatever it is you need to do, you will probably still find this post to be helpful.

Before You Start

That's my AP World History notebook in the background //

Before you start your study session, there are a couple of things that you should do in order to ensure your success from the very beginning.


First of all, if you're hungry, you should eat now - and not during - your study session. That's because if you're doing something really tedious and boring, you'll start to focus on your food and not whatever you're trying to do. In addition, make sure to pour your snacks into a bowl/plate and to not eat straight from the bag. I say this because if you eat directly out of a bag, you'll probably just eat, and eat, and eat, and keep on eating . . . Sometimes I'll be snacking while watching YouTube videos, and then I'll realize that I've wasted 30 minutes.


Also, make sure that you have all of your study materials out and ready, and make sure that you have a plan of what you're actually going to work on (like what specific assignments you're going to do or what specific subjects you want to study). Also, get out all of the appropriate items (e.g. necessary pens, textbooks, folders, etc.). This ensures that from the very start, you have a goal in mind, and you won't ever have to break your concentration by getting up to get something or having to stop and think about what else you need to do.


And finally, deal with your phone. That means that you need to do one of the following (choose whichever option suits your needs):
  1. Completely turn it 100% off (i.e. shut it down)
  2. Keep it in a separate room
  3. Turn off all of your notifications for things that could distract you (like social media apps and texts)
  4. Log out of all social media apps (a tip I saw somewhere online: change the passwords for your social medias to something really long so that you'll be prevented from casually logging in again) 

Once you've done all of these things, you're ready to actually start your studying. The tips mentioned above should help you get started well and start with a focused mindset.

During the Study Session

Now is the hard part: staying focused while you study. There are several things that you should do to minimize distractions.


In actuality, you really should avoid listening to music while you study, since the music is often much more exciting than the stuff you're trying to work on. However, if you absolutely have to listen to music, then you should do the following:
  • Only listen to instrumentals - I find that Lindsey Stirling is usually very good since her songs are the right mix of upbeat and energetic but still not too distracting (this only matters if it's something that involves reading; if you're working on math problems or something like that, then the type of music that you use doesn't matter)
  • Play through speakers and try to avoid using earbuds/headphones (this is so that the music is more ambient and not so in-your-face, thus becoming less of a distraction)


If you're like me, sometimes you have random tabs open on your computer that you want to keep open for reference (like things I want to buy or something like that). However, they can be kind of distracting if you're trying to do other things with the internet. I find it really useful to keep all of the school-related tabs I'm using in a separate window. That way, I can focus more on the schoolwork I'm trying to do. Make sure to close out of everything that you don't need to use.


If possible, sit at a table and sit up straight. Using good posture and being slightly uncomfortable can help you focus.

Pomodoro Technique/Breaks

There are times that whatever I'm doing is just so boring that I can't focus. To compromise with myself, I'll say that if I study and stay focused for [blank] amount of time, then I'll reward myself with a break for [blank] amount of time. Since I have motivation to stay focused and not be distracted, I can usually force myself to get some work done.

One popular way to do this is the pomodoro technique. Basically, it's a time management method where you set a timer for 25 minutes to do whatever work it is you need to do, and after that time frame runs out, you set a timer for 5 minutes to take a break. You repeat this over and over again until all of your work is done.

Getting Rid of Distractions

Since the hardest part of staying focused while studying are all the distractions, make sure that you don't divert your attention - no multitasking allowed! Like I said earlier, make sure to do something with your phone so that you aren't getting distracted by it all the time. There are also a lot of productivity apps (for both mobile devices and on Google Chrome) out there to help with this. 

The one I use on my phone is called Forest, which is free in the Android Google Play Store and $2.99 in the Apple App Store. You set a timer to "plant" a tree, but the tree dies if you open any of the blacklisted apps (and you can choose which apps are blacklisted). I find it really helpful when I need to use some things on my phone but don't want to get tempted by social media and such.

So that is how to stay focused while studying! I hope this post was beneficial in helping you not get distracted whiles doing schoolwork or whatever it is you're trying to stay focused on. Good luck on finals if you're a student! (And good luck to myself on my own finals 😖)

What tips do you have for staying focused? Leave them in the comments!

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