How to Study Attentively Despite Huge Distractions
One of the hardest parts of formal education is being forced to keep up with the pace of your instructors and class. Regardless of what’s happening in your personal or social life, school just keeps on going. Whether it’s lectures, readings, projects, essays, or exams, it is a lot to deal with. Sometimes, it's impossible to even know how to study attentively when there is so much going on in your world and distraction makes it difficult to keep up your GPA.
How Different Personality Types Can Be More Attentive in Studies
So what do you do? Students needing to study more attentively is a problem as old as students and studying are, and there’s plenty of research available on the topic. One thing that stands out is that study habits are commonly linked to personality traits. In 2018, researchers concluded that "present bias" in students typically translates into worse results on examinations, as does overconfidence.1 Present bias means that you place a greater value on events happening now than events happening later2 – for example, that you would rather receive $100 today than $150 in a week. If these traits describe you, you might be getting concerned now – how do you study attentively if distraction is just something you’re prone to?
The truth is that it’s normal to want to do something other than study, especially if you feel like you’re being forced to do it. It doesn't help that if your mind wanders even a little bit, your phone is almost always nearby and ready to snatch up your focus (regardless of whether it’s actually vibrating!3).
Interestingly, a survey performed in 2014 found that undergraduate college students generally agreed that texting mid-lecture was a distraction – but also that many students believed they are exceptions to the rule who are capable of using their phone without losing focus.4 Unfortunately, most of them are wrong; distraction is distraction, and a student who wants to create better study habits should consider leaving their phone behind.
Solutions: How to Study More Attentively at Home
- Try something different. Flex your creativity and explore new ways of studying. Write a song about the topic. Make a video related to the study. Invite some friends or classmates to study with you and keep you on track. Use flash cards! Studies have found correlations between forms of self-testing, such as flash cards, and high grades.5 If what you’re doing isn’t working for you, try something new and see if that works instead.
- Attempt mindfulness. Simply getting in the habit of being aware of the present moment6 can be a great way of clearing your thoughts and honing your focus on what really matters. Before you study, try meditating. Even a few deep, thought-clearing breaths can put you in the right frame of mind to get off to a good start – and few things motivate better than the right start!
- Stay well-rested. A good night’s sleep is always the answer! The more tired you are, the more trouble you’ll have focusing on and retaining information.7 If you’re feeling exhausted, don’t study – sleep! You’ll feel much better in the morning, and can re-approach the issue then. If you’re too tired to study in the evenings, studying in the morning might be a good solution (and vice-versa). Alternatively, afternoon studying is always a safe middle ground.
If you find a technique that helps you to find your focus, seize it – once you realize how to study attentively, your grades will respond.
As an additional measure, consider eSmartr’s smart compression sleeves. These sleeves are designed to quietly boost your ability to focus on your current task by stimulating specific receptors in your forearm. This is done through a specialized pattern that is woven into each sleeve. As that pattern presses against your skin, a unique sequence of neural signals are sent to the brainstem, where they are interpreted as a call for greater focus and reduced stress. In this way, eSmartr promotes enhanced cognition to gently encourage the right state of mind when you need to study.
Regardless of why you’re having trouble focusing, you can always address the issue with proactive choices. eSmartr offers one such proactive choice (and you can read more about how it works here), but Cognitive Boost Technology is far from your only option. A good night’s rest, healthy lifestyle choices, and choosing a different way or place to study can do wonders for showing you how to study attentively, no matter what the distraction. Learning about your own study habits is an important investment into your own education – so when something doesn’t work out for you, give something else a shot! Just keep trying, and the results will come.
1. Horn, D., & Kiss, H. J. (2018). Which preferences associate with school performance?-Lessons from an exploratory study with university students. PLoS ONE, 13(2), e0190163.
4. Dietz S., Henrich H., (2014). Texting as a distraction to learning in college students. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 163-167, 0747-5632, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.03.045.
5. McAndrew M, Morrow CS, Atiyeh L, Pierre GC. Dental Student Study Strategies: Are Self-Testing and Scheduling Related to Academic Performance? J Dent Educ. 2016 May;80(5):542-52. PMID: 27139205.