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5 Ways to Get Back on Track if You're Losing Focus When You Study

Losing Focus? Not a Problem

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There are about a million things pulling you in every direction when you find a place to study, pull our your notes, and get down to the business of learning. Some people (maybe you?) find it hard to maintain focus on the subject at hand. You're bored. You're wired. You're tired. You're busy. You're distracted. But losing focus on your studying is not something that must accompany all of those issues. Here are five solid ways to regain that focus if studying isn't the first thing on your mind.

I'm Losing Focus Because I'm Bored

copyright flickr user Samael Trip

The Problem: The junk you have to learn for school is horribly, exhaustingly boring. It's numbing your mind. Your brain is wallowing in a thick cloud of "Who cares?" and "Why bother?" so focusing on the subject is getting more and more impossible with every passing second. In fact, right now, you'd rather throw yourself from the second story instead of having to read one more tidbit about this boring, useless subject.

The Solution: Reward yourself with something you do like after a successful study session. First, define your success. Set a study goal like this: "I need to learn 25 different facts from this chapter/10 strategies for the ACT/15 new vocabulary words (etc.) during the next hour." Then, set your reward: "If I do it, I can download six new songs/listen to a podcast/watch a movie/shoot some hoops/go for a run/buy a new bag (etc.)." You may be the only person monitoring your progress, but if you give yourself a reward for good behavior, just like your elementary teacher used to do, you'll be more likely to offset the boredom by anticipating something fun.

I'm Losing Focus Because I'm Wired

copyright flickr user tomsaint11

The Problem: You want to run. You don't want to sit inside. Your legs are bouncing, your fingers are snapping, you can barely keep your behind in your seat. You're a kinesthetic learner: all you want to do is M.O.V.E, and you're losing focus because of all those ants in your pants.

The Solution: If you can think ahead, then get it all out of your system before you ever pick up a book. Go for a long run, hit the gym, or take a swim before your study session begins. If you didn't plan ahead – you're already studying and are getting antsy – then do pushups or crunches in between questions. Better yet, see if you can get someone to ask you questions while you shoot hoops. You'll get to activate your muscles, and your brain will get to work, too. Even better – record your notes and download the recording to your iPod. The next time you clip in for a bike ride, study while you're on the trails. No one said sitting down for a study session had to involve a desk!

I'm Losing Focus Because I'm Tired

Getty Images | Erin Patric O'Brien

The Problem: The only thing on your mind right now is sleep. You're imagining that cozy pillow underneath your head and the quilt tucked just right under your chin. You've worked all week; you want nothing more to do with studying. You need rest, and your drooping eyelids are keeping you from steady focus.

The Solution: You have a few options here, none of which revolve around No-Doze. First, you could go take a nap. Literally. Sometimes a 20-minute power nap can be all the motivation you need to zap a little life back into your system. If you're in the library and can't imagine putting your head on the table to snooze, then get up, peel off your sweatshirt, and go for a brisk, 10-minute walk somewhere cool. Exercising may tire your muscles a bit, but it will rev up your mind, which is why you're not supposed to exercise too close to bedtime. Finally, if you're still struggling to stay awake, then call it quits and hit the sack early that night. You're not doing yourself any favors by attempting to study when your body is telling you to rest. You won't remember half of what you study anyway, so it would be better to get up a few hours early the next day to study after you've slept a full night.

I'm Losing Focus Because I'm Busy

Busy
Getty Images | Henrik Sorenson

The Problem: You're balancing about eighty-nine different things in your life right now. There's work, family, friends, classes, bills, volunteering, clubs, meetings, laundry, exercise, groceries and the list keeps going until you feel ready to explode. You're not just busy; you're overwhelmed. You're drowning in everything that needs to be done, so studying is difficult because you keep thinking about the sixteen other things you should be doing right this second.

The Solution: It can be difficult to add yet another item to your pile, but the best way to manage studying in the midst of chaos is to take a half hour and set a study schedule for the week. When busy people have to choose between studying and let's say, grocery shopping or going to work, studying will always get pushed back unless you've made enough time for each during the week. Print this time management chart to get started!

I'm Losing Focus Because I'm Distracted

rude on cell phone
Getty Images | Yellow Dog Productions

The Problem: You keep getting Facebook alerts on your phone. Your friends are laughing across the room. The guy at the next table is slurping his latte loudly. You hear every cough, every whisper, every laugh, every conversation. Or, maybe you are your OWN distraction. You can't stop thinking about problems, worrying about relationships and dwelling on unrelated ideas. You're sidetracked by everything, so studying is just too difficult.

The Solution: If you're the type of person who gets distracted by noise from the environment around you – external study distractors – then you have to isolate yourself during study time. Only study in a quiet place like the back corner of the library or your room if no one is home. Plug into some white noise on your iPod or hit up a white noise site like SimplyNoise.com to drown out any additional chatting, random lawnmowers or ringing phones. If your distractions are internal, then take a peek at some easy solutions to solve your most pressing issues so you can think clearly and maintain focus during study time.

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