Do you ever feel overwhelmed after the school day is over and can’t find a way to shut off your brain? Focussing on homework might be last thing you want to do at that point. How can you overcome the resistance and get it done either way?
It seems like there’s always work to be done for your studies. Also at times when you can’t seem to concentrate.
So how do we get our minds to understand how to focus on homework? Especially when it’s is the last thing we feel like doing. Yet, we know that if we leave it for tomorrow, it will pile up and create even more pressure…
The right study habits and concentration techniques will most definitely help you out — and that’s exactly what we are going to explore in this article.
How To Focus On Studying In A World Of Distractions
We live in the era of distraction.
Countless factors are constantly fighting for our attention: social media, other people, things we could potentially be doing at any moment, our doubts, our overthinking, our anxious thoughts and expectations, the temptations around us (such as buying something shiny or eating junk food)… And all of this makes us feel as though we lose control over our mind.
If you’re wondering how to focus on homework and get better grades, then focus is something you need to get back at all cost.
Every student needs this skill.
We will discuss specific study habits later in this article, but first you need to understand how to focus on studying. For that, here are the two key principles that will make you (more) successful in your studies:
1. Identify The Distractions In Your Surroundings
What are the things in your daily life (and in your head, for that matter) that take your mind away from your studies (or any other task in front of you)?
Clearly identifying these helps you understand both the problem and what causes it. Understanding these leads us to finding the right solution to overcoming them.
While many of these types of distractions were mentioned earlier, digital distractions are one of the worst kind— and according to studies, their effect is on the rise in the classroom. If you’re looking to gain more concentration and thus, form better study habits, question your online behavior first and foremost.
2. Limit The Use Of Technology To Find Focus
What’s the role of social media in your daily life? Have you ever sat down to calculate not just how much time you spend on social media daily, but also how horribly it distracts you from doing the things you should be doing? When you are wondering how to focus on homework long after you’ve put your phone away, you’re still thinking about the last posts you saw on Facebook. The sound of new notifications might cause anxiety, or your own eagerness to see the reactions to a comment you left might distract you.
And then comes the information overload, the fear of missing out, and the all-too-common signs of addictive behavior. Technology is affecting your mind more than ever, and it’s taking your focus away.
But once you understand that you can improve your concentration by ditching the distractions, then it’s time to think about forming the right study habits. . .
4 Study Habits To Help You Learn How To Focus On Homework
1. Have a routine.
Routines help us be productive without exerting too much effort. When having homework to do, a study routine can be the reason we actually sit down, set enough time aside, concentrate, and stay focused until we complete the project.
This process doesn’t need to be complicated: just tell yourself that you will sit at your desk at home once you’re back from school (after a small meal and some rest, of course). Put your phone on silent, make an outline of the work that needs to get done, and simply begin with what’s most important.
2. Create an environment that breeds creativity and productivity.
You need a special place for studying. Don’t think you can just study anywhere, that’s not how our brain works. Lying in bed with your notebook is a distraction, as is being in the living room with your laptop while others are doing their activities.
You need an isolated place when you decide to focus on your homework. Make it feel comfortable, such as adding plants, organizing everything on your desk, decluttering (and keeping it clean), letting more light in, perhaps hang up some motivational posters/daily affirmations, etc.
3. Avoid certain things beforehand.
Wanna know how to focus on homework?
Don’t have a big meal beforehand. Big meals can ruin your focus and make you feel sluggish and lazy. A snack is okay. There are also some foods, though, that are just plain bad for your productivity; you can check them out here.
Avoid doing anything too engaging, as well, as then it can be hard to leave it and find willpower for your studies. Your better study habits are also affected by your self-control. So know when to stop doing something, calm your mind with some deep breathing, stretching, or even taking a walk, and then go do what needs to be done.
4. Organize your study notes.
One of the main reasons students avoid doing homework when the time comes, is that the “big picture” scares them. It seems like a lot to do, and they are overwhelmed on where to start.
So, prioritize. Keep lists and put the most important items on the top. Then work on the items that you should get done first.
Make an outline for everything and break it down into smaller steps. Then, use colors to highlight the essentials. This makes it all look much simpler and you’re more likely to actually get started.
5. Tell others to respect your study time.
People entering the room or calling you when you are trying to study isn’t good for your mind and creative energy. So simply let them know you need some privacy.
