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But I can't concentrate

The problem

Many students report problems concentrating on their studies and most students blame outside distractions. Here are some tips to manage distractions and increase concentration:

Create a study environment

  • Find a place to study and use it only to study.
  • Control the noise level by making it quiet or with a low constant noise. Eliminate anything that could be distracting, such as computers and cell phones. Facebook and Twitter can wait.
  • Avoid a too-casual atmosphere while studying. Create a work atmosphere. Sitting up straight at a desk or table will make you feel like you need to accomplish work.

When to study

Best times

  • During the day and early evening; you will remember more material.
  • When there are the fewest competing activities in progress.
  • When adequate rest periods are provided. Break work into one-hour blocks with a 10-minute break in between.

Worst time

  • When fatigue or lack of attention occurs. Stop and take a break.

How to study and concentrate

  1. When distracters are present, become intensely involved. Dive into the material.
  2. Keep a pad of paper handy (yellow sticky notes work well) to jot down extra thoughts that cross your mind while studying. Get them out of your mind and onto paper so you can remember to deal with them later, rather than dwell on them now.
  3. Set study goals before you begin each period of study, such as the number of pages you will read or the number of problems you will finish. Set your goal and accomplish it!
  4. Design adequate rewards after you meet your goal, such as dinner out or a movie with friends.        
  5. Break up the content of study by varying the subjects, which will help to remove boredom.
  6. Make the most of rest periods. Do something quite different such as go for a walk outside for fresh air.
  7. Don't try to mix work and play.
  8. Start with short study periods and build to longer periods only as long as you maintain concentration.
  9. If necessary, make a calendar of events to clear your mind of distractions.
  10. Plan the length of your study period by the amount of material you have decided to cover, not by the clock.
  11. Realize that you won't lose friends, respect or a good time just because you are studying.  Study now and play later. Look forward to your school breaks and your marks will reflect your discipline and hard work!

 ©Adapted from Academic Skills Center, Dartmouth College 2001

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