Concentration Tips for Learning at Home

Students are now doing most of their learning at home, but it can be a difficult transition for those who are used to in-person classes. Here are some tips to help you adjust to learning at home, improve focus, and increase productivity, so you can achieve your academic goals.

1. Minimize distractions.

Choose a quiet place to work and ask family members to keep noise to a minimum. If that isn’t feasible, consider noise cancelling headphones, pink or white noise, or ambient or slow classical music without vocals. Getting frequent notifications from phones, tablets, and other devices makes it impossible to concentrate. Remove devices from the room, if possible, or set them to silent or do not disturb mode.

2. Create a home-study station.

Make sure you have all materials and supplies handy and clear the space of distracting clutter. Avoid working on a bed, couch, soft chair, or floor. Straight-back chairs and tables or desks facing walls, rather than doors or windows, are ideal. For lighting, bright, soft, indirect overhead light is best and can be supplemented with a lamp. Aim for a temperature in the 60’s, which is ideal for optimum alertness for most people. Temperatures above 68 make many people feel drowsy.

3. Manage your time wisely.

Set aside study time with minimal distractions so you can focus on your work. Try to work when you tend to be most alert (are you a morning, afternoon, or evening person?). Prioritize your most important and difficult work and get it done first. Take breaks of five to 10 minutes every hour or so. During breaks, rest your eyes by either closing them or looking off into the distance; do not do any close-up work with your eyes, and avoid looking at screens. Taking a brisk walk or having a healthy snack can help to refresh you.

4. Engage with materials that you find boring.

For written materials you find boring, use active reading techniques, including previewing the material, taking notes, annotating, paraphrasing, and summarizing. See how the material relates to you personally by associating it with things that you already know. For online lectures, pay attention to visuals and graphics to stay actively involved. Listen carefully for key words indicating main ideas, especially at the beginning and end of presentations. If possible, ask and answer questions and participate however you can.

5. Prepare yourself mentally and physically.

Get adequate rest and eat healthy meals and snacks to enable yourself to work while you’re feeling your smartest, most alert, and least likely to feel hungry, fatigued, or spacey. Eight to 10 hours of sleep is recommended for teens. Research shows that even after one night of inadequate sleep, people are measurably less intelligent. Have healthful “brain food” breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, which will dramatically increase and maintain mental clarity, alertness, and performance. “Brain foods” combine protein, complex carbohydrates (whole grains), and healthy fats, which together appropriately elevate and maintain your blood sugar level, which your brain depends on for energy and optimum functioning. Avoid processed foods with refined carbs and significant added sugars or fat, especially ultra-processed packaged foods. Be wary of restaurant foods, especially fast foods and deep-fried foods.