improve focus

How to Improve Focus and Find Your Flow

thestudypro Study Skills

Have you ever felt like you were truly in the flow? When you get into a groove, your entire mindset shifts. This applies to everything from playing music to participating in sports, and it even applies to your schoolwork. Concentration and focus can be difficult to maintain, especially in today’s quick-paced world. We’re constantly surrounded by so many distractions and excitements that our minds tend to jump around from one thought to the next. On a daily basis, you might not think too much about the need to improve focus. Yet, you’ll definitely notice if you feel foggy-headed while studying!

When you know how to train your brain correctly, you’ll find that it’s easier to channel your thoughts and direct them where they need to go. Today, we’re sharing a few tips and strategies to help you find your flow as buckle down to learn. 

1. Identify and Remove Distractions

One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your focus is to identify and eliminate nearby distractions. For instance, if you’re studying your materials at home, you might be tempted to take a few minutes and play a video game, grab a snack from the fridge, or chat with your family members. 

While brief breaks are fine and can actually improve your focus, it’s easy to lose track of time. Before you know it, your study session is up and you’ve barely made it through the first few tasks. This is especially common if you’re trying to study over the summer when distractions tend to multiply. 

If this is the case, you might find that you can get into a better flow state by setting up at a local coffee shop for a few hours or taking your textbooks to the park. Sometimes, a change in environment can make a world of difference! If you find yourself looking at your phone on a regular basis, consider installing a program that can temporarily “silence” certain distracting apps, including social media platforms. 

While the internet can be a valuable resource and even a helpful study tool, it can also be one of the biggest hindrances to your productivity. If simply installing an app isn’t enough to deter you from checking it, try placing it in a drawer while you work. 

2. Prioritize Sleep

We’ve all been there. You’ve stayed up late, maybe even pulling an all-nighter, and the next morning your brain feels like mush. While you might think that losing sleep to study is a worthy endeavor, the reality is that it can actually hurt your progress.

According to experts, we should all be getting around seven to nine hours of sleep each night to optimize our brain health. What makes it so important?

Put simply, this is a prime time for your brain and body to restore and rejuvenate themselves. Sleep helps remove toxins from your brain that build up throughout the day. It also strengthens and repairs all of your organs and functions, including your brain, heart, and lungs, as well as your metabolism, immune system, and hormones. 

If you’ve been walking around with brain fog, physical or mental exhaustion could be to blame. While it can be hard to change old habits, try going to bed earlier and making sleep a critical part of your schedule. A few tips that can help you optimize your sleep hygiene include:

  • Creating a sleep/wake routine
  • Engaging in 20 to 30 minutes of light exercise each day
  • Avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
  • Preparing your room for sleep
  • Engaging in a relaxing ritual before bedtime

If you find that you still can’t go to sleep, don’t lie in bed awake for hours. Get up, do some light reading, or listen to music until you feel sleepy. If sleep deprivation remains an issue, talk to your healthcare provider about possible solutions. 

3. Try Mindful Meditation

Chances are, your mind stays busy all the time. When this happens, it can be nearly impossible to focus on anything in front of you, much less study. If you can’t calm the racing to-do list that stays on a repeat loop, it can help to practice mindfulness instead. 

Mindful meditation is a type of mental training practice that can help you slow down your thoughts, release negativity, and find inner calm. It encourages you to think only of the “now” rather than fixating on the past or the future. When you do, you can acknowledge and accept all of your thoughts and feelings as they come, without any form of judgment. 

One of the best parts about this form of meditation is that you don’t need any extra props, essential oils, or even mantras unless you simply enjoy them. Rather, the focus is on your breath and your body. You can practice deep breathing techniques to help you silence the chaos around you and reflect inward.

It only takes about three to five minutes of your time, and all you need is a quiet place to sit. When you’re finished, you should find that you feel more peaceful, focused, and ready to fine-tune your study skills

4. Work on Puzzles

You’re never too old to lose yourself in a wonderfully challenging puzzle! From sudoku to crosswords, there’s a long list of different ones you can try until you find a few you love. You can even complete virtual or physical jigsaw puzzles if that’s more your speed. 

While you’re working on each one, you’re strengthening your brain power. Studies show that puzzles help reinforce the connections between your brain cells, improve mental agility, and can even boost your short-term memory. All of these benefits can help your studying journey!

At the same time, puzzles also trigger the production of dopamine in your brain. This is the chemical that regulates your memory, mood, and concentration. You’ll find that you’re in a better state to work when you’ve challenged your mind in this gentle way.

Don’t have a puzzle book? No problem. Here’s a list of 10 of the best online puzzles you can enjoy for free at home!

5. Adjust Light and Sound

You might not think too much about your study environment, but it directly affects your ability to focus. While we’ve already mentioned the importance of eliminating major distractions, have you given much thought to the way your study space looks and sounds?

If it’s noisy, you’ll naturally find it more difficult to concentrate. However, many people also find it challenging to work when it’s too quiet. Consider which sound level you prefer, and take steps to get there. 

For instance, you can put on noise-canceling headphones if there’s background noise that’s disturbing you. If you need a little melody to get into your groove, then put on a relaxing song or white noise. You can start with these YouTube channels dedicated to relaxing study music. 

Once you have the sounds just right, take a look at the lighting. If it’s too bright or too dark, it can affect your vision and focus. Try turning off the harsh overhead lights and using a nearby lamp for task lighting instead. 

6. Engage in Light Exercise

Naturally, you don’t want to run a half-marathon right before you need to study for a big exam. However, there are benefits to highly working out when you feel your concentration slipping. 

If possible, try to engage in 20 to 30 minutes of light aerobic activity each day. Examples include:

  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Weightlifting

Not only does working out improve your circulation and help improve blood flow to your brain but it can also keep your head, neck, and shoulders loose. This way, when you’re looking at a computer or down at a textbook later, you won’t feel as tense. 

7. Spend Time in Nature

Sometimes, we all need to press the “reset” button. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most beneficial ones is to spend time in nature. The best part? You can keep it super simple and still reap the rewards.

Research shows that just sitting outside for a few minutes or even just taking a short break to look out of your window can refresh your mind and allow you to focus better on subsequent tasks. Scientifically speaking, it improves your attention control.

As nature is effortlessly interesting to enjoy, it captures your attention without requiring you to dedicate a large amount of focus to it. In return, you’re able to store up your attention control and use it for later work. In addition to improving attention, nature can also lower your stress levels and improve your mood, so take the time to get outdoors!

Use These Techniques to Improve Focus and Concentration

Now that you know a few of the best ways to improve focus as you study, are you ready to dive into your work? At The StudyPro, we offer a range of courses and programs designed to help you become an independent, motivated learner. 

From 1:1 executive function coaching and study skills coaching to student workshops and our coached homework center, we’re here to help you excel inside and outside of the classroom. Click here to sign up for our Summer Math Coaching program, offered both in person and remotely!