Information Centre

Attention Span

Are you losing focus while studying?

Do you fade in/out while listening in class?

Do you want to increase your attention span?

Being able to stay focused while studying increases your ability to take in, and later remember, learning material.  Staying focused also decreases the quantity of time you need to spend studying, as you increase the quality of your study time.

The path to increasing your ability to stay focused, and increasing the time you can maintain focus, is like training for a running race, you start with short time periods and use repetition to increase your stamina and tolerance.  In order to give yourself a good chance of success, don’t set yourself up for failure.  Start small, and give yourself plenty of time over which to improve.  And, be kind to yourself.  The Brain is an amazing organ, and may take some time to wrangle, so, recognise and celebrate the small wins.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.  

Before we look at a training schedule, first, find out about yourself:

  1. Identify what is important to you.  Why do you want to improve your ability to focus?  This will also help identify with what you can reward yourself as you improve. 
  2. Identify your distractions, eg your phone, the street outside your window, or the kitchen; and then do what you can to remove them.  For example, put your phone on Airplane mode, close the curtains, and schedule specific meal-breaks.
  3. Identify from where you are starting, ie how long can you concentrate now?  Time yourself.  This way you have something tangible to measure.  Quantify your baseline, so that you know when you are improving.

Then, from Point #3 (above), start adding an extra five (5) minutes to your baseline, and repeat for a few sessions.  Don’t forget to give yourself a reasonable break time between study sessions, eg 10 minutes, and also remember to reward success, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t succeed immediately.  Developing a new habit takes time.  If you notice your mind wandering, try not to get angry at yourself and instead put your energy into bringing your mind back to the topic at hand.

Next, perhaps after three (3) days, add an extra 10 minutes to your original baseline concentration limit, and again repeat for a few sessions, including taking a reasonable break time between study sessions.  Then, after another few days, add an extra 20 minutes to your original baseline.  And, continue with this incremental increase to your study time, with repetition of each new, increased time period, and in no time you will be able to concentrate for a whole lesson at School, a Lecture at University, or for a whole morning of study at home.

Another component of improving your attention span is having a schedule or timetable.  For example, Maths on Monday, Science on Tuesday, and Legal Studies on Wednesday.  Or, English 10 am – 10:45 am, followed by History 11 am – 11:45 am.  This can decrease procrastination or avoidance, and can free up thinking space for study by taking away the need to make decisions.

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