How to concentrate on studies for long hours? Here are my 10 tips…
I used to be the worst when it comes to concentration. Now, after a year of ADHD therapy and a lot of practise, I can easily concentrate for a whole day. How did I manage this? By being determent to change my brain, by training it nearly every day. In this article I will share my secrets on how to concentrate on studies for long hours.
Diagnosed with ADD at age 27.
I’ve got a wandering mind (called ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder), so concentration wasn’t my strongest quality. I got diagnosed at age 27 and since that time I made it my life mission to find out how to be able to concentrate.
During my adult life, I’ve started at least 6 studies/courses and finally, after years of failing en quitting, I completed 3 of them. How? By following these guidelines (with a little help of vitamins, as I write about in this post)
Why would you want to know how to concentrate on studies for long hours?
When you’re studying, being able to concentrate is one of the major factors of success. You hardly accomplish anything, when you are not able to concentrate. The result is frustration.
Stop wasting your time and stop being frustrated. If I was able to increase my level of concentration, so are you!
When your level of concentration is high, you need less time to gain more information. It’s way more time effective to study with a high level of concentration for a short amount of time, than trying to study all day without being able to concentrate.
Is it easy to learn how to concentrate on studies for long hours?
Improving your level of concentration doesn’t happen overnight. Following these guidelines might be difficult in the beginning. Your brain is like a muscle, which needs training to improve. I needed a year of ADHD-therapy and a lot of practise to be able to say ‘I am able to concentrate when I want to’ or ‘I’m happy with my level of concentration’. This training was definitely worth it. It improved my life in many ways, during and after my studies.
So here are my 10 tips on how to concentrate on studies for long hours
My suggestion would be: read my tips and start practising one or two of them first. When you see improvement after a few weeks, or when it becomes easy to do it, add another one.
Here we go…
1) Focus on your body before you start, by doing physical exercise and/or meditation.
Before you start studying, do some physical exercise.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be long and complicated. Just ten minutes of stretching, jumping, some push-ups or yoga will already help you focussing afterwards.
Or just shake your head for 20 seconds and take 10 deep breaths. Focus on your body.
How do you feel?
You can do a meditation (when you know how to meditate), or just focus on your breathing while doing physical exercise.
If you’d like to have some background information about why this helps to increase your level of concentration, read this article in the Guardian.
2) Rest before you start
Trying to concentrate is very hard when you haven’t had enough sleep.
Before you start, make sure you are well rested.
If you feel very tired, don’t even start studying. Have a rest first.
Meditation will also help you increase your energy level, but you will probably need some training in meditation before it will give your the energy boost you are looking for.
When you just started to practise meditation, the benefits are less obvious. Don’t give up. Your brain (which you train with meditation) is a part of your body and you need to practise to improve, just like when you are learning to dance, to play soccer or tennis.
Whatever you do to increase your energy level, make sure you feel rested before you start.
3) Eat before you start studying
Before you start, make sure you have eaten something healthy.
When you want to put effort in something, you’ll need the right type and amount of fuel.
When you leave your home to study elsewhere, for example go to a library, it’s a good idea to bring food and some snacks (for example fruit and nuts).
I’m not a dietician, but from experience I would say: don’t eat too much (processed) sugar.
I can write a whole article about the effect of sugar on the brain and I probably will in the future. As I said, I’m not a dietician nor a neuroscientist, but I’ve read a lot about this subject and experimented with different types of diets, so I can write from my experience.
In my opinion and experience, processed sugar has a negative effect on your brain and for me, it definitely decreases my level of focus.
On the other hand, natural sugars (which you find in fruits for example) do help me concentrate.
Coffee doesn’t help me. At least not on the long term.
Coffee gives you a quick boost, but decreases your level of energy later. (at least this is how it works for me. You can try out drinking less coffee and see how you feel, to find out if it works for you as well).
4) Workspace. Find a quiet, peaceful, relaxing or inspiring place to work.
This tip is not rocket science, nevertheless very important: Find a quiet space to work. A space where you feel calm and relaxed. Somewhere where you can’t be disturbed.
I prefer to work in clean, white, tidy rooms with a minimum amount of stuff.
Some colours can help you focus (a little bit of orange works for me), some inspirational words on the wall as well (like ‘you can do it’, or something more creative ;))
Don’t underestimate the importance of your workspace.
- Clean and tidy up your desk. A mess in the room is the worst distraction.
- Only put on your desk what you actually need. Get rid of unnecessary stuff.
- White calms the mind, as do pictures of nature.
- Don’t underestimate the power of words (on your unconscious mind). Putting a powerful quote on the wall can really help you focus.
So step 4 in how to concentrate on studies for long hours: find your ideal working space.
5) People. Find likeminded people to study with.
Concentrating is hard. Concentrating on your own is even harder.
Finding people who are ‘in the same boat’ will definitely help. You can motivate each other and help each other when you get stuck.
That person doesn’t need to be a classmate.
While I was writing my thesis about brandmanagement, my study buddy was a friend who is a doctor in addictive medicine. I know close to nothing about medication for addicts, nor does she know anything about brandmanagement. Nevertheless, we were able to help each other when we got stuck, just by asking questions and talking about the subject.
