By Carol C. Wood Founder & CEO Total Learning Concepts, Inc.
Concentration is the ability for someone to control attention. It is critical for optimum learning to take place! There are many causes of poor concentration; such as distracting noises, boredom, daydreaming, hunger, worry, dislike of a subject, television, computer, technology, social media, feeling overwhelmed with an assignment, lack of commitment, constant interruptions, lack of sleep, fatigue, and poor diet.
Following are ways for students to improve their focus and concentration:
- Study with intent and make a decision to focus.
- Study in a quiet place with all the materials you will need. Have good lighting and avoid listening to music. Earplugs can help, too, if you live in a house with noisy siblings and pets!
- Become interested in the subject you are to learn by looking for various points of view, questioning and daring to disagree, predicting outcomes, and seeing the connections and relationship within the information you are studying.
- Know yourself and take advantage of your learning style. Use study techniques which will enable you to compensate for your learning style weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths.
- Set specific and realistic goals. Know what you are supposed to learn, focus on the material, and then create a brief outline of the information presented. For example, take time out every few paragraphs and write down what the author has said so far. If you are at a loss for words, then you probably need to reread the section and try again to write a brief outline. The fact that you are actively reading, rather than passively reading, will likely improve your concentration!
- Eliminate distractions. Keep a “distractions list” and continually work to reduce it. Students usually are distracted by the same things over and over but are unaware of these things until they begin to pay attention to what takes them away from concentrated study.
- Use a timer or stopwatch and set it for a specific amount of study time, such as for 50 minutes. Do not check your watch during this period and spend the entire amount of time intensely concentrating on just one assignment or studying for only one class. Then, when the timer goes off, reward yourself with a 10 – 15 minute study break. In other words, intend to concentrate and accomplish a certain amount of learning in a specific amount of time.
- Eliminate daydreaming from your study time. Make a check mark on a piece of paper every time you catch yourself daydreaming. Then, continually try to reduce the number of check marks from one study period to the next. You should find the number if check marks will reduce over time and with practice.
- Vary your routine within the study session. Change subjects if you become bored. Take a 5-10 minute break for every 30-50 minute period of concentration. This will allow your brain to rest and refocus before beginning new material in a new study session.
- While studying, summarize material often. Talk to yourself out loud as if you are teaching someone the information. Or, talk to someone who is interested in the subject and teach them. The best way to learn something new is to teach it someone else!
- Reward yourself for focused, sustained concentration. Start with reasonable expectations and short blocks of time to focus. Continually attempt to lengthen the duration of your study sessions. Be positive and tell yourself, “Job well done!”
Also, important as it pertains to good physical health and well-being, which area required for concentration:
- Include both a protein and complex carbohydrate in your breakfast since eating a carbohydrate alone will cause your body to fatigue faster. Protein allows your body to more slowly utilize the sugar in the carbohydrate.
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule of 7 – 8 hours per night by going to bed at the same time each night. If your sleep schedule varies too much, your body will not know whether it should be sleeping or waking!
- Exercise a minimum of ½ hour each day to keep you more alert and to think more clearly.