How to focus better when studying

It's so easy to get distracted while studying. Use these tips to stay focused for longer

Clock 3 min read Calendar Published: 15 Mar 2023
Author Lawrie Jones
How to focus better when studying

Have you ever sat staring at a textbook for hours without the information going in?

You’re not alone. Most of us find it challenging to focus for more than 20 minutes. Digital distractions, unstructured study sessions, and attempting to fit too much in are common issues affecting study sessions. 

Humans find it hard to sit down and study for a long time. Over time, losing focus can lead to frustration. This can cause anxiety and stress as we fail to progress as quickly as expected. Sound familiar?

These are all symptoms of unstructured and unfocused study sessions. If this sounds like you, here are eight strategies to help you focus better when studying. 


1. Set goals


Whether cramming for a test or creating a year-long study program, setting realistic goals is critical in staying focused

So, what do you want to achieve?

Start with a clean sheet of paper and sketch out your objectives at the start of any study block. In most cases, this will be an end-of-year exam or test; but objectives that are too far away can cause you to lose focus. So set shorter goals, such as finishing a book or getting an A on an assignment.

You should have a goal for every study session, however short. 


2. Create rewards


We all set out with the best plans, but managing motivation is an ongoing challenge for every learner. Setting rewards is an effective strategy to help maintain your focus.

Finished that chapter? Grab yourself a coffee and a cookie.

Aced the end-of-year exam? Upgrade your mobile, treat yourself to a new tablet, or head away on vacation!


3. Structure sessions


Every time you sit down to study, you’ll want a clear idea of what you're learning, why, and how it fits into your overall study objectives. 

Learning isn't passive but active as you embed the theories, models, and concepts you’re learning about. 

Sitting there for hours staring at a book doesn't help you understand – and, more importantly, apply what you're learning. This means using several different study strategies, including note-taking, reading, and revision alongside exercises, games, and viewing videos.


4. Avoid digital distractions


Digital distractions (mobile phones, smart watches, IMs, social media,  and more) can have a significant impact on our ability to focus. Spending too much time online can also affect our overall health and mental wellbeing.

When studying, minimize distractions. Try putting your phone on airplane mode. Receiving email alerts, breaking news, and social media updates while focusing will ruin your flow. 

Of course, you’ll want to stay connected – but that’s what your break times are for.


5. Break study into blocks – and take regular breaks 


While the 20-minute attention span is likely a myth, most of us won't be able to stay seated and study for more than an hour. But even if we could, we shouldn't. 


Instead, the most effective learning occurs in short, focused blocks of around 60-90 minutes (depending on your attention levels). Each block should have a purpose, structure, and goal. Once you've achieved what you need to, take a break of at least 15 minutes. 


Don't just sit back in your chair and switch your attention to your phone. Instead, experts advise getting up for a walk to wake your body up and prepare for the next study block. Taking regular time away from the screen is critical in keeping your concentration and protecting your eyesight.  


6. Make study social


Studying – especially cramming – is often a solitary exercise, but it can help get social. A study group can provide extra motivation and support to help you study. In addition, it's harder to skip a study session if someone is ready and waiting for you.

Working alongside others lets you discuss any issues with your learning. It’s proven to improve the education experience

You can also make study fun with quizzes, games, and other ways to help you embed learning. 


7. Use tech   


OK, we told you to switch off digital distractions, but not all tech is bad. Some study platforms, such as Glean, can help you to achieve your study goals by simplifying the process.

You can record lectures and seminars, playing back recordings when needed. You can also annotate them in real time, using a single session as a long-term study aide.

Modern assistive technologies can tackle tedious tasks, enabling you to focus on what's important: learning!


8. Track progress


A practical study program should be a long-term plan for helping you achieve your objectives. 

It's easy to lose focus, especially when the finish line is so far into the future. The key is tracking progress and understanding how every session contributes to your goals. Several online apps can help you stay on top of your studies. 

Whether you use a paper-based system or mobile app, tracking progress means seeing each piece of your study plan fall into place as you get closer to the end. This will give you confidence that you’ve covered everything. When it comes to your exam, assessment, or another learning objective, you'll do your best.


Reduced stress, improved confidence, better grades

Glean is designed to help you study effectively, easily. 

And over just one semester, it's improved the grades of 71% of users, with an average 20% increase in GPA. Learn more, and access your free trial today!

Meet Glean
Time for a simpler, smarter note taking accommodation?

Time for a simpler, smarter note taking accommodation?

Glean is the online note taking tool that makes compliance simple, reduces cost and admin burden, and improves student outcomes.
Learn More