How to study when you can't focus
School & Organization

How to Study When You Can’t Focus

Staying focused when you’re studying can be hard. Especially when you need to study lots or for long hours. Sometimes you know you need to study and get things done but focusing on your work just seems impossible. These are my tips on how to study when you can’t focus.

Change Your Environment

The first thing I do when I find I’m not focusing on my work and not getting anything done is to change my environment. Usually this means going to the library instead of studying in my room. Going to the library means you are surrounded by other people that are working so you will usually feel a little more motivated to work. Coffee shops are also another good option (though I tend not to go as often because I’m inclined to spend more money if I am in one ☹️).

I know going to the library isn’t always an option so some other things you can do are to move to another room in your house or even just try rearranging you desk a little bit. Clear it off and keep it organized.

Eliminate Distractions

Eliminate everything thats distracting you. If you have lots of distraction where you are studying you are not going to get very much done. I find I get distracted by my sketch books, or any projects that I’m working on. If something is distracting me I put it away completely. Out of sight out of mind.

I also use noise cancelling headphones when I am studying so that I’m not getting distracting by any noises in my house.

Another big distraction is often your phone. If you are getting distracted by it, then put it away or put a time limit on your apps.

Listen to Music or Ambient Noise

As much as I try to eliminate distractions I also can’t study in a completely silent space. If I am listening to music while I work I go for something that is either instrumental or in another language so I’m not distracted by the lyrics. I don’t know what it is about the Lord of the Rings soundtrack but I find it very motivating so that’s usually what I’m listening to.

Another option is ambient noise like the sounds of a coffee shops or a library. Youtube has lots channels that have ambient noise sometimes with some background music playing. I really like Ambient Worlds because you can have it like you’re in the Shire or sitting in the Hogwarts library. Try searching ambient music for studying and see what you like.

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Use a Focus Timer

A focus timer is a great way to keep your phone from distracting you. I use flora because it is a completely free app. With flora you set a timer and during that time you grow a plant, but if you open any other apps it will kill the plant. Honestly, it is surprisingly motivating I always get disappointed if I kill my plant.

It also keeps track of of focus time so at the end of the day or week you can look back and see how productive you were!

It is currently only available to download from the App Store but they are making a version for Google Play and a Chrome extension.

The Pomodoro Method

I often use the pomodoro method in combination with Flora. The pomodoro method is a study method where you work for 25 minutes without any distractions and then take a 5 min break. You do this 4 times then take a 15 – 30 minute break. So you are getting a longer break for every 1 hour of focused work that you do. This helps to break up long study periods into more manageable chunks.

The Flora app also has a built in break timer so if you are doing pomodoro is will remind you when to go back to work.

I also find that pomodoro works best when you stick to the timings, so when your 25 minute timer goes off just stop whatever you are doing right then. You’ll usually find that 25 minutes is about the time that you start to loose focus and your mind begins to wander.

The 5 Minute Rule

The five minutes rule is where you only commit yourself to 5 minutes of studying. Yep thats it. You tell yourself that you are going to sit down and only do 5 minutes of work. You will usually find that at the end of the five minutes you can do a little more, so you keep going. If at the end of the 5 minutes you find that you absolutely cannot focus and nothing is going into your head then you stop. Walk away from your work and don’t do anything.

Yea I know it sounds counter productive. However, it’s your body telling you that you need a break. So go do something fun, hang out with your friends or read a book you like. Then later you can go back and try again.

I hope these tips help you to focus and get some studying done!

Let me know what you found most helpful or if there is something else you find helps you to focus.

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