This might seem like common sense, but I’m surprised how many of my coaching clients were not doing this before I started working with them. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” applies here. Leave your tablet and phone in another room and put them on silent mode. Minimising temptations is one of the keys to being productive. In addition, even if you feel tempted to check your phone, you probably won’t do it because the effort required to walk to the other room is too great.
Post your study schedule on your bedroom door or on the fridge door in the kitchen. This way, your family will know when they shouldn’t disturb you. There’s another benefit to doing this. It also gives you a greater sense of accountability. By making a pre-commitment to your family about when you’ll be studying, you’ll be more likely to stick to your study schedule. All in all, this is a simple tip that will enable you to concentrate when you’re studying.
Every time you begin a study session, write down the task that you’ll be working on. Do this on a rough sheet of paper and leave it on your study desk. This way, it will serve as a constant reminder about what you should be doing at the moment. Just as you need a detailed plan for the day (Tip #4), you also need a detailed plan for each study session. For example, if you write down “Do math assignment” for the current study session, it’s not specific enough. “Do math assignment, questions 1 to 3” is more specific, so you’re more likely to stay on task.
Make sure the temperature where you are studying is optimal. Researchers at Cornell University found some interesting results when office temperatures were raised from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F). Typing errors fell by 44% and output increased by about 150%. Most research shows that the temperature most conducive for working and studying is in the range of 22°C to 25°C (72°F to 77°F). So if it’s possible for you to adjust the temperature of your studying environment, keep it within this range.
Don’t try to do anything productive while lying or sitting in bed. It’s important that the place where you study is not the same as the place where you sleep. You won’t be able to study effectively in a place that you associate with relaxing or sleeping. Also, if you study in bed you will either be lying down or sitting cross-legged. Neither of these positions is conducive for maximal focus. These positions may even result in neckaches and backaches. What’s more, you may end up taking unintended naps! So do your work at a proper study desk, every single time – this is a good habit that every student should cultivate!
There is no substitute for starting early with revision. You need to give yourself enough time to review everything that you have studied, and make sure that you understand it (or to read round the subject or ask for help if you are struggling). Last minute cramming is much less productive. Ideally, review each subject as you go, and make sure that you understand it fully as this will make revision much easier. Ultimately, the best tip is to study hard and know your subject, and starting early is the best way to achieve this.
Deep breathing exercises increase the ability of your mind to focus. Researchers at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience have studied the effect of breathing exercises on the body’s production of noradrenaline. Noradrenaline functions as a neurotransmitter, which affects your concentration. By regulating your breathing, you can optimise your levels of noradrenaline. The researchers concluded that “there is a strong connection between breath-centred practices and a steadiness of mind”. Here is a simple breathing exercise that will bring calm and focus to your mind before you study:
Keep a record of all the tasks you complete each day. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it allows you to monitor whether you are meeting the objectives set in your study plan. If you are not meeting your objectives, you may have underestimated the time required for the tasks. But if you are completing your tasks with time to spare, you may be able to set your targets higher. Secondly, it’s important for your morale to see that you are making progress. Studying is an activity where progress isn’t always easy to measure. But when you keep track of the tasks you have completed, you’ll be clearer about the progress you are making. This will remind you that you have been productive, which will keep you motivated.
Another way to stay focused when studying is to be clear about why you want to study hard in the first place. Write down the reasons you want to study hard. Keep the list handy so you can remind yourself of these reasons when you find yourself losing concentration. For example, you might write down:
Make the plan as detailed as possible. There’s a good reason for this. You must be clear about what you’re going to achieve during each study session. For example, “study science” is not a sufficiently detailed study plan. Here’s an example of a plan with enough detail: “Read pages 25 to 32 of the science textbook and create a summary diagram.” When you break a task down into detailed components, you will have a better idea as to whether it’s achievable within the specified study period. Another advantage of creating a detailed plan is that it becomes easier to assess your progress. If you’re halfway through your study period and you’ve already completed half of what you planned to achieve, you’ll know you’re on track. A key part of studying effectively is setting specific tasks to work on during each study session.