I know I am not the only person in the world who finds studying to be boring. After spending an hour at my desk with an open textbook and notebook, I reward myself with a break to keep from getting a headache. I usually pull out my phone and scroll through my social media feeds just to see what my friends have posted recently and make a comment or two. Before I know it, I have turned a quick study break into 40 minutes of watching videos on Youtube or Facebook. At that point, I become irritated that I wasted time I needed to study or complete a project or paper. I had this problem a couple of times this weekend as I tried to study for midterms and thought back to the other days this semester when I had wasted my precious time and found myself too sleepy to get back to work. For this reason, I have decided to log out of social media for a week regain focus on my priorities.
It can be difficult for me to focus on a task and that is made worse when I have many distractions in front of me. Social media is not my only distraction. I get bored and eat chips, watch movies or music videos, or sometimes carry on long conversations with friends and family to keep from getting back to the books. If you also struggle to focus while studying, I have found a few tips that can help you.
1. Find a space
Studying at home is comfortable, but I prefer to study in the library during the week. When I’m at home, I get distracted with the TV or get too comfortable in bed and decide to take extra-long naps that last for two hours and leave me with little time to work. The library is perfect for me because it is quiet and it puts me in a mental study mode. I have room to lay out all of my materials and I am not comfortable enough there to take a nap. If you find yourself unable to focus where you are currently trying to study, find a space that has fewer distractions. It might also be helpful for you to study with friends that encourage you to stay on task.
2. Limit your gadgets
If you do not need your laptop out to take notes, put it away. If you do not need your phone on your desk to study, put it away. Having unnecessary gadgets out while you are trying to concentrate can break your concentration. When I have my laptop on my desk while I’m reading chapters form my textbook, I have a habit of randomly browsing the internet and looking up questions that have nothing to do with what I’m reading. For this reason, I will shut my laptop and push it away from me or place it in my backpack to force myself to pay attention to the book. If you use your laptop or phone for notes or flashcards, practice restraint.
3. Time yourself
I got into the habit of timing myself while studying when I was freshman in college. I only had morning classes and would give myself and hour or so for each subject that day to complete the readings or assignments. Between subjects, I timed 10 or 15-minute breaks to give my brain a chance to rest before diving back in. When I had a visual reminder of how much time I had to work on an assignment, it made me work harder to finish or accomplish as much as possible within that span of time. I was less likely to get distracted because I could see that I only had to stay focused for a few more minutes before I could take a break. When I didn’t time myself, it felt like I had hours to work on one assignment and I would drag it out instead of just getting it done.
4. Split your tasks
If I know I am going to spend more than one hour on homework for one class, I prefer to split the work. It can be tiring to force yourself to sit and read one textbook or write one essay for two or three hours straight. Take a break somewhere in the middle to rest or work on something else before you get too distracted to finish.
One important rule about study breaks is to keep them short. Anything more than 20 minutes can lead to you spending an hour or two binge-watching that new TV show you found out about on Netflix and having to cram for the big test tomorrow. Use your break time to eat a meal or do some stretches to keep you awake and alert. I like to read a book or listen to music during my breaks.
Staying focused while studying can be difficult when it is not a subject you are interested in or you just do not feel like studying. However, I hope these tips above can help you make it through you course work this semester. Remember, if you set good study habits for yourself now, you can reduce the stress of final exams at the end of the semester!