Improve your focus: 5 tips for successful studying

University of Leeds
4 min readJan 12, 2023

Find your mind wandering when you’re supposed to be studying? Too busy scrolling instead of hitting the books? It’s important to make sure you get the most out of your study time. Luckily, we’ve pulled together five tips to help you focus better when studying!

1. Pick your perfect study environment

Students working in Brotherton library.

The right environment matters if you want to maximise your focus. Do you work best solo or with some company; in silence or with some background noise (perhaps calming piano music, white noise or rain sounds); indoors or outdoors, or maybe a mix of both?

Once you figure out what you need, there are a few options:

  • Libraries: Whether you want a communal desk area, a private study space to hunker down, or a group study room for you and your friends, the libraries on campus have plenty to offer.
  • Cafés: If you like a bit more hustle and bustle (plus easy access to coffee), try one of the many cafes on campus.
  • Home: Prefer the comfort of home? No problem, just be sure to avoid working in areas that you associate with relaxing — like your bed!

Wherever you choose to study, it’s important to make sure you have enough clear workspace, comfortable seating and good lighting (brighter, cooler lighting boosts concentration and mood!).

2. Create a pre-study ritual

A ‘pre-study ritual’ readies you for studying, physically and mentally. Create a routine before studying to help you settle down and switch on. Some ideas include:

  • Light exercise: a short walk or some yoga to stretch out and clear your head.
  • Make a nutritious breakfast/snack: fuel your brain!
  • Create a to-do list: you can visualise everything you want to achieve in the session and tick it off as you go.
  • Tidy your study space: A clear space that only has the things you need to study will help you focus better on the task at hand. A tidy space really is a tidy mind.

A ‘pre-study ritual’ not only physically prepares you, it also helps train your brain to transition into focus mode. But only do things that are beneficial to you, your body and mind.

3. Take regular breaks

A man sitting down, holding a book and staring out of the window.

Make sure you take regular breaks to give your mind and body time to rest and reenergise.

The recommended structure is 25 minutes of studying (no distractions) and 5 minutes rest. If you want a longer break time you could try 40–45 minutes on and 15–20 minutes off. Try out different lengths to find the rhythm that works best for you!

If you’re using a computer, laptop, tablet or phone to help you study, make sure you give your eyes a break from screens — staring at screens for too long can tire you out quicker and cause problems such as eye strain and headaches.

4. Set goals

Setting goals and reminding yourself of them regularly will help keep you focused on your task. What do you want to achieve by studying? It could be to earn a certain mark, to pass a difficult module, or to keep working towards your dream job.

For this to be most effective, make sure your goals are realistic and personal to you. Some examples could be:

“I want to earn a [insert mark] on my [insert module] assessment”

“I will keep improving my knowledge and skills to become a [insert job]”

“I want to achieve my best to make myself proud”

Whatever your short or long-term goals are for studying, write them down and put them somewhere you can view them — on a whiteboard in your room or on a post-it note on your desk.

5. Minimise distractions

A woman working on a laptop and wearing headphones.

This might sound obvious, but to stay focused you need to be distraction-free — and yes, that includes your phone.

On average, it takes us around 20 minutes to refocus on a task after being distracted by something, so minimising distractions from the beginning will make it easier to stay focused while you’re studying.

Is your phone killing your productivity? Try locking your phone away somewhere separate from where you’re studying or download a productivity app (like Flora or Flipd — both free to download!) that monitors and limits your screen time.

We all work and learn differently, and what works for some likely won’t work for all. Next time you go to study, why not test out our five tips to find the study style that will help you focus better!

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