7 Proven Tips for Staying Focused While Studying

It’s the rare college student who doesn’t have trouble staying focused while studying. The sad truth is that distractibility is pretty much a universal trait among students of all ages (as well as people who work in a cubicle, or at home, or anywhere, really). But you’re paying money to be in college and that makes it no place to waste time.

While some of the following advice may only be applicable in controlled environments, like your dorm room, as opposed to public spaces like the library, they’re tried and true productivity enhancers. Some of them might sting—like turning your phone off—yes, off—but the improved GPA and increased recreational time will be your motivators to build the habit.

1. Plan your study hours ahead of time after glaring at your calendar for thirty minutes. Be sure to consider already scheduled tasks, like soccer practice, before scheduling your study time. Try to do this before hitting the sack every night. That way, you go to sleep knowing the next day’s schedule. Be sure to write your commitments down, since you have a greater chance of owning up to your promises if they’re written in a visible space.

2. Clean up your work space before studying. If that bowl of leftover cereal on your desk is going to bother you, throw it out, clean the bowl, and return them to their proper places. Don’t use cleaning as a procrastination tool, though. (I do this all the time; I fully intend to sit down and write for three hours when, suddenly, I become Martha Stewart and go on a five-hour cleaning, cooking, and crafting spree.)

3. Avoid social distractions. Close the door, turn your phone on silent (if not off entirely), and let all but the most important calls go to voicemail. (And by important calls, I mean, for some reason, 911 is calling you.) If your friends ask later why you didn’t respond to their text messages, you can always try explaining your focus problems with them to collaborate and find more ways to stay focused while studying. Otherwise, try warning friends and family members ahead of time that you won’t be around your phone during specific hours. This will also guilt-trip you into studying during those hours.

4. Customize your laptop to be focus-friendly. If you have to work on your computer, set up an alternate profile for school work, different from the one with all your social media shortcuts. On this new profile, promise yourself not to visit recreational sites and to use it only to pursue scholastic resources.

5. Wear headphones and listen to music without lyrics. This is especially handy if you have a roommate. Wearing headphones is like closing the door to your room; people hesitate before bothering you. The type of music you listen to, however, can kill or cultivate productivity. Try calming music—like classical Mozart—to begin with. If that’s not your thing—or you find yourself falling asleep—try some upbeat music without lyrics. If you listen to songs with lyrics, you want to sing. If you’re singing, you’re not focused on studying.

6. Keep a sand timer handy. Invest in a three-minute sand timer and flip every three minutes while studying. This seems asinine, but what it does is keep your attention on the present. Having to remember to flip a sand timer every three minutes means you’re less likely to let your mind wander past your studying, which you’ll probably do faster and more efficiently if the sand timer becomes something like your boss.

7. Schedule ten-minute breaks every hour. Walk outside to re-energize with some sunshine-derived vitamin D. Do a couple of chores like feeding the fish, sweeping the floor, or ventilating the room by opening the window. Now, you’re productive even when you’re not trying. And that’s the easiest way to complete every task.

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Carmen Brettel

Carmen Brettel

Carmen Brettel is a writer and manager for StudentGrants.org, where she has recently been researching older students returning to college. In her spare time, Carmen enjoys gardening and volunteering at animal shelters.
Carmen Brettel

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