Techniques for Concentrating for You
There are other times when your thoughts are scattered, and your mind races from one thing to another. It’s for those times that you need to learn and practice concentration strategies. They involve (1) learning mental self regulation, and (2) arranging factors that you can immediately control.
Remember to take short breaks. Lectures are usually 50 minutes long, and that’s about the length of time most people can direct their attention to one task. But, that’s just an average. Your concentration time span might be less (20 – 35 minutes) or longer (perhaps 90 minutes). When you take a break, oxygenate (get more oxygen to your brain). Get up and walk around the room for a couple of minutes. When we sit for long periods, blood tends to pool in our lower body and legs (because of gravity). Our calves serve as pumps for our blood when we walk, getting blood flowing more evenly throughout the body. As a result, more oxygen is carried to the brain, and you are more alert.
- Jot down things that are on your mind before you study, then set this list to the side. Add to it anything that distracts you as you are studying. Take care of the list later.
- Study at the same time each day. A regular schedule can help you frame this as “study time”.
- Set a timer for an hour, don’t allow yourself to stop studying until it goes off.
- Take breaks. A three minute break for every 30 minutes of study is a good guideline. Take a longer break after 90 minutes.
- Set goals for your session that are realistic (number of problems to solve, pages to read, etc.) When you have met one of your study goals, reward yourself with a short break. Then, return to your study area.
- Study in an area away from distractions such as a library, study lounge, or an empty classroom.
- Make sure you have everything that you need before you begin.
- Make sure your environment is conducive to studying, no TV, no telephone, no roommate, no boyfriend/girlfriend.
- Make studying an active process; take notes and make review sheets. Intersperse different kinds of study into one session, e.g. reading, writing, taking notes, memorizing, etc.
- Identify how what you are studying is relevant to your life. Draw connections between things you already know.
- Insure that you are sleeping enough, eating well, and getting regular exercise. Your mind will be more alert, and you will be less likely to fall asleep or daydream.
Many students aid their concentration by changing the subject they are studying every one to two hours. We tend to pay more attention to something that’s different.