While working together, keep each other posted about your progress.
When you know you have to give a report on your progress, you will be motivated to really do something, instead of staring at your screen or book.
6) Goals. Set small, clear, measurable goals.
When you tell yourself ‘I’m going to be studying all day’, it will be hard to concentrate.
What is studying? Will you be reading, writing summaries, collect data for your essay, watch video’s?
Will you be using your laptop, or only books?
Setting clear (preferably small) goals and marking them when you are finished will help keeping you focussed and motivated.
Make clear goals for the day, like:
- In the next hour, I will read 50 pages of this book
- I will make a summary of these chapters
- I will spend an hour collecting data for this purpose
- At the end of the day, I’ve written …… pages.
When you finished a goal, celebrate by marking it and treat yourself (tea, cake chocolate, a walk outside, 10 minutes of brainless Facebookscrolling… anything that makes you happy).
Don’t expect too much from yourself.
Be realistic and be proud of yourself when you finish a goal.
Taking small steps on the stairs is the only way up.
So step 6 in how to concentrate on studies for long hours is important: set clear, measurable goals.
7) Timer. Set a timer. Train your brain, improve your focus.
It might sound childish or stupid, but when you have to study, wether it is writing your thesis or studying for an exam, it is really helpful to set a timer.
Make the commitment to yourself NOT to do anything else but your task until your alarm goes off.
Start with short timeframes, like 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes have passed, it’s okay to check Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or go grab something to eat.
Be very specific here. Before you set the timer, know exactly what you will be working on. An example is “Within the next 10 minutes, I will only read in this book” or “I will only structure my data”.
After a while you will find that 10 minutes of concentration is easy (when it doesn’t, go back to 5 minutes).
When it’s easy to concentrate for 10 minutes, make it 15 minutes the next time.
You will train your mind to focus better and therefore improve your concentration.
So step 6 in how to concentrate on studies for long hours: use your alarm/timers.
(Note: I used to be very stubborn…. like ‘nehh, that doesn’t work’.
Let me tell you this… In the beginning, it won’t work. You need to try, fail, and keep trying. Sorry to kill your dream, but improving your concentration doesn’t happen overnight. As with sports, playing the piano or learn a new language: you need training to improve).
8) Try vitamins to improve your level of concentration
In my article Vitamins for ADHD I wrote about how vitamins helped me overcome ADD symptoms. I’m not a doctor and I’m not pretending to be an expert on vitamins. All I can say is that research has been done about vitamins and Attention Deficit Disorder, and that it helps me.
I took medication for a year (Ritalin or DexAmphetamine) to help me concentrate, after I got the diagnose ADD. When I realised this only helped me on the short term, and it wasn’t helping my body, I tried different things and I came upon this article about how vitamins can help reduce symptoms of ADHD (among which concentration problems)
If you’d like to know more about vitamins for ADD and to improve your level of concentration, I suggest reading my article.
9) When you’re tired, take a break. When you are very tired, just STOP.
There is no point in forcing yourself to concentrate when you are too tired. To be able to concentrate, you need energy.
When you have enough energy, you will accomplish ten, twenty, maybe a hundred times as much as when you tired.
Be smart about your time.When you are a bit tired, take a break. When you are very tired, just stop for the day. There is no point. It’s a waste of time.
Go meditate, take a bath, make yourself a good, healthy dinner.
And the most important thing is: don’t be angry with yourself.
Instead of being upset and blaming yourself for not studying, make good decisions about how you will charge your energy level and how you’re going to make sure not to be tired the next day.
10) Schedule ‘worry time’
For most people it’s common that the mind wanders off to day to day worries. As Echkhart Tolle says in The Power of Now (a must-read), it’s a disease.
We think about the past, worry about the future. For a lot of people, this happens all the time. Our mind controls us. We need to learn how to control our mind instead.
Learning how to meditate will be the solution to this ‘disease’.
If you don’t know how to meditate (yet), or when you need another method to stop worrying, you can set a timer for ‘worry time’.
Take 10 minutes to think about all your worries and write them down.
If you want to learn how to stay in ‘the Now” and stop worrying so much, go and buy The Power of Now.
This book changed my life. I had to read it a couple of times. It’s lying on my night stand for years now.
Keep training your brain and never give up
Remember that improving your level of concentration needs time and effort.
Use my tips (start with one or two at the time), try, fail, and keep trying.
Your brain is a muscle.
It needs training and the right fuel (nutrition).
There’s always room for improvement.
And maybe the most important thing: Don’t be hard on yourself.
For some people, being able to concentrate is easy. For others, it’s very hard. The brain is very complex, as the rest of the human body.We are all different.
Start trying different things, start listening to your body and mind and keep working on it.
I promise you it will pay off 🙂
If you would like to know more about training your brain to be happier, I can strongly recommend the book Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson Phd (click on link to buy with free shipping today).
I hope my tips will help you being able to concentrate on studies for long hours.
If you have other tips, please share in the comments below 🙂