Tips to Improve Concentration Among Students
Here is a small exercise that you can do to tally your mental wanderings. It is an interesting one and you check for yourself how many times you have wandered away from what you have been doing.
Have a 3 x 5 inch card handy. Draw two lines dividing the card into three sections. Label them "morning," "afternoon," and "evening."
Each time your mind wanders, make a tally in the appropriate section. Keep a card for each day. As your skills build, you will see the number of tallies decrease.
Maximize your energy level
When is your energy level at its highest? When are your low energy times? Study your most
difficult courses at your high-energy times. Sharpest early in the evening? Study your most difficult course then. Later in the evening? Work on your easier courses or the ones you enjoy the most. Most students put off the tough studies until later in the evening when they become tired, and it is more difficult to concentrate. Reverse that. Study hard subjects at peak energy times; easier ones later. This alone can help to improve your concentration.
Visualize a stress-free Situation
As an exercise before you begin studying; think of those times when concentration is not a problem for you--no matter what the situation is. Now try to feel or imagine yourself in that situation. Recapture that experience immediately before your studies by placing yourself in those moments. Repeat before each study session.
How to Improve Your Concentration
Learning to concentrate on reading and studying requires some practice. Concentration doesn't just happen as soon as you sit down to do some serious studying. You already know the requirements for your individual study environment. Now all you need is concentration!
Read "How To Improve Your Concentration" to find some techniques to develop your concentration level for peak performance during your study time. After reading the article, you should be able to:
- Identify four common concentration problems;
- Explain five techniques for action to reach the goal of peak concentration;
- Apply three strategies to combat annoyance during study periods.
Your ability to concentrate on a particular lesson depends on
- how interested you are and
- how effective your study methods are.
What are the common reasons students lack interest or lose interest during study time?
Common Concentration Problems
During a period of study, there are four times you may have problems with concentration. These are common times which challenge most of the students and you will often have to strengthen your concentration when they happen.
- When you are "warming up" to study, distractions will interrupt your attention.
- When you have been concentrating hard on your studying, you may suddenly become annoyed with the assignment.
- After a long stretch of continuous studying, you gradually become tired and your study results decrease.
- When you have come to the point of "diminishing returns" and you are losing mental effectiveness, exhaustion takes over.
Warm-Up: Student should spend time in conditioning one’s own mind for studying.
Annoyance: After 35 minutes of intense concentration, the student's attention starts to weaken. Break time! Two 5-10 minutes breaks helps to get the concentration level back up.
Diminishing Returns: The third time the student was annoyed by studying, but it was not possible to reach the same peak level of concentration. The student studied for another 50 minutes or so, but the attention level was starting to slip, along with the level of effectiveness.
Fatigue: When the student was too tired to study, the willingness to study disappeared; in addition, the student closed the textbook.
Think of the warm-up time an introduction to effective study. You won't be at peak concentration when you first sit down to study. You'll need about 10-15 minutes to shut out distractions before you can concentrate well. You won't reach peak concentration just by waiting for it! You will have to use some techniques to stimulate your brain and motivate yourself to this level.
Techniques for Action
Preference is one way to motivate yourself to peak concentration. Warm-up by starting your study time with a subject you have chosen rather than just an assignment. You might prefer starting with your hardest subject, your writing assignment or an easy subject, but before you begin a study period, you have to make the choice where to start, and by making this choice you can reinforce your concentration.
- Commit yourself to whether you will study or not.
- Commit yourself to what subject you will study.
- Commit yourself to how long you will study.
Thinking is a method of improving concentration. Lesson!
When you first start a lesson, warm up by thinking about ideas. At first, you may find that you are just reading the words and not the ideas, so your eyes may move over a whole page before you "wake up" to realize that you cannot remember what you have just read. Your eyeballs have been faithfully stopping over the words, but your brain has not been cooperating! During the warm-up stage, be sure that you are reading for general comprehension: reading ideas, not simply looking at the words. You actually have to think to understand ideas.
Pressure and stress of many study thoughts in your head can motivate you to peak concentration. Warm up by looking for ideas as fast as you can find them. Remember that your brain is always busy, so if you do not fill your head with thoughts from what you read, your concentration may get side-tracked.
Self-interest should be he most motivating factor As you study, keep your instructor and your classmates in mind. Imagine yourself writing, speaking, or listening in class when the assignment is discussed. With this study method, you create a more or less personal reason for your studying.
Special Techniques for Action
Expect to warm up every time you begin to study, and use all five of the above techniques to reach the goal of concentration. When you have a particularly hard time warming up, you may need some special techniques to jump-start your brain!
