How to be focused on studies
With that in mind, we’re using our own experiences and those of current students we know to offer 10 actionable tips to help you focus on studies.
They won’t be ground-breaking or anything that you may not have heard before. But they do work.
For that reason alone, we recommend all of these tips if you want to be more focused on studying.
Set up a study space
Having a dedicated desk or study area is key to success. It’s one of the most shared tips to help you stay focused while studying for good reason. Because it works.
Setting aside a desk or even an area of a room purely for study means you always have somewhere to go. It helps create a mindset.
How you set it up or decorate it is down to circumstances and your personal taste. The only thing it absolutely has to be is set aside for work.
When you’re at your desk, you’re supposed to be studying. Over time, that mindset becomes easier and easier to manage.
Soon, whenever you sit at the desk or in that part of the room, your mind is already set to learn.
Talk to anyone who works from home or is a freelancer and they’ll say exactly the same thing. Set aside somewhere specifically for work to help you get in the zone.
Set a study routine
Have you ever watched an athlete or sportsperson prepare for an event? They tend to have a set routine.
Stretch in a certain way and a certain order, put their socks on at a certain moment, say a small prayer, talk to themselves with their eyes closed.
You get the idea.
This isn’t all superstition, this is using the power of preparation and a routine.
An established routine helps prepare the mind and body for what’s to come. Over time, the routine becomes second nature.
Performing those steps will automatically place you in a state to perform, or in our case, study.
Even on those days when you simply can’t focus or concentrate on anything, the power of routine can help.
As you’ll see in sport, routines are individual and two are rarely the same. Set up your own routine and you can harness the same psychological power.
Whether you begin by clearing your study area, closing the blind, putting on some music or something else, routine is an incredibly powerful force that you can leverage for your own gain.
Set a study schedule
Time management is a key skill for students and out in the workplace. If you can’t deliver on time, you won’t get very far at all, no matter what grades you get.
Some students like a colour-coded chart, outlining all their subjects and study sections. Others like to use a calendar app or a chalkboard.
There’s no ‘right’ way to set a study schedule, just the way that works for you.
If you study better early in the morning, prioritise your sessions then. Mark them somewhere you can see them, prepare the study area the night before, set your routine and go for it.
If you prefer using an app and are content to study any time of day, set your schedule like that.
If it helps you to work backwards from your exams to now, use that to schedule enough study time for every exam.
Just make sure to factor in enough downtime to enjoy being a student and relax between study sessions.
Share your goals, rewards and schedule
Next, share the goals you set, the rewards you offer yourself and your study schedule with friends and family.
This is an incredibly important psychological trick.
If you keep your schedule and goals to yourself, you’re only answerable to yourself. As a species, we have become quite adept at justifying anything to ourselves and getting away with it.
We’re not so adept at justifying failure to others.
Sharing your goals and study schedules means other people now know what you’ve set out to achieve.
If you fail, you not only answer to yourself, but you know others will also know. Never underestimate the power of not wanting to disappoint!
This is one of the most underutilised but most useful methods to help you be focused on studies!
Set goals and rewards
Goal-setting is everywhere. In school, in sports teams, in work. We need something to aim for and something to achieve. We need that goal to compare our achievement to be able to effectively assess whether we succeeded or not.
Goal-setting is easy. Balancing a tough goal with one that’s achievable is what takes practice.
Start easy with quantifiable goals like:
- Study for two hours between 6pm – 8pm Monday to Thursday.
- Complete one chapter of a given text book per night.
- Write your essay before x time on x date.
Each of these are specific and measurable. Yours can differ from this, of course, but these goals should give you an idea of how to get into the habit.
Don’t forget rewards, either.
Our brains are wired for rewards, which is why gamification is such a powerful force.
Use a similar setup to goals, like:
- Study for two hours between 6pm – 8pm Monday to Thursday and watch Netflix for two hours after.
- Complete one chapter of a given text book per night then get a macchiato at the uni coffee shop.
- Write your essay before x time on x date and go shopping and buy something nice the next day.
Again, these should be individual to you, but you get the idea.
Distractions are everywhere. People walking past your door, playing football outside, music from the room next door, hunger, social media…you name it.
One way to be focused on studies is to eliminate as many distractions as you can during study time.
For some that will be locking the door, putting a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the outside, putting on headphones and hitting the books.
For others, it’ll be turning off the phone, lighting a candle, closing the curtains and turning on a reading light.
The key here is to eliminate things that distract you. As we’re all distracted by different things, exactly what those things are will differ.
But we recommend everyone turn their phone off or at least put it on silent!
Downtime is also productive time
There’s often an element of guilt for enjoying being a student. For spending time with friends, for being in the pub or the park instead of hitting the books.
Don’t feel guilty.
If it gets too much, you’re going to need to refocus on studying. However, being a student is about all kinds of learning and only some of it comes from books.
Plus, downtime is rest time. A chance for your brain to process what it has learned and commit it to memory.
The key is balance. Enough downtime to be rested and enjoy being a student but not so much that you become unproductive and fall behind.
Sleep helps you learn
Just like downtime helps your brain process the information you’ve been absorbing, sleep does that multiplied manyfold.
Sleep is essential. We simply cannot overstate the importance of good sleep.
The key is quality, not quantity.
Sleeping 15 hours a day isn’t good for anyone. But sleeping 7-8 hours unbroken is the holy grail of sleep.
You wake up rested, you’ll have absorbed the lessons from the previous day and be ready for more.
Be sensible with screens, use earplugs if your room is noisy, exercise a little before sleep, don’t have coffee for five hours before bedtime and don’t eat too much before you go to bed.
All can help deliver quality sleep.
Feed your brain
No student has had a good diet. Even those studying medicine or nutrition have dubious eating habits.
But we can’t recommend a good diet enough. There really is no excuse now, not with meal boxes, Joe Wicks videos, food deliveries and all the food options we have.
Food is fuel.
Put rubbish fuel in, you’ll get rubbish out.
It’s a simple statement but sums up food and the importance of nutrition better than any essay or blog post.
The more fresh fruit and vegetables you can eat, the better. The more you hydrate with water, the better.
Study with friends
Our final tip on how to focus for studying is about sharing the experience. Studying can be a solo enterprise. Sitting in your room with the door closed hitting the books.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Study groups, book clubs, cram sessions, or whatever your university has going on can all help.
So can pairing with a couple of friends on the same course and hitting the books as a joint enterprise. You’ll want some solo time, but study time shared can also be amazingly productive.
You can bounce ideas off each other, help each other out with problems and generally push each other towards your goals.