1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Top 5 Internal Study Distractions

What's Distracting You?


When you're studying, the last thing you want in your head is one of the top five internal study distractions below. You have a bunch of test material to cram in there! There's no room for any of these other things! Banish these internal study distractions so you have the best possible shot at the score you really want.

Top 5 External Distractions

1. Self-Doubt

Thinking that you won't be able to succeed is one of the biggest study distractions. Why try if you're just going to fail?

The fix: Banish that self-doubt with positive affirmations. Say things like, "This is difficult material, but I know I can do it," or "I am successful at the drums/track and field/drama, so I can be successful at learning this, too." You'll be surprised how much good can come from being your own cheerleader, and how much easier it is to stay focused.

2. Anxiety

Flickr user gotplaid?

Test-taking anxiety can cause real stress when studying for a big exam. Students actually report increased heart rate, headache, and even nausea while studying for a major test.

The fix: Try one of these three things to overcome test anxiety: (1). Take 2 minutes at the beginning of your study session and just focus on breathing calmly. (2). Play relaxing, soothing music while you review your notes. (3). Break down your study time into smaller study segments, so you're not overwhelmed. Try studying a week ahead for a mid-term, and a month ahead for a standardized test.

3. Fear

copyright flickr user Sara.Nel

I get it. If you don't pass this test, you're going to repeat this class your senior year. That's a scary notion, and that fear can be a major study distraction.

The fix: Run before you study. Fear often causes the "fight or flight" response – heart rate goes up, adrenaline courses through your veins, the urge to run becomes almost overpowering. So, put that adrenaline to good use and run for a little while before you study. Your endorphins will kick in, and you'll instantly turn your fear into something a little more positive.

4. Anger

Copyright Flickr User Katalyst

Anger can be a very destructive emotion, even though we all experience it from time to time. But if you're living with constant anger – about grades, about an ex, about life in general – you're shortening your attention span in spades.

The fix: Write down what's bothering you. Looking at your anger on a piece of paper, where you've had to choose words to describe how you feel, can be really enlightening. Perhaps your anger is unfounded, or can be solved with a simple phone call. Even if it can't, just writing about what is driving you nuts can be cathartic, and you can focus on your work.

5. Ego

Cocky football player
Ron Levine

Confidence is great. Cockiness? Depends on the situation. If you are overly confident in your abilities, you could be distracting yourself from your study because you don't believe you can make a mistake.

The fix: Consider yourself human. Sure, in a knife fight, it's probably great to have a big ego. When you're studying for a test, however, you ruin your chances of learning by assuming you know everything already. Take a minute to recognize that you may have more to learn and dedicate your study session to being open to that idea.

How do YOU Focus on Studying?

Got some great advice for other people trying to focus on their studies? Post your advice here, and see your words in print!

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.