Long blocks of studying come with the territory as a student, but it's not always easy to stay focused. Distractions draw you away from the work. Boredom makes it tough to focus. Information overload causes you to confuse the data. With some adjustments to your study habits, you can keep yourself on track so your grades don't suffer.
Clear a Zone
A cluttered dorm room without organization isn't a productive study environment. Clutter often makes concentration difficult, according to Health Guidance. Before you sit for hours of studying, do some spring cleaning. You need a study area large enough to hold your books and materials. Clean off your desktop, leaving only the essentials within reach. Gather all materials you might need before you start studying. You'll interrupt your flow if you have to stop every five minutes to find the correct book or notes. The American Psychological Association suggests putting a few inspirational pieces in your study area as a way to encourage yourself. A supportive chair that allows you to keep your feet on the ground and reach your computer and work materials also supports your study sessions.
Distractions, such as social media or calls from friends, make it difficult to focus on studying. Instead of giving in, set aside time specifically for the activities that distract you the most. Give yourself an hour for socializing with friends, for example. When it's study time, let your friends know you need time without their distractions. Shut off your phone so that texts or calls won't interrupt your studying. Log out of your social media accounts. If you're still tempted to check the latest online statuses, use a blocker program that keeps you from going to certain sites for a set amount of time.
Break It Up
You may have a lot of material to tackle, but forcing yourself to study for a long, uninterrupted time is often not the most effective method. After staring at the material for too long, your mind may start wandering or you may find it difficult to remember what you're studying. The American Psychological Association recommends frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest and to stretch your legs. Moving around also helps work out aches that come with hunching over a book or computer all day. Set a timer for your break so that you don't forget to come back to your work. If you find yourself becoming drowsy, a short nap may be an effective way to take a break. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a 20- to 30-minute nap can boost your alertness without affecting your sleep at night.
Listen to Your Body
Your body gives you clues that help you become more effective at studying. The first consideration is when your body is most alert. Your body's internal clock sends out what the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School calls an alerting signal that increases during the day and keeps you awake and alert. The model shows the highest alert times in later afternoon and evening. Eventually your sleep drive takes over and your alerting signal decreases. If you stay up late when you're exhausted, you're probably wasting your time when you should be sleeping. Because you are less alert and overwhelmed with the need to sleep, your focus will decrease. Hunger and exercise are two other factors. Keep your body fueled so that you remain alert, but don't reach for junk food. Use healthy foods to keep your mind sharp. Exercising can also keep your body healthy so you are better able to focus on the task at hand. Regular exercise -- at least 60 minutes daily -- may improve your grades, help you stay on task and improve your concentration, according to the CDC.
- Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Student Academic Services: Getting Focused
- Health Guidance: How to Avoid Distractions While You're Studying
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity Facts
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: College Health and Safety
- National Sleep Foundation: Napping
- American Psychological Association: Family Place, Productive Space
- Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School: The Forces That Control Sleep and Wakefulness
Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.