Staying Focused: Study Tips

Staying focused and studying is a real challenge, especially in today’s day and age. We will go into how to stay focused and get work done, dispelling a few myths about studying and how people may learn better from simply changing their study habits. Some of this information may surprise you. Before we go any […]

Staying Focused: Study Tips

Staying focused and studying is a real challenge, especially in today’s day and age. We will go into how to stay focused and get work done, dispelling a few myths about studying and how people may learn better from simply changing their study habits. Some of this information may surprise you.

Before we go any further, there are a few things that we have to get into.  First, we need to understand that human beings actually cannot concentrate on two things at once.  So, this means that your attention span actually shifts, and the shift takes several hundred milliseconds (so fast you can’t even detect it), but this causes an attentional deficit (you lose focus). 

The other thing you have to understand is that the average human being can concentrate on one thing for about 3 minutes, and then their attention will naturally shift to something else.  This isn’t a very long time, so you need to remember that your mind will drift a little bit every so often.  One of my professors told me that really super smart people (way more than the average person) can focus on one thing for maybe like 20 minutes!  Even that isn’t a very long time. 

One more observation to make, we live in a time where there have never been more distractions!  Social media manipulation smartphones, TV’s, watches connected to smartphones, blue tooth devices, are just to name a few.  Who can concentrate with all those distractions?  30 years ago, the only thing electronic in an elementary classroom was maybe the calculator.  Today, kids are bringing their expensive toys to school for show and tell, and it makes learning extremely difficult. 

So before we can change your study habits, we have to know what your current study habits are.  Do you have music playing in the background?  Do you leave the TV on?  Do you study in a noisy environment?  How long can you concentrate on one thing?  Have you ever tried to measure that?  Give it a shot, see how long you can concentrate on something before you shift attention to something else, but don’t be disappointed if it’s not for a long time, as I said before, most people cannot concentrate on one thing for too long. 

So now I’m going to give you the study tips, and I hope this helps you. 

1. Adhere to the basics:

You already know you need plenty of rest to study well, you need to eat well, especially food for brain health (studies show that sugar decreased study endurance and information retention), and you know you need to turn the phone and TV off when you study.  If this isn’t possible, then you have to try the best you can. But your learning should be as quiet as possible. 

2. Deal with issues before study time:

You know how they say you shouldn’t drive when you’re upset, well, it’s because your mind will be on whatever it is that upset you, and this will be a problem because it’s not on the road.  Studying is the same way, you shouldn’t try to force yourself to study when you’re upset (you wouldn’t really learn anything even if you did).  So if you just had an argument with your significant other, then this isn’t the best time for you to hit the books.  Give yourself time to recover in these situations. You can also follow some methods that psychologists use to help relieve stress.

3. Don’t try to force yourself to study for too long:

Some people try to force themselves to study for like three hours per day, and people shouldn’t do that.  Once you try to do too much, you become tired, and this decreases your study.  You need to study for like fifteen minutes, and then take a break for five to ten minutes.  And keep doing this.  In fact, try it!  Study something for fifteen minutes and then take a break for ten minutes.  Study for fifteen minutes, and then take a break for another ten minutes.  Then study a similar topic for an hour straight without taking any breaks, and I guarantee you that you’ll retain more information from the first study session where you only studied for fifteen minutes at a time and took frequent breaks than you will from the session where you took no breaks. 

To do less is to do more, and to do more, is to do less. 

4. Reward yourself:

Let’s say you have to read a book (three chapters).  So, reward yourself by those small, bite-size candy bars.  When you sit down to start studying, that takes effort and devotion, so reward yourself with one bite-size candy (but only one!). You can only have one more when you make it through the first fifteen-minute section.  So, when you take your first break, reward yourself again for studying by having another piece of candy.  Continue doing this until all your study tasks are done. 

Always reward yourself for the good stuff you do. 

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