How To Concentrate

August 15, 2009  |  Study Skills

Do you have have problems concentrating? Believe it or not, you are not alone! The first thing we need to do – before we can discuss how to concentrate – is to define the term “concentration”. According to Princeton University’s WordNet, concentration means:

“great and constant diligence and attention”

This is interesting… If concentration is related to attention then that means that we should be able to improve our concentration by simply becoming more attentive, right? Now, here are a few suggestions on how to do just that:

Apply The 5 More Rule

Instead of just quitting the task all together, you tell yourself to do only 5 more things before you quit. When these have been accomplished you promise yourself again to only do 5 more things (such as writing only 5 more pages, solving only 5 more math problems etc). The keyword here is the word ‘only’; by decreasing the size of the task cognitively you feel less hesitant to abandon it altogether. There’s an Arabic proverb that says:

“If you Can’t finish it altogether – Don’t leave it altogether”

Treat Yourself Like A Child

What do you do when your little child has accomplished a task? Well, you praise the little fellow and give him/her a reward. Treat yourself in the same manner by offering yourself incentives when ever you’ve completed a task. This will improve your motivation which in turn improves your concentration. For more information on increasing your motivation, please refer to this post on our blog entitled; improve your study motivation.

Why wait? Do it Now! resources

Procrastination is without doubt one of the biggest enemies you will face as a student. The temptation to delay your studies will always be strong, to counter this your will to succeed must be stronger. Why procrastinate and do something tomorrow if the same task can be done today?

Remove All Possible Distractions

The sad thing is that we don’t always notice when we are being distracted! There are really two kinds of distractions:

Those that are visible, such as someone who is having a lengthy (and boring) discussion with you during your ‘official study time’. Each and every “cell in your body” tells you that this is very disturbing.

The kind of distractions that are not picked up by ‘our radar’. This type is actually worse than the previous one. You can always tell your annoying friend that you’re busy but how on earth will you rid yourself from something that you’re not even aware of in the first place?

Examples of such distractions are (in no particular order); talking with someone on a topic that interests you, watching a movie while studying/working, listening to music and so forth. All of these things are distracting you from your studies even though you’re not thinking about it. The best way to avoid these types of distractions is by avoiding them from the start.

If you continue to have trouble concentrating once all distractions have been eliminated, you may be working yourself too hard. Exercise or take a walk to get rid of nervous energy. A lack of concentration is also a symptom of eye strain, so visit your eye doctor if you consistently have blurred vision or itchy, watery eyes. If a simple adjustment is in order, you can get contact lenses and be back to your old self in no time.

Make A Task List

I wrote about this in an article entitled how to do a to do list. A to do list is basically a task list that makes it easier to concentrate on your subject. It does this by making you think only about one issue at a time. Task lists are in some ways the opposite of mind mapping, since the latter involves scattering ones thoughts instead of collecting them. Although that’s a good way to initiate a project, it’s not very useful when it comes to actually doing the task in question.

About the author

ABDERISAK ADAM is an author, blog writer and a PhD candidate in the institution of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology. He is also the owner and webmaster of www.study-habits.com, a website dedicated to the discussion of study techniques in the context of higher education. Adam is the author of a number of publications including 'The Study Guide PRO'. You can connect with him through Google+, Linkedin or by submitting a form.


270 Comments


  1. That’s some excellent advice! You only have 24hrs/day, always important to optimize it as much as possible. 🙂

    Take care!
    Abderisak Adam – Author of The Study Guide PRO

  2. Aw the dreaded TV set, we meet again! 😉

    First of all, I’d advice to check out this article on watching less tv. Secondly I’d advice to simply differeniate between the time you spend reading and times when you do other activities. Don’t let these ever mix! I suspect that in your case the problem might lie in the PLACE that you decide to study more than HOW you study. Simply allocate a place in your home or an otherwise suitable study room where you can do nothing but study. Whenever you’re there studying is your priority and make sure that there’s nothing that might distract you in the room. If there is, place it somewhere else!

