Let’s be honest. It can be so, so difficult to stay focused while studying.

We all get that itch to procrastinate, check Facebook and to stop studying.

But what’s really interesting about this is that the cost of every distraction is huge.

Now have a guess: how long do you think it takes after every single distraction to get back into focus?

2 minutes? 5 minutes? 10 minutes?

23 minutes and 15 seconds.

That’s how long it takes to get back in focus every time you get distracted.

That means if you get distracted 3 times in an hour, pretty much the entire hour is spent trying to get back into focus, rather than on actually studying!

So, the cost of distractions are huge!

That’s why we need to find out how to minimise distractions and resist the itch for distraction!

There’s a really simple idea that’s great for thinking about this called the Moment of Weakness.

Let’s be honest, every time we feel that itch to distract ourselves, it’s really a moment of weakness. It’s a moment of weakness where you can either engage in that itch and the distraction OR we make a decision to come back and stay focused.

So really, we need to think about strategies you can use in your moments of weakness to make sure you’re making the right decision to stay focused!

So what can you do to turn your Moment of Weakness into a Moment of Strength? Let’s find out!

Step 1: The 10 Second Rule

In your moment of weakness I want you to think about a crazily simple strategy called the 10 Second Rule.

When you feel that itch to become distraction, I want you to stop and count to 10. Seriously, just count 1… 2… 3… all the way up to 10.

The point of this is to stop yourself from immediately acting upon that itch to procrastinate. Instead, by putting 10 seconds in front of you it allows the itch to pass and for you to stay focused on the work you need to be doing.

In saying this, there are some other things you can do alongside the 10 Second Rule that are going to be really helpful for avoiding the itch!

Increasing your barriers to distraction is the next step to stay focused while studying! 

Step 2: Increase Your Barriers to Distraction

There’s a great acronym we use to describe the types of distraction that most often come up for students.

PIGFM.

This stands for Phone, Internet, Games, Friends and Music – PIGFM. These are the big 5 distractors that you’re going to come up against that you want to avoid or increase your barriers to.

Here are some suggestions on ways you can use barriers to distraction against PIGFM so that you can stay focused while you’re studying.

Tip #1: Get your Phone Out of the Room!

This one is pretty simple.

Get your phone as far away from you as possible.

This might mean putting your phone in another room, giving it to a parent or sibling, or turning it off completely and putting it away.

The rule of thumb should be that if you’re studying or working, you should not have your phone in the room that you’re in.

The truth is if you get those notifications you want to check them, and it WILL distract you.

Plus, now that we know the cost of each notification is 23 minutes and 15 seconds, it’s really not worth checking one notification if you want to stay focused on studying.

Tip #2: Managing Internet Distractions

I get it. You’re on the internet researching something for school and all of sudden you see something interesting, there’s a new tab and you’re back on Facebook. It just happens automatically! 

There are a couple of things you can do to prevent this.

If you have a Mac, you can use SelfControl!

SelfControl is an app that blocks your access to particular sites for a particular period of time.

how to stay focused while studying

If you’re using Windows you can use Cold Turkey which does the same thing!

how to stay focused while studying

These apps help you take control of the internet so you can still use it for study but you’re able to lock those sites that are going to be distracting for you and stay focused on study!

Tip #3: Listening to Music

Quite often if you’re listening to music while you’re studying you can go through and change the song or change the playlist, and each time you do this you’re getting distracted.

So it’s really useful if you can find a long playlist of music you’re not going to be skipping every second song.

YouTube is good for finding a two-hour loops of one particular song or a really long playlist of an artist you really love so you won’t be skipping songs every 5 minutes and getting distracted.

Step 2: Use the Pomodoro Technique

If you’re doing all of the above and still struggling to stop getting distracted, use the Pomodoro Technique.

This is a really simple technique where you study for 20 minutes and then take a 10 minute break where you can be as distracted as you like!

The reason this works is because 20 minutes is a pretty short amount of time, so you can do little sprints of study in between periods of breaks. Plus you’re basically getting a reward at the end of the 20 minutes for staying focused which really helps cut down on distractions!

You then want to just tally up as many ‘Pomodoros’ i.e. periods where you do 20 minutes of study and have a 10 minute break, as you can. And of course, over time you should aim to stretch your study times from 20 to 25 minutes, to 30 minutes and so on.

You can even use websites online to help you time and track your Pomodoros while you’re studying!

My favourites are Tomato Timer and Marinara Timer. You can even set them at custom times, for example I sometimes like to do Pomodoros that are 50 minutes of work, followed by 10 minutes of rest.

how to stay focused while studying

How to Stay Focused While Studying

Step 1: Remember that the cost of a single distraction is 23 minutes and 15 seconds! This is huge! That’s why it’s so important to try to limit distractions in order to stay focused.

Step 2: Remember about the Moment of Weakness and to apply the 10 Second Rule before scratching that distraction itch!

Step 3: Put your barriers to PIGFM up! Make it harder for yourself to engage in distractions by using barriers such as apps like SelfControl or Cold Turkey and leaving your phone in another room while studying.

Step 4: Use the Pomodoro Technique. Do 20 minutes of study followed by 10 minutes of pure distraction!

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Isabella Hanley loves science. She loves science so much she’s making it her career. While completing her Bachelor of Medical Science she is also a Coach and Digital Content Manager at Art of Smart. She is super passionate about sharing her knowledge on surviving the HSC since completing the HSC herself in 2014. In her downtime she enjoys Netflix binging like a pro, singing in the shower and hanging out with her awesome rescue dog, Ruby.