The Art of Concentration

Todays with ubiquitous and alluring distractions like social media, smart phones, and reality TV, it’s much harder for students to focus on educational goals and homework. That’s where we come in.

This article will provide everything you need to know to increase concentration and block out all of life’s distractions. We provide some basic facts about concentrations, tips and techniques, and great resources to help you stay focused.

Quick Facts

  • According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, two completely different parts of the brain control a person’s ability to concentrate and a person’s tendency to get distracted (USA Today)
  • Memory retention and retrieval is strongest when attention is devoted to the material being studied (Improving Your Memory)
  • While the brain only accounts for 2% of total body weight it consumes 20% of the body’s nutrients. (HelpGuide.org)
  • Foods like spinach, broccoli, asparagus, blueberries, walnuts, flax seeds, tuna, and salmon provide the necessary vitamins, antioxidants, and fatty acids can enhance executive functioning of the brain, which improves concentration (HelpGuide.org)
  • Physical exercise improves both blood circulation and oxygen to the brain, which improves attention (New York Times)
  • According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 4.5 million children between the ages of 5-17 have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with boys being twice as likely to be diagnosed as girls (WebMD)
  • 67 out of every 1,000 Americans is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, which decimates brain cells and tissues, reducing an individual’s thinking, learning, and memory (Alzheimer’s Association)
  • Lack of sleep can impair cognitive functions giving an individual the attention span and concentration of someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05% (BBC News)
  • On average college students study far less (10-13 hours) than the appropriate number of hours (25-30 hours). Find out how many hours you should devote to studying based on your class schedule here: Hints on How to Succeed in College Classes
  • Nearly 85-95% of student populations are affected by procrastination and nearly 20% are chronic procrastinators. (Effective Time Management Strategies)

Tips & Techniques

  • Make a schedule. You should outline what assignment you need to complete and when. Establish your weekly goals in advance and create a work schedule that will best achieve them. Another piece of advice: work first on the assignments that are the hardest or the ones for classes you struggle with most. (Powerful Living)
  • Work in intervals. Setting 50 minute study periods and 10 minute breaks between studying for different courses will minimize procrastination and the desire to multi-task (Study Skills: How to Improve Your Concentration)
  • Choose the right environment. You should be studying in a well-lit room, with minimal distractions (i.e. friends, pets, cell phone, laptops) and equipped with the necessary books and supplies to complete an assignment (Where to/How to Study)
  • Change your study routine. Try not to mindlessly read and highlight in your textbook. Become more active in your learning by taking notes with different colored pens to emphasize different concepts. Write down questions you may have on a notepad to review at the end of readings from your required text. (University of Central Florida)
  • Break it up. Intimidated by a problem set/homework assignment? Break it up into smaller assignments and plan to work on a few problems everyday. (The Basics of Effective Learning)
  • Try having a study partner or group. A group can stay motivated together, work on assignments, maintain the motivation, and solidify concepts by explaining them to others. Avoid choosing a study partner or group comprised of close friends because it is much easier to be distracted.  (US News)
  • Ready strategically. Reading a textbook is different from reading a novel. Strategic reading is key to understanding the text and maintaining concentration throughout the study session. (SQ3R – A Reading and Study Skill System)
  • Reward yourself. If you adhere to your study schedule or meet any of your academic goals, treat yourself to something special. You earned it with your newfound study habits! (How to Stay Focused)

Online Resources

  • Dartmouth College’s Academic Skills Center provides several media guides designed for successful study behavior and habits.  These brief videos focus on stress management, reading improvement, time management and strategic learning videos.
  • How to Develop Better Concentration While Studying: This is a great resource from Washington State University that goes over the causes of distration and how to control them
  • How to Study in College by Walter Pauk is an excellent piece of literature that provides individuals with not only the appropriate discourse, but a step-by-step guide on how to start better.
  • Note-taking systems: Everyone is different so find a way to record what you read or hear in lecture that maximizes your potential to recall it. California Polytechnic University compiled a list of different note-taking styles so check out the website and pick the best system that fits your needs.
  • Understanding Sleep: Learn how important sleep is for concentration and one’s overall health.
  • Mind Tools-Memory Improvement Techniques: If you are having trouble recalling information, then find a way to make it more memorable. Add mnemonics to your toolbox.
  • Managing Stress: A Guide for College Students: Stress can get the best of even the most dedicated and hard working individual. Not only does worry and stress prevent a person from putting their best effort, but also has been scientifically linked to the steady erosion of neurons and prevents the formation of new neurons. Read about how you can effectively manage different stress factors in your life
  • Brain Training vs. Mental Activity: Brain training? Mental activity? Is there really a difference? Find out with this great resource.
  • Brain Plasticity: The brain is unique and ever-evolving organ that is still being analyzed for greater understanding today. Learn about the brain and see what you can do to make sure it continues to operate at its maximum potential.
  • Procrastination:We all know about procrastination and how often we do it. Instead of dwelling on this bad habit, lets find strategies to combat this debilitating behavior and get to work with this University of North Carolina resource.

Games & Activities

  • Top 5 Brain Routines to Enhance Your Concentration and Focus: Crossword puzzles increase attention to words and ability to observe patterns. Next time you glance or read through your local newspaper, take some time throughout the day to complete the crossword puzzles.
  • Sudoku Puzzles: If you are more mathematically inclined, an alternative to crossword puzzles is sudoku. A relatively new game, sudoku can be found both online and in print form.
  • Classic Concentration Game: This matching game is one of the most traditional concentration and memory building games.
  • Yoga: Activate your nervous system with dharana, pranayama and meditation. There are many yoga techniques that focus on concentration, breathing, and clearing the mind, all of which will improve your study skills.
  • Mental Exercises to Improve Your Focus: Try these at home techniques to start your days with proper focus and clarity so you can have a more productive say. They only take five to ten minutes, but they can make a big different.
  • Inside and Outside Task: A fun and easy game, the inside and outside task demands your undivided attention and tests both your wits and hand-eye coordination.
  • “Are You Smarter than a Chimp?” is simply mind-boggling. After watching the video of the chimpanzee performing the exercise, take a stab at it yourself.
  • The Spider Technique:Curiosity killed the cat! When it comes to studying, curiosity can certainly be one of your biggest distractions. Test your resilience to curiosity by trying out the spider technique.

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