10 Helpful Tricks for When You Just Can’t Focus

Distractions happen…especially when you’re trying to get a paper done or study for a big exam! The next time you need to get down to business but just can’t focus, try out these simple tricks.

1. Paraphrase.

We’ve all done it before—you’re reading through your textbook and once you’ve reached the bottom of the page, you realize you didn’t actually pay attention to anything you just read. Sound familiar? If this keeps happening, try briefly paraphrasing what you read after each paragraph. It’ll force you to focus!


2. Set a timer.

Deadlines work like magic. Have you ever had a due date sneak up on you and all of a sudden you’re forced to bang out your work at supersonic speeds? It’s like someone turns a switch on that automatically makes you focus.

Procrastinating until your deadline approaches probably isn’t the smartest solution, but you can make a mock deadline by setting a timer. For example, make a goal to finish a page of your paper before 30 minutes are up.



3. Chew gum.

Another trick you may not have known about is simply chewing some gum. Easy enough, right? The simple, mindless action is said to help increase your concentration on bigger tasks, so go ahead and pop a piece of gum!


4. Meditate.

Sometimes you just have to clear out all the mental chatter in your head in order to focus. Meditating before you start working is perfect for this! Even a quick 5 minutes of mindfulness can work wonders.


5. Unplug everything.

We’ll be straight up—those Snapchats popping up on your phone and that episode of The Bachelor playing in the background are obviously more interesting than studying. No wonder you can’t focus! Unplug everything that’ll be a potential distraction. As for the laptop you’re studying on? Try temporarily blocking your usual go-to sites with this Chrome extension.



6. Change your environment.

Studying in your dorm room or apartment might sound more convenient than packing up and heading elsewhere, but you might actually end up wasting more time that way. Try taking your books to the library or a cafe. When all you’ve got surrounding you is your work and other hard working students, you’ll have nothing else to focus on but studying.


7. Do a quick workout.

Did you know some studies suggest exercising can increase your focus immediately afterwards? A quick jog, some squats, or other easy dorm room workouts will do the trick. How’s that for some motivation to get fit?


8. Listen to white noise or soft sounds.

Background noises while you study can kill your focus—even small sounds like footsteps in the hall or chatter outside your window. Drowning out these little distractions will help, but we recommend sticking to white noise or soft ambient sounds instead of music—no distracting lyrics!



9. Eat a light snack.

You know that feeling when you’re so distracted by your hunger that all you can do is daydream about your next meal? It’s the worst. The tricky part is that there are also those times when you try studying after a big lunch, but then all you want to do is nap. Find a happy medium with a light snack right before your study session.


10. Break up your work.

Taking on a huge project at once is a big task. There are probably a million other things you’d rather do than dedicate a whole day to an entire project, so obviously your mind is going to start wandering! It’ll be easier focusing when you only have to worry about a small chunk of work at a time.



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