    Take care Varun!
    Abderisak Adam – Author of The Study Guide PRO

  3. If you are already getting good marks you shouldn’t be worried just because the competition is now greater. Don’t worry about what THEY are doing, start worrying about what YOU are doing. You are in fact competing against non other than yourself!

    Take care Varun!
    Abderisak Adam – Author of The Study Guide PRO

  4. When do you normally study? I wouldn’t recommend you to ever, unless you have some good reasons, to put your prime studying session during the night or late afternoon. It simply doesn’t work!. Don’t stay up late, get up early and study when you’re mind is the most awake and feels the least fatigue.

    Also, it’s very easy to get bored with reading when you don’t have any real goals with your reading. Make sure that always prepare a checklist of things you wish to have covered or understood prior to your reading session.

    Hope that helped!
    Abderisak Adam – Author of The Study Guide PRO

  5. Great approach, having a plan makes things a lot easier that’s for sure. 😀

    Take care Karce!
    Abderisak Adam – Author of The Study Guide PRO

  6. Hello there!

    There’s no need to panic, new opportunities are awaiting you see. The import thing is to start to deal with these problems, don’t let them heap up more than they already have. Don’t put it up and procrastinate, deal with it today! Construct a simple study plan for the remaining exams and never ever panic because of a low exam results. There are far worse things in life than that, by putting things in perspective you gain an insight into what’s really going on.

    Take care!
    Abderisak Adam – Author of The Study Guide PRO

  7. I READ ABOT YOUR 5 MORE RULES AND I WIIL TRY MY BEST TO FOLLOW THEM IN REAL TOO…………
    I WANT SOME MORE TIPS ON HOW TO MANAGE TIME EFFICIENTLY FOR STUDY AND ABOUT THE REST INTERVALS TO BE TAKEN AND SOMETHING MORE AND HELPFUL…………

  8. Hello there Rajan,

    We have lot’s of articles on that very topic, just browse around the site.

    Abderisak Adam – Author of The Study Guide PRO

  9. Christopher Paulin

    Change your diet to 80/10/10 (low fat, low protein) raw vegan. This is a big change for someone on the standard western diet, but you’ll have more energy. I’d start by reading The 80/10/10 Diet book by Douglas N. Graham. The way it works is that you eat fruits and greens, optionally very little nuts and seeds. I only eat organic fruits and greens, and I buy my fruits in bulk. This is how we would eat without tools in nature, and this is how our closest anthropoid primate, the bonobo, eats. You maximize your nutrients when you eat raw like all other species do. The reason that you stay awake is that there’s not much energy required for digestion. When you get your calories from fruit and you’re low fat, the sugar goes quickly to your cells without much effort. If you eat overt fats like nuts and seeds, the fat traps the glucose and oxygen in the bloodstream. You can make a sandwich with a dandelion leaf wrapped around a piece of banana. The fiber slows down the absorption. This is also the optimal diet for athletes. Doug Graham is a gymnast and has been eating 80/10/10 raw vegan for many years.

  10. dont worry just think you want to study?

  11. Have got serious problem i am in 8th till now believe it i have always topped each and every class but now the things have stopped me from progressing further i am descending day by day and no matter how hard i try i never get the better of history and geography. plz help or otherwise i will end this class gaining nothing because my final exams are starting after 40 days!!!!!!!!!

  12. i think studying and concentrating at university is a good idea, you have to spend your time at the university as much as you can, home will just be for rest.

    also you may collect all what you do not finish during the week to the end of the week,i know you may like to get rest but as you said , no pain ,no gain,

  13. Start now!

    Don’t wait and don’t put it off. The longer you wait the more difficult it will become. Stop thinking about how much time you’ve lost or how much work is left. Studying is a step by step process, you can’t absorb it all in one sitting.