Consider the first four or five paragraphs of the chapter as a group. Read the first sentence only of each of the paragraphs. Then return to the first paragraph and begin to read it for the main idea. Maybe you will find that your motivation to understand what you are reading has improved.
Challenge your comprehension. To improve your understanding, try talking to yourself. Read the first paragraph of the chapter for the main ideas. Then ask yourself: What is the main idea of this paragraph? Since you haven't spent enough time warming up, you will probably not be able to answer the question very confidently. Tackle the first paragraph for the second reading. This time your motivation to concentrate on understanding it should be better, since it has been stimulated by the fact that you could not answer the question. Be persistent. When you use this method of warming up, you must continue "reciting" or talking to yourself until you have succeeded in concentrating effectively.
When you use this auditory method of talking to yourself, you should read ALL of a paragraph before you reread it. Don't keep rereading one sentence until you understand it, or the result may be weaker concentration. Your brain prefers organization and repetition of information for comprehension, so fragments of unorganized information will be wastage of time.
When Annoyance Sets In
During times of intense study, your concentration will suddenly disappear. At times, you will become aware that you have been distracted by something. Sometimes you do not know why you have lost your concentration. Your reaction is that you are annoyed or impatient with your studying. To fight annoyance like this, you may have to give in to it for a while.
Commit yourself to read "one more paragraph" before you take a break.
Take a break from your studying. Lean back in your chair or stand up and stretch. Focus your eyes on a distant object for a minute or two and then close them for a short time.
Leave your study area for a stretch break. Take off about five minutes for walking around, getting a drink of water, putting a few things in order, or even glancing through a newspaper or magazine. Be careful not to "stretch" too long, or you'll need another warm-up session when you continue with your studying!
When Annoyance Continues
Students are able to study effectively by taking frequent breaks while doing their homework, but every student reaches a point during studying when taking a break isn't enough to refresh concentration, which continues to decrease. When this happens, you must take special actions to correct the situation. Instead of a physical break, which usually works for temporary annoyances, you need a mental change.
Look over the material you have already covered during the study period. Examine the headings. You can often motivate yourself by a review.
Turn to another part of your textbook, like the table of contents or the final chapter. Skim through the material. Try to get an impression rather than learn anything. By thinking about new topics, you may discover (when you return to your assignment) that the familiar topics have a sharper meaning in contrast.
Switch to another subject. Have you tried this method? Has your concentration improved? When you're not getting much out of studying a particular subject, switch to another one. Don't just give up! If you can't finish the second subject, return to the first subject again or even go on to a third subject. By using this "stagger method" of studying, many experienced students accomplish much more work than if they had persisted in completing one task before they went on to another.
When Fatigue Takes Over
There is only one remedy for fatigue: close your books and relax. Do not foolishly believe that as long as you stare at a printed page, you are learning! Your eyes may see, but your mind can be miles away. If you leave your study area and relax for an hour or so, you can continue with your studies later. Of course, you will have to begin with the warm-up stage. An expert student knows when to use techniques to improve concentration and when to close the books.
Conclusion: Reward Yourself!
Most students can concentrate better and study harder if they have an immediate goal. Give yourself a fun goal to reach after you have done some worthwhile studying, not before. Set a reasonable goal that you will complete one chapter of history in an hour; then reward yourself by watching TV or reading for fun.
Reward yourself with little things that you enjoy, but do it after you have studied. It is great psychology because you will have more fun when you have earned your reward!
What to do for distractions while studying:
If you are trying to study and find it hard to concentrate, try the following.
Do NOT just sit there going off on topics other than studying. You want the place you are studying to become conditioned only to concentrating on your studies--not to fantasizing or dealing with personal problems.
Instead, make a decision to study or take a break.
If you know that the thoughts that are interfering with your study are too compelling to adequately study, then physically get up and leave the study environment and then really focus on solving whatever personal thoughts you are dealing with.
If you decide to keep studying, but fear, some personal thought might popup into your mind, write it down and think about it later--after you have reached your study goals for the day.
If your body gets too restless to concentrate, go for a brisk walk. Normally, take 5-minute walk breaks at least every hour (or whatever works for your body).
If you feel your mind "filling up" with one subject until you start to get confused, then 1. Do a final overview of all you have studied for that session to help eliminate some confusion, then 2. Take a break (could be before the summary overview), and start on a new subject or activity that is quite different from the one you have been studying.
If you get tension headaches while studying, check your posture. If your head is bent over that causes tension in your upper back , neck and causes tension headaches. Try putting your books or writing at eye level and not holding them with your arms for support.
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