Concentrating on your study

Create a constructive environment
Many of us experience problems with concentrating on our study, usually because we have busy work lives, personal responsibilities and a desire to have rest and be socially active. We may find it hard to create an environment that is conducive to study, especially if we have dependents and neighbours.

Research shows that noise levels and distractions can increase, decrease, or not affect concentration. Distracters do not cause concentration problems directly – it is the way we interpret and react to them that disrupts study.

Practical suggestions for increasing and maintaining your concentration when studying:

  • Find a place to study and keep it for study only if you can.
  • Prepare your study environment with all the materials, resources and equipment you will need to be able to study
  • If necessary, control the noise level and the visual environment, so for example, only play music or have the TV switched on
  • if you find this to be conducive to concentrating
  • Avoid relaxing while studying and create an atmosphere for work that both you and everyone around you can recognise
  • Switch off your mobile phone and close down your email inbox if necessary

When to study
It is usually best to study during the day and early evening as this is when most of us remember better.

It is wisest to study when there are the fewest competing activities in progress, for example, social events, TV programmes, putting the children to bed, etc.

You will almost certainly find that study is most productive when you are rested and not tired. If you do begin to feel you are flagging, stop for a drink, some exercise or if necessary, get some sleep.

How to maximise concentration
Distractions are best headed off by becoming intensely involved in what you are studying. You can do this by following some simple steps, outlined for you here.

  • Set yourself realistic but challenging study goals for each period of study
  • Give yourself a reward once you have achieved your goals to plan, perhaps by having a break, a snack or by going out
  • Break-up the content of your study by doing what you can to vary topics and include interest to forestall boredom
  • Make the most of rest periods – get some fresh air and exercise, enjoy your family time or your social life
  • Study in chunks: a structure of 20-50 minute blocks, followed by a short break (perhaps of 5-10 minutes) is the most effective way to study
  • Study “actively” by asking yourself questions, writing and reviewing notes regularly, talking over ideas and learning points
  • Sleep well and eat regularly – this is perhaps the most obvious but also the most valuable advice you can take
  • Keep a pad of paper handy to write down nagging thoughts or ideas that crop up when you study – this way you can be safe in the knowledge you will not forget them

Using the study plan you devised in section 5, make any necessary improvements or adjustments to take into consideration the following suggestions:

  • Set yourself realistic but challenging study goals for each period of study
  • Break-up content to vary topics
  • Study in chunks of 20-50 minute blocks, followed by a short break (perhaps of 5-10 minutes)
  • Study “actively”
  • Sleep well and eat regularly