6 Study Habits to Help You Stay Focused

by Kate Thornbury ’19

Like many students, it’s easy for me to get distracted while studying. Notifications, text messages, even music choices can hinder our potential for quality study time. For students at an academically rigorous school like Stony Brook, it is especially important to set aside a meaningful time when we can focus on our studies. Here are a few tips that I have found helpful when studying.

  1. Get organized BEFORE you start studying.

There are so many times when I sit at my desk, ready to study, but somehow find a way to justify procrastination. Things that aren’t inherently bad, but aren’t top priority either, often keep me from the task at hand. Little projects like getting water, cleaning my room, or reorganizing my binder can suddenly become vastly more interesting to me as soon as I sit down to study. When it’s time to study, however, all of these things should be done.

I also find it helpful to physically make a list of my assignments due for the next day. That way, I know the amount of what needs to be done so that I can manage my time well. (And who doesn’t like the satisfaction of crossing off a task on a list?)

  1. Dedicate your study time ONLY to studying.

You’ve heard it before, turn off the notifications on your phone so you can eliminate the temptation to check social media. But I would take this one step further– put your phone away so that it isn’t even in sight. A study from the University of Southern Maine found that the mere presence of a phone can be not only distracting, but lower your brain power. Set yourself up for success. Put away the phone.

  1. Hydrate!

And I’m not talking about soda or energy drinks. A study from Westminster University suggests that those who hydrated for an exam performed better than those who didn’t. Our brain needs water in order to function to it’s full potential. Like I said before, get your water BEFORE you start studying, so that it won’t be on your mind.

  1. Music

I’m someone who cannot study in silence, so this one is important to me. Trust me, I love Taylor Swift just as much as the next person, but sometimes I pay more attention to the words being sung rather than my actual homework. Most music follows a rhyming pattern, which can make our brains work harder than they should. Opting for classical music has been scientifically shown to improve brain function. Even if you aren’t keen on classical music, white noise or the sound of rain helps with concentration.

(here’s a website I recommend for this: www.rainymood.com )

  1. Take a break!

Have you ever been reading a book for school, not really absorbing any of the words, and then you have to re-read an entire page again? I’ve been there. Short, strategic breaks can be rejuvenating and give your brain a well deserved break. During these breaks, you can stretch, get more water, or answer an email. A five minute break is just enough to gather your thoughts and come back working more efficiently.

  1.  Go to bed!

There’s a point in the night where you need to turn off the computer and close the books. As growing teenagers, we need at least nine and a half hours of sleep. Crazy, I know. But you don’t want to let your lack of sleep affect class the next day!

It’s important to realize that study habits look different for everyone, but these are a few general rules that I go by when studying. My parting advice? Get in a routine. Whatever works for you. It might feel a little uncomfortable for the first few days, but it will help you become more productive and, eventually, a more focused student.


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