Improving Concentration

1. Pick a good place to study (probably not your room) where you feel “scholarly” and where distractions are reduced. Good light is important.

2. Study in a non-sleep-inducing chair and position. Get fresh, cool air periodically. Wake up by running up and down stairs, push-ups, shower, or brushing teeth rather than excessive caffeine–coffee, tea, No-Doz, cola, chocolate. The excessive caffeine can make you jittery.

3. Set a reasonable schedule and stick to it, with regular breaks (e.g., “I’m reading 35 pages, then talking to Sue for 10 minutes.”) If you can’t control socializing, study alone, away from places where you are likely to see friends (e.g., in P.E. library if you are in Education).

4. Study in times earmarked for study, even if your room is messy (e.g., leave your room and study elsewhere) or a new magazine has arrived.

5. If troubled by distracting thoughts, jot them down to obsess over later.

6. Change your study methods until you find one that demands concentration. This ultimately means attacking the material with an active (rather than passive) mind. For example, don’t simply re-read the material — quiz yourself on it, pretend you are giving a lecture, etc. Don’t rely on underlining.

7. Some material is best learned in short spurts–e.g., memorizing. Don’t try to do it all in one sitting; intersperse memorizing with other work or activities.

8. Make the material interesting. Pretend you want to read this book and now finally have the chance.

9. Find an empty classroom and use the blackboard to work problems; also practice “lecturing” the material. Practice “imputing” and “outputting” materials as many different ways as possible, especially out loud.

10. If you know that copying-reorganizing notes helps you, go ahead. However, especially a few days before a test, it’s a bad idea to do this in lieu of active thinking about the material and integrating the concepts. (Like underlining and re-reading, it’s too passive; it feels like studying, but isn’t.)

11. Ask yourself throughout the semester what the important ideas and facts are. Before a test, if you have no idea what’s likely to be on it (or if you’re frequently mistaken), you probably are not doing enough active processing of the material.