As a kid in High School, you already know that having a good attention span is not easy.
One minute you’re all ready to hit the books, the next minute you’re playing Fortnite.
The following day, you reap the price of giving in to your distraction by getting a low score in your teacher’s pop quiz.
Now, thinking that you’ve learned your lesson, you are reading this article in the hope that you can develop that intense focus for studying.
But, WAIT! Let’s not get into the essential tips so fast. First, you need to understand why you lack that focus to begin.
Why You Can’t Study with Focus and Attention
Okay, I’m pretty sure you’re screeching, “The reason why I can’t focus on my studies is because I get distracted all the time!” And I certainly won’t argue with you on that. In High School, there are a wide variety of distractions – needing to do household chores for Mom and/or Dad, peer pressure, extracurricular activities like soccer, keeping up with people on social media, etc.
Let me tell you though that DISTRACTION is not the problem here, but your lack of RESISTANCE to distractions. This is especially true if the subject you happen to be studying is something you hate, like Math for instance. Whether you are conscious of it or not, there is that feeling of unease, restlessness, and impatience whenever you are studying. So, when that opening for escape comes – namely distractions – you seize it and head for the hills. Sadly, it’s your grades that will pay the price.
This is where our essential tips come in. I’m not just going to teach you how to study with focus, but also how to resist any distractions that come your way.
Essential Tips for Intense Focus in Studying
Without further ado, let’s get those tips rolling in…
1) Determine where your focus needs to be by keeping a weekly plan.
Creating weekly plans not only help to organise your mind. They allow you to determine which particular activities require your complete focus and attention. Schedule study periods during times when your brain is most attentive. It can be an hour or two before going to school, during lunch break, or in the library before going home. At the same time, allot a similar period for potential distractions, such as doing chores, Internet surfing, etc. Needless to say, these “distraction” periods can serve as short breaks to allow your mind to recharge.
2) Avoid multitasking and prioritise what needs to get done.
Scientific research has already proven it – there really is no such thing as “multitasking.” Your brain is incapable of parallel processing (“doing two more tasks at the same time”). Instead, it works best through serial processing (“doing multiple tasks one at a time”). So, if you want to get any major headways in your studies, you should place at No. 1 in your daily study schedules those subjects or assignments that require your greater focus.
Here’s an example for you. In the course of a single school day, your teachers give you the following assignments…
- a) History = read the chapter on the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia
- b) Trigonometry = solve the problems found in Page 47 of the textbook
- c) Science = create a model depicting the relationship between human biology and the environment
- d) Geography = write an essay on life during the Crusades
If you are having difficulties with Trigonometry, you should put that as your No. 1 in your “to do” list. Allot an hour or two to solve the problems. The next task will be writing that Geography essay. Then, read the Constitution chapter for History. Since you are given more time to do that model for Science, you can schedule the making of bits and pieces as “study breaks”.
3) Get all that “shallow work” out of the way.
“Shallow work” simply means all those mindless, routing tasks or activities that you do on a daily basis. These are things that you often do automatically, without any pre-thought.
The problem with shallow work is that, if you do them too often, you end up reducing your capacity for deep thought and work.
How do you get around this dilemma? For mindless chores like cleaning your room, taking out the trash, etc., you can either schedule them as short study breaks or lump them together in a one- to two-hour time frame to finish in one go.
4) Schedule “time off” from social media and other electronic/digital distractions.
Perhaps the most distracting type of shallow work are the things you do with your smartphones, laptops, and computers. You may want to post that latest selfie, surf through your favourite websites, or move on to the next level of your video game.
One way to deal with these electronic distractions is by using apps that block your access to certain websites and applications for a designated time period. Good examples of such apps include Freedom app and OFFTIME. Another way is to have your parent or older sibling activate the parental lock on your device. Once you’re done with your studies, you can have them unlock your device for you.
5) Feeling tired, annoyed, or overwhelmed? Take deep breaths.
If all that intense focus on your studies is leaving you tired, annoyed, or overwhelmed, sit back on your chair, close your eyes, and take deep breaths with your stomach. Let your tummy pull in as you inhale and push out as you exhale. Do this for one full minute. This helps to calm and relax your mind, so that you can better focus on what you are studying. This breathing exercise also helps you to release tension, anxiety and frustration over your studies, making you less prone to abandoning it and doing something else that you enjoy more.
6) Pull out that “Do Not Disturb” sign.
Family members can distract you while you’re in the middle of studying. If you want to study undisturbed, ask them if there is anything they want you to do so you can accomplish it early. Inform them point blank that you need to study without any interruptions. You can also place a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside your door and lock it.
Now, if you do end up getting distracted because there’s an important chore or other assignment that you forgot to do, don’t abandon what you’re doing outright. Instead, note it down on the last page of what you’re studying and tell your parent to let you finish first. Then, once you’re done, check your little reminder and go off to do that chore.
7) Make study focus a routine for you.
In order to build intense focus for studying, you need to create a routine that is conducive for such focus and make it your lifestyle. This would mean finding the best time for you to study when your brain is most active. This may also involve choosing the best location for studying. A good place is a quiet corner in your library or an empty classroom. You may also create an atmosphere that is conducive for studying, such as listening to Brain.fm or just playing your favourite songs while reading textbooks (Just make sure that you’re not listening to new songs from your fave singers or musicians as these can distract you).
8) Develop a study strategy that works for you.
There are a number of strategies that can reduce the overwhelming mental burden of studying. One great way is by jotting down the most important facts on flash cards while you are reading the textbook. When you’re done, you only need to review the flash cards and check your textbook periodically for verification or clarification.
9) Practice daily focus (not necessarily with your studies).
Okay, this tip may seem confusing to you. There are ways by which you can sharpen your focus, and not just through studying. One great way to sharpen focus is by reading a book undisturbed for 15 minutes daily. You can do this little exercise as soon as you wake up in the morning or before going to bed. Doing so, you will be able to develop the skill of blocking out external noise and distractions, particularly when you get down to actual studying.
10) Get enough rest.
Cramming and pulling all-nighters are all bad for your focus because you end up sleeping less. For your brain to work at its best, you need to get 8 hours of sleep every night. Never force yourself to study if you are already tired and feeling brain dead. You can either take a short nap or just call it a day and get an early start the next morning.
Let these essential tips that I have enumerated above help you to develop that intense focus while studying. Remember: Distractions are manageable if you know how to resist.