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Introduction

A huge component about having strong study habits is being able to focus, unfortunately, focusing is difficult. In this article, we will talk about how you can stay focused while studying to make the most of your study sessions and to be as productive as possible.

In order to study well, one has to be able to focus well for extended periods. If you’re having a hard time staying focused, here are some study tips to help you put systems in place:

1. Set goals, but think in broad terms

You have to know what you are working towards and why you want to achieve that goal. Why do you want to study hard? What are your goals by the end of the academic year? It’s always good to begin with an end in mind. Identify goal that you want to achieve, then think of the steps that you need to take to make it happen.

2. Have a solid study environment

When it comes to finding the perfect study area, location is everything. Your study space should be conducive for focusing. Make sure that it’s in an area that’s secluded enough so that people aren’t constantly walking by. If you can’t work in total silence, prepare some lo-fi music or background noise and play it while you’re studying.

3. Schedules and timetable

Make a weekly and monthly schedule that includes important dates (exams, deadlines, lectures, workshops) for both academics and extracurricular involvements you have. Include important aspects of your personal routine (exercise regimen, bed time schedule), as well as social events that you need to attend (such as weddings, birthdays, and reunions).

Laying everything out in a calendar will give you an idea of how much time you have to prepare for your academic commitments. Maintaining close personal relationships and giving yourself some “me time” are important, but having a social life should not get in the way of your studies.  When you’re working on your schedule, make sure to leave some room for flexibility because you never know what emergencies can pop up.

4. Prioritize

As mentioned before, you have to input your extracurriculars and other important social events in your schedule and timeline so you can make time for everything. However, you should also learn to prioritize. If you have an important exam coming up (especially if it’s a subject that you’re struggling with), maybe you can skip that dinner with your friends.

Related reading: How to Improve Memory for Studying – 8 Proven Strategies

5. Strengths and weaknesses

Some self-awareness will go a long way when it comes to focusing. In the academic aspect, this has to do with knowing what subjects you’re good at, subjects you need more help with, and your overall academic standing.

Are you failing a subject? Are you vying for academic honors? What can you do to avoid receiving a failing mark? How can you push yourself a little further to get that award?

On a personal level, know your personal strengths and weaknesses. Do you find it hard to say no to friends’ invitations? Are you efficient with your time? Are you a fast learner? Be aware of your areas for improvement—if you can’t say no to that brunch, then make sure that your friends know that you’re busy and cannot be disturbed.

That way, they won’t bother to invite you while you’re studying. Find a way to work your way around your weaknesses while harnessing your strengths. When you know what you’re working with, it will be easier to come up with a strategy.  

6. Manage yourself

A lot of study tips have to do with managing distractions. A study hack for one person can be a distraction for another. You can only do so much to eliminate distractions, but at the end of the day, you have to be on that desk, reading books and reviewing your notes.

Take responsibility for your studies and the outcomes. If you’re unable to turn in an essay because you were at a party the night before, you can’t blame your friends for inviting you to come out. You were the one who made the decision to go out despite the deadline. You could have finished it before going out, but you didn’t.

7. Rituals and routines

Create a ritual that will put your mind in the right headspace. Clear your study space, gather your study materials, have some coffee, water and a couple of granola bars on hand. Make sure your study area is free from clutter.

8. Regular exercise should be part of your routine

Do some light stretches at least once a day to help your body recover from all the sitting due to online classes and marathon study sessions. Regular exercise also lets you sweat out all the pent up energy that gets bottled up while you’re studying for hours on end.

9. Stay on-task

Have a list of tasks prepared before you start studying. Let this to-do list be your guide as you go about your day. There are tasks that you will finish sooner than expected, which is why you need that to-do list on-hand. You should stay focused and not lose momentum as you study.

Minimize your use of the internet and your computer. If you must, then go on a blocking spree: block social media and unnecessary websites. Turn on the notifications for relevant apps like calendar, alarm clock (if you’re doing to pomodoro method).

10. Take breaks in between study sessions

The brain can only take in so much information before it gets overwhelmed and starts to wander (ever heard of the term “information overload”?).

One way to do this is to use the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management and productivity tool that tells people to focus for 25 minutes straight and take short 5 to 10 minute breaks before focusing for another 25 minutes. During the 25 minutes, a person should devote their undivided attention to accomplishing a task.

This could range studying, doing homework, or even doing chores before taking a quick break. You can do several rounds of this method in a day. After about four rounds, you can take a longer break. The best part of this technique is it does not require special tools other than a timer.  

Taking breaks will prevent you from getting burnt out, while training the brain to focus for extended periods. Doing this method regularly can increase a person’s attention span—you can slowly work your way up to 30 to 40 minutes of work!

11. Discipline, not motivation

A lot of experts will tell you that you need to find motivation to get up and get things done. However, if you solely rely on motivation to focus, then you need to rethink that tactic.

Each day is different and certain life circumstances might cause you to feel extra motivated to study one day, and totally defeated and distracted the next day. Motivation is a feeling, and feelings are fleeting. To be able to study well, you have to be able to focus despite your personal circumstances.

12. Self-assess

Of the many tips and tricks that you deploy in an effort to help you focus while studying, you have to evaluate which ones worked and which ones didn’t. Different study techniques and tools will work for different people.

The goal is to identify which ones were helpful and which ones did not work. You can do this on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Take a few minutes to assess which method worked best and helped you get the results you wanted. Moving forward, you will have the tools and knowledge that will help you be more efficient at focusing and studying.

Final thoughts

A person has to thrive in an environment that is plagued with distractions and interruptions.

This is especially true for studying. It is not secret that studying is a difficult task because it requires students to focus. However, we should train the brain to focus because it helps all other aspects of a person’s life: academic, career, family, and personal life.

When a person is able to focus well, they are able to optimize their brain function. Make the best out of your study time by using any of the tips shared above.

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Patricia Alfonso

Patricia Alfonso is an educator and researcher who earned her master's degree in guidance and counseling from Ateneo de Manila. She specializes in developing school counseling programs for schools.

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