12 Study Tips To Improve Focus
Let’s face it. Studying isn’t exactly what we do for fun. It takes mental effort to keep your mind’s eye on the proverbial ball. Focus is of the utmost importance, and it’s one of the hardest things to come by, at least if you’re tackling a subject that doesn’t fuel your passion. (If you’re like I was in high school and college, that was most of the subjects that you had to take on.)
To help you overcome this obstacle and improve focus no matter what you’re studying, we’ve put together a list of 12 study tips. Let’s get started!
Tip 1: Study with short bursts of intensity to improve focus.
The human attention span gets a bad rap these days for being too short, but here’s the thing: it’s always been that way. The average human being can only focus on one thing for so long before they start tuning out. That’s why you should plan your studying in short, intense bursts that allow you to thoroughly learn one or two things at a time rather than wandering from point to point until you find yourself checking Facebook 177 times in five minutes. Before ever studying anything, sit down and write out a plan. Try to estimate how long each piece of info will take to go over, set a timer, and study-study-study until the timer goes off. (Twenty to 30 minutes is best.)
Tip 2: Find solitude and eliminate your distractions.
Most people don’t study well in groups of people unless those groups are equally focused on the same task. If you think you’re going to hold your focus while watching an episode of your favorite TV show, you’re kidding yourself. Go somewhere private where there are no distractions and don’t leave that place until your timer tells you it’s okay to take a short break.
Tip 3: Make many small goals rather than one large one.
Breaking up material into a number of smaller goals will take care of the all-encompassing goal — becoming better equipped for whatever it is you’re studying for. You’ll want to know what the overall objective is, but after you define it, you’ll want to shift every bit of your focus to the small victories it will take to add up to the overarching goal.
Tip 4: Move through one thing at a time.
You have the big goal broken up into 10 or 15 parts. You have your 20-minute intervals. Don’t try to dart all over the place mentally. Just stay focused on one part at a time, one interval at a time. Your mind works best when it is focused on a single task. The myth of multi-tasking has been thoroughly disproven in many recent studies. When you say you do multi-tasking really well, what you mean is that you do switch-tasking really well. That is, you move quickly from one focus to the next, but you’re not doing two things at once. Slow and steady wins the race!
Tip 5: Meditate.
Before actually sitting down to do the work, try to clear your mind of all distractions by sitting in a quiet location and clearing your head of all distracting thoughts. If you need help with this practice, consider picking up a meditation course or book that will help you to better get the job done, or look for videos online.
Tip 6: Know when your most productive times are, and only study during those times.
If you’re a morning person, study in the morning. If you’re a night owl, study at night. If you do better studying throughout the day whenever there are short bursts of time to focus, then do so throughout the day. If you are more effective at two of the three times — morning and afternoon or afternoon and evening or morning and evening — then try to schedule study time in those windows.
Tip 7: Exercise your body.
By working out frequently, you will boost endorphins that help your brain function better. It also keeps you from zoning out and forgetting what you just sat down to do.
Tip 8: Exercise your mind.
Just like your body will wither on you from inactivity, your mind will not be as sharp and effective at accomplishing what is required from it if you don’t train it to solve problems. Some of the fun ways that I like to exercise my mind — mazes, Tetris Blitz, and those $5 books on cheap newsprint that you can get from the grocery store. Solving complex problems for fun will make you better equipped when it comes time to do it for real.
Tip 9: Tackle the big stuff first.
If there is a certain area that you’re struggling in more than others, shift all your mental focus and energy to that problem until you start becoming more comfortable with it. By knocking out big tasks, you reenergize your brain and make it capable of tackling the smaller tasks with greater effort and efficiency.
Tip 10: Be comfortable.
It’s hard to focus when you don’t feel like yourself. Take a shower, brush your teeth, and put on some of your favorite, most comfortable clothing. (Don’t do sweat pants, though. We’re talking things you would wear out in public. Business casual means you’ll still be ready for the “business” part.)
Tip 11: Put off the things that make you happy.
You should definitely have rewards for yourself in place, but make sure that you’re putting those off until you’ve actually done the work to “deserve” them. By having something to look forward to, you will be able to hold your focus for “just a little longer.”
Tip 12: When you hit a wall, stop.
To this day, I have a to-do list I plan to accomplish for the day, and I almost never finish it. That’s because I load myself down with so much that it would probably take 14 to 16 hours to do everything. But even though there are several things left unchecked on my list, I still stop when I’m ready to stop. Why? Because the longer I go after hitting the mental wall, the worse the quality of my output will be. You don’t want that happening when you’re preparing for a major exam, so even if it thoroughly disappoints you, don’t push past it. Quit and go do something fun.
Focus comes naturally for some, but the vast majority of us have to work at it. The good news: you can work at it and get some great results. Just stick to the game plan that we’ve laid out for you above, and keep your eyes on the prize. What are some focus tricks and techniques that you use to overcome a wandering mind? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.