9 Science-Backed Ways to Stay Focused on Your Schoolwork

These focus strategies for students are proven to peak your concentration.

Published April 5, 2023
Teen boy studying at desk on laptop

Do you find it hard to focus on homework? Do certain subjects make your mind drift off to other things? If you want to know how to focus on schoolwork, we've studied the science behind keeping your concentration and have discovered some keys to success! These research-backed focus strategies for students will help you concentrate and even boost your productivity.

Determine Your Learning Style

If you're not engaging your brain in the right way, it can make it hard to focus and understand the material. This can lead to anxiety, which can further distract you. The first step in honing your attention on schoolwork is determining the best ways for you to absorb the information.

Most people fall into one of three main categories - visual, auditory, and tactile. If you want to find out your learning style, there's a simple self-assessment to determine where you land. Studies show that this information can help you study smarter.

Have a Designated Study Space

While the kitchen table may seem like an obvious place to study, this large space may not do you any favors. First, it's in a communal area, so it's likely there will be a lot of foot traffic in the room. Second, this is also the place where dinner will soon be served.

This will bring an abrupt stop to what you're doing and it will force you to pack up your stuff and get reorganized later. This can shatter your focus, especially if you're in the middle of reviewing a difficult concept. Research shows that by having a designated space to study, students can focus better on their work.

Teen girl studying at desk in cool looking room

Remove Distractions

Once you've found your designated study space, it's important to get rid distractions in order to get the most out of your study time. This, of course, means turning off your phone and the television, but it can also mean other external diversions like large messes. Keeping a clean work area helps students to better maintain their focus and improve their productivity.

Pay Attention to Your Needs Before Studying

Don't forget about internal distractions as well. If you're hungry, thirsty, tired, or stressed, it can also obstruct your ability to concentrate. Obviously, if you are hungry or thirsty, there's a quick fix, but if you are tired, take a nap.

Quick Tip

The key is to rest for the perfect amount of time - 10 to 20 minutes. Less than this and you will feel groggy. Much more, and you'll not only feel fatigued, but you'll also struggle to get back to sleep at night.

For those who are feeling stressed about their assignment, simply take ten minutes to stretch and then ten more to practice mindful meditation. This practice requires participants to let go of the past and focus on the present. Remind yourself:

  • You can only control what is right in front of you.
  • Previous struggles in this subject don't dictate how you will do moving forward.
  • Your instructors designed this schoolwork to help you better understand the concepts.
  • If you continue to struggle, there are other resources to tap into so that you can grasp the specific topic.

Set the Mood

Did you know that listening to classical music while you study can help to hone your concentration and even absorb information more effectively? However, not all melodies are effective. Experts recommend that students "skip over large orchestral pieces, particularly those with a dynamic that ranges from whispers to booming cannons." These can actually cause more distraction.

Instead, they recommend elevator-style music that provides a consistent and relaxing background melody. We also advise that you snag some noise-canceling headphones to listen to these instrumental tunes. These can help to further remove distraction and keep you focused on the task at hand.

Teen girl studying while wearing noise-canceling headphones

Set Specific Work and Break Times

Sometimes, the hardest part about staying focused is having the feeling that the period of study will never end! You can only cram so much information into your brain at one time. Thus, set a timer and then put it in a drawer. When it goes off, take a break!

Fast Fact

Want to perform better? Follow the 52-17 rule! Research has found that this is an ideal work-to-break ratio. When setting alarms, work for 52 minutes and then take a productive 17 minute break.

What is a productive break? One that doesn't distract your mind too much. This means avoiding your phone and the television. Don't check your email or social media either. Instead, have a snack, stretch, go outside, meditate, nap, complete a quick chore, or set goals for the rest of your day. These activities can help you de-stress, stay positive, and concentrate better when you get back to work!

Fuel Up to Better Your Focus

Two teens studying on laptop with smoothies

Food for thought? No, really, eat your breakfast! There's a reason everyone says it's the most important meal of the day. Studies show that it can boost short-term memory and improve your attention. If you really want better brain power, snag some walnuts and a smoothie that contains berries and leafy greens! These can also work as a great study snack.

Get Moving Before Work Times & During Breaks

Need even more of a brain boost? Get moving! Research shows that by working out for 20 minutes before a big study session, you increase blood flow to the brain. This enhances concentration and memory.

Focus Better by Fidgeting

If you find that your focus is fading during your 52 minute study window, grab a fidget toy! Yes, that's right. Fidget toys are a great tool for getting out nervous energy, lowering stress, and keeping your concentration on the task at hand.

Find Focus Strategies for Students That Work Best for You

Everyone is different. If you find that some of these tips help, but you still have moments of distraction, consider changing the scenery of your study space. Try standing or sitting cross-legged style on the floor, brightening your workspace, or moving your study session outside. Figure out what works best for you and stick to it to have success in high school and beyond!

9 Science-Backed Ways to Stay Focused on Your Schoolwork