  14. hi dis shahin.i’m facing some problem durng solve the maths probems.i’m not dung problem with concentration.plz give suggetion.

  15. I am Rajesh.IIIT student in Basar.I am not good at studies until I am doing my 10 th class but in 10 th calss I am very good and I got 555 marks so I got the seat of IIIT in Basar.Now I am again I am not getting any thing.So I am soo poor in studyies so I am soo sad about my studies and future.I know that when I have to work hard then I will get good future but I can’t do any thing!!
    So what I have to do please give me a good suggestion.please

  16. hi frnds i hava problem in studing i c wil study everything in subjest but for xam time i wi forget them soo please give me a best answer about this problem please please

  17. move closer to uni…

  18. Hi, This is Amit. There is a problem which i m facing that i can’t demonstrator to my study as well as my work. Some time i think that m i become lazy. plz help.

  19. I don’t know if this will help but I have realised that when I go to bed very early I wake up early aswell and cannot get back to sleep so maybe you can try it.

  20. hi this is sajjad ghumro student of school level ………my problem is that whenever i wana read or get some thing from my book during the studying i lose my focus from my topic and many of other matters and thinkings striking in my mind and i fell losing my attention even i know that iam doing my splendid job towards my study ………….but i have this problem please give an authentic idea or advise plz plz plz

  21. please help, im an MBA student and my exams are on. the thing is i do study but the thing is even after i have studied something i cant remember what i have studied and sometimes my brain completely blanks out. i dont even get sleep in the afternoons. please help, i dont no why is this happening.why cant i remember something which i have read minutes earlier? please help me.

  22. You can only focus on one thing at a time, you have to make sure something else isn’t taking up all your time. Also, it could of course be a medical thing which you might would want to check it out. Have you always been like this? If not, when did it start?

    You are an MBA student and chances are that you are trying to cram in large portions of information in a short amount of time. Don’t do this, you need to have a more balanced study schedule where you study intensely for a few hours followed by a break where you do not think about your studies. Relaxing is an important part of studying, however it needs to be handled with care, neither too much nor too little.

    Abderisak Adam
    Webmaster of Study Habits | Become a Premium Member Today
    Author of Study Guide PRO & How To Concentrate Before It’s Too Late (Available to Premium Members)

  23. I see…

    That’s because you try to think about different topics in once sitting and we can only focus on one thing at a time. The implications of this are as follows; whenever you decide to study that’s exactly what you should be doing and nothing else. If something more important comes up, you deal with it but you do not try to mix the two. Study time is for study time and study time only.

    From now on, whenever you decide to study (which should be in regular intervals) make the habit of;
    – turning off/silencing your cellphone
    – leaving other less important thoughts

    You can only focus on one thing at a time, you have to make sure something else isn’t taking up all your time. Also, it could of course be a medical thing which you might would want to check it out. Have you always been like this? If not, when did it start?

    You are an MBA student and chances are that you are trying to cram in large portions of information in a short amount of time. Don’t do this, you need to have a more balanced study schedule where you study intensely for a few hours followed by a break where you do not think about your studies. Relaxing is an important part of studying, however it needs to be handled with care, neither too much nor too little.

    Abderisak Adam
    Webmaster of Study Habits | Become a Premium Member Today
    Author of Study Guide PRO & How To Concentrate Before It’s Too Late (Available to Premium Members)

  24. That’s some good advice.

    Early birds you usually go to bed early. Remember when we where kids and had to go to bed early in order get off early? We actually learned things back then! Perhaps we could all learn a thing or two from school children. 😀

    Abderisak Adam
    Webmaster of Study Habits | Become a Premium Member Today
    Author of Study Guide PRO & How To Concentrate Before It’s Too Late (Available to Premium Members)

  25. It’s easy to fight laziness.

    Just spend a short moment thinking of all the time, energy and money that has been wasted because of laziness. It’s clear that it’s a disease that needs to be dealt with.

