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How to Stay Focused While Studying or Listening to Lectures

Updated on April 23, 2017

Tuning out can be a big problem when reading, studying, or listening to lectures. Most people have had the experience of reading several paragraphs in a textbook and then suddenly realizing that they weren't actually paying any attention to what they read. This often happens in classes and during lectures as well. One easy and quick method may help you concentrate and stop your mind from wandering. It can allow you to use your study and test preparation time more effectively.

There are ways to study effectively and prevent your mind from wandering
There are ways to study effectively and prevent your mind from wandering

How to Concentrate While Studying or Reading

You often tune out when exposed to too many unfamiliar words and ideas. Your brain becomes overwhelmed and you stop paying attention. You can improve concentration by familiarizing yourself with words and ideas you don't already know. This isn't a time consuming process.

Before you start reading, scan through the chapter and pick out words and ideas that are unfamiliar to you. Write them down. You can go online and do a quick search for the definition and meaning of each one. But don't worry too much about understanding at this point. Just making these words and ideas familiar to your brain can help you focus when you come across them in your reading. When you encounter these words and ideas, they will no longer be brand new and you are more likely to continue paying attention. This is a quick and easy technique to improve concentration and prevent mind wandering.

"There's never been another time in history when there was so much to be distracted by, and all our technology reinforces the feeling that you're missing out on something if you're not able to pay attention to a bunch of things at once," says Charles Folk, PhD, director of the cognitive science program at Villanova University. To regain your focus, a few tiny lifestyle tweaks may be all you need.
-- How To Focus: 4 Proven Tricks To Improve Concentration, Huffington Post

How Parents and Teachers Can Help Kids Concentrate

Teachers can easily do this in the classroom to help students focus. Go over any chapters to be covered before you teach the material and list all unfamiliar words and ideas. Go through these with your class. Homeschooling parents can do the same thing with their kids.

For example, if you are teaching about early farmers along the Nile in Ancient Egypt, you may list words like fertile, canal, irrigation, silt, shaduf, etc. By listing and quickly defining these words before reading a chapter or starting a lecture, you have created a level of familiarity that will help many students remain focused. The words and ideas are no longer brand new to their brains.

Improve Concentration in Classes and Lectures

Hopefully you will have a syllabus and will know what chapter(s) will be covered in each class. If you do, prepare by going through the chapter and familiarizing yourself with unfamiliar words and ideas. If you don't know what will be covered, ask your teacher so you can prepare for the next class.

Video: More Study and Concentration Tips


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