    As for your studies, you need to start changing your habits today. Get up early, make a study schedule that you try to follow as best as you can. Start measuring your past results and write down your future goals. Become an active student, become an effective student!

    Abderisak Adam
    Webmaster of Study Habits | Become a Premium Member Today
    Author of Study Guide PRO & How To Concentrate Before It’s Too Late (Available to Premium Members)

  26. We all forget from time to time, it’s a human characteristics.
    If you want to retain as much information as possible you need to start rehearsing your material more often. Take your studies seriously and learn to see how the information that you’re learning can be applied in the real world.

    You can only focus on one thing at a time, you have to make sure something else isn’t taking up all your time. Also, it could of course be a medical thing which you might would want to check it out. Have you always been like this? If not, when did it start?

    You are an MBA student and chances are that you are trying to cram in large portions of information in a short amount of time. Don’t do this, you need to have a more balanced study schedule where you study intensely for a few hours followed by a break where you do not think about your studies. Relaxing is an important part of studying, however it needs to be handled with care, neither too much nor too little.

    Abderisak Adam
    Webmaster of Study Habits | Become a Premium Member Today
    Author of Study Guide PRO & How To Concentrate Before It’s Too Late (Available to Premium Members)

  27. You seem like a bright person who spends far too much time worrying about studying and too little time actually studying. You need to change this behavior. I can see you take your studies seriously. However this needs to be manifested in your actions as well. You need to study more often and more regularly. Begin by making a plan or schedule where you decide when to study and what to study. Be firm and enjoy the ride, IT studies are fun! 😀

    Abderisak Adam
    Webmaster of Study Habits | Become a Premium Member Today
    Author of Study Guide PRO & How To Concentrate Before It’s Too Late (Available to Premium Members)

  28. You still have time. Don’t sit back and wish you would have studied. I assume you have already started studying, either way you need to focus extra hard the last few days. This is where it happens, you need to make sure you have first covered all your bases. Do you know all the essential parts of the course? If not, better start mapping these out and start searching for the answers on these questions. Once you’ve covered all the basis you can focus on the more advanced materials, spend more time to understand each question/problem.

    In short, you begin by thinking in terms of width (many topics, easy to understand) and end with thinking in depth (few topics, difficult to understand)

    Abderisak Adam
    Webmaster of Study Habits | Become a Premium Member Today
    Author of Study Guide PRO & How To Concentrate Before It’s Too Late (Available to Premium Members)

  29. When i study ,i starts thinking about games, movies etc..i tried to get rid but i can’t.i want a trick that encourage me to study more..with full concentration.

  30. i have same problem i know the solutions but i cant put it in action,i want to study but i feel some what careless, and if i started study i lose my concentration start my own world of fantasy for like 15~20mins making up stories or recognizing funny situations with my friends, and even sometimes i think about losing concentration while iam studying , after i return back to my concentration i feel tired and bored that i waste that time not able to study any more . however i find that studying with a friend is helpful in my problem but i wont live with my friends to study…

  31. thank u i hope now i can concentrate because i am a reaaally good gazer hehe i have a phd in it lol

  32. yes same thing here 😛

  33. Pray.

    “If our God is with us, then what can stand against?”

    🙂

  34. Hi,i am hodan i have a problem how to concentrate my study.the other problem is i can not get a good mark although iam reading alot of hours so reply me soon.

  35. Hi, I feel super bad because I should be studying on the Neo-Classical composers right now……
    But anyway, can you please help me?!
    I tried all these things…I have never been able to sit and work. I am more of a hands on person, you know?
    So if it is possible, could you give me some tips?

  36. hi thear
    some body help me i m suffaring from ADD ( attional defetioncy disodder ) i cant concentate on any thing for a long time (even i play play station 3 not more that 5 min )
    and when i take a book i do the same, before taking a book for study i make my mind to compleat at least 1 qustion but i cant. i cant concentate on any thing . please help me,
    aoo and i make lott of spill mistakes to.

  37. hey when u reach home take rest for some time and after that concentrate 2 ur study

  38. Hey 🙂
    Im in the 12th grade and I got my exams coming up within 10days and I got 20 long chapters to study.
    Well, Im also a very slow learner…. meaning I take 2hours for 1 page!(yes,Im THAT slow).
    The teachers?They actually put me down even more and my supervisor embarasses me in front of my classmates and I cry thinking about it everyday. They talk to me in a rude manner and I get even more pissed off about it! The only one that makes me happy is my mother.She supports me in everyway but I really wanna make her proud of me :'(
    I too get distracted a lot because I had a boyfriend and he ditched me So i lost all my hopes and strength I had in me.
    How do I remove all this out of my head and start studying? Can someone help me? please?
    Plus in a day I just get 2 hours free? Because I leave from home by 5AM and come back by 3PM and then go for tutions by 4PM and come back by 8pm and then sleep by 10pm.
    I dont get time FOR ANYTHING!
    please can some1 help me?
    and schedule planning things never work on me coz I tried and i just end up being busy or lazy!
    thankyou 🙂

  39. I want to study but there’s always something that makes me dream about I sometimes try to make a story /film for sth but I dont wanna do that, sometimes I feel tired of it but I can’t stop,what should I do?

  40. I could not concentrate on this text 😛 joking 😀

  41. I am a student at high school and I find it extremely difficult to concentrate! Whenever I grab the book and start studying I immediately feel bored and it feels like studying is a waste of time. I’d rather do anything else than studying! I want to start studying properly but whenever I try I end up saying that life is short and that health is the most important thing, so studying doesn’t matter. However, I want to write well in exams since I’m a good student and everyone expects good results from me. I just feel that I study for the others (so that I won’t disappoint them) and not for me! Finally, I end up pulling all-nighters to manage and write well to the exams. Things are better when I study something interesting but when I study something that I won’t need iin the future I find it impossible to motivate myself! Any help will be highly appreciated. Thank you.

  42. never lose hope

    hi,
    i am a student in dentistry school. i have a problem that i can’t concentrate at all and i need someone to encourage me to study .I got high score when i was in high school because i was with my parents but now i live in a place near my collage and not with them so i feel that no one is encouraging me at all ,i am in year two (in dentistry) and the last year i failled in two subjects and my mum and dad keep saying that they don’t want that to happen again and its 10 days far from my exames this year ,i feel so deppresed and i can’t concentrate to stydy 🙁

  43. Hi. I am currently taking my School Certificate and I have trouble concentrating. I can easily concentrate on the things i am interested, but i have no easy time studying for thing such as GEOGRAPHY and HISTORY. please help me

  44. Hey, i am a class 12 student but i am loosing concentration like anything.Truely i am a very average syudent but i want to bring really good %tage.i am always thinking about cricket and music and movies and after trying also i cant leave them so please advice me what to do. after making a routine also i cant follow it so please please help me! please….

  45. not bad

  46. Priyanka this is irony of fate this country is being eaten up by tow devils, cricket and cenema.However it is up to u which way u want to go.If u really want to be good in studis just put these two hobbies in trash and see u r what u want to be.

  47. hi sir thanks for these advices .
    but i want to ask one thing that like i live in rajasthan and i wanna prepair for govt. job so for that i have to study the history of it and current affairs and all the things about it so it is not easy to concentrate on them . It is so boring how can i make it easy or a little bit intreasing .
    plz advice

  48. Hi good after noon priyanka first one thing ur any work any time in ur mind on that thing okye and surely ur got my point ur studing 12+ i no but ur don’t disappointing first okye another u will rockz ok do best work best and all the best c u beb.

  49. Hi swetha good afternoon beb wts ur problem please mention okeyeeeeeee

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