Decide on fixed hours for studying and tell them you won’t be available during that time of the day.
6. Try listening to study/focus music.
There are many tracks out there designed to help your mind focus. Whether you use binaural beats or just instrumental music, they can really help to tune your brain into a productive frequency.
This meditation music from OmHarmonics is also great to listen to; it puts your mind in a clear, concise, and ready-to-take-on-the-world mode:
7. Set deadlines.
Even if your teacher has already given you deadlines for each assignment, set new ones yourself at earlier dates. This helps you build discipline, learn how to focus on studying, and prioritize every day.
8. Have “brain breaks” more often.
You might not know this, but frequent breaks actually increase your productivity and focus. By understanding the science of homework, you’ll see that after each study session, the brain needs to be engaged with something different — you need to keep active another part of it, before going back to your studies, so that you can reach top performance.
So there you have it— that’s how to focus on homework when you really aren’t in the mood for it and feel more distracted than ever.
What other suggestions do you have?
And what study habits do you want to build next to improve your concentration?
Share with us in the comment section below!
Education for People Who Refuse to Fit into the Ordinary World
I hate homework day.
Five minutes into my daughter starting it, she’s asked 4 irrelevant questions and walked across the room twice – for no reason.
She had a break when she first got in from school, and had a snack. Then we agreed to a little outside time before starting homework.
She’s got the book open and a pencil in her hand, but that’s the sum total of her achievement so far.
Her mind doesn’t seem to want to sit still – preferring to bounce all around the place. It’s like her mind is a magnet, and when it’s put near homework, it repels away from it.
When she was 5 I thought she would grow out of it, but at 8 years old I was beginning to worry.
As someone who likes to get in and get things done, it drives me nuts.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter dearly. But the way she gets distracted every 5 minutes during homework time is enough to make anyone go crazy.
She’s highly intelligent, has loads of positive energy and is warm and engaging. She can focus long and hard on anything she is interested in. But getting her to focus on homework she isn’t keen on? Damn near impossible.
I just couldn’t sustain parenting positively unless I got this under control. I wanted to take some action.
At one point when her distraction was driving me nuts, I had started to wonder if I should get her tested for attention deficit disorder (ADD). My research on this topic led me to discover some behavioral techniques used with ADD kids, that are also applicable to any child having difficulty focusing.
I decided to try them for teaching my daughter how to focus on homework. Some worked better than others but overall it has been a great success. Here are the ones that worked for us –
#1 Keep It Short
When it came to doing homework, we kept it short and broke it down. Generally, that meant one ten-minute stint a day, instead of one 30-40 minute block each week.
Each time she wandered off task (mentally or physically), I would gently guide her back to the homework.
I kept the focus light and pointed out the fun parts of her work. And I bit down hard on my tongue every time I felt like screaming “If you just stuck to the task and focused you could be done already!”
#2 Use A Timer
We looked for fun and novel ways to get homework done and one was to race the timer. The trick to this was to set her up for success.
So, if I estimated a task could be completed in about 2 minutes, I’d set the timer for 5 minutes. Each time she started chatting about something, I’d say something like “I hope you beat the timer!” or “Don’t forget – you want to beat the timer!”
#3 Wear Them Out
My daughter has loads of physical energy, so I made sure she got lots of exercise. Even now she needs to do lots of running around, or physical activity to wear her out a bit.
I’m not talking about making her run a marathon every day. Just encouraging and supporting her to move her body.
I worked with her natural rhythms as much as possible. I realized she had more energy in the afternoon, so we often went on outings in the morning.
If she’d been to school for the day and we were going to spend a few minutes on homework, I’d encourage her to go and jump her jiggles out on the trampoline before we sat down to focus.
#4 Kept It Positive
I focused on her positive outcomes as much as possible. Whenever she breezed through an activity I would give her positive feedback.
“Look how quickly you finished writing out your words! You stayed focused and you finished that in no time. Well done!”
We’d always start homework early and allow extra time to get things done, so I had to be organized and plan ahead. This meant I could sometimes say, “Wow! You finished your homework the day before it’s due. Great effort!”
#5 Give Up
There were times when I just gave up. Now, I’m not usually a quitter (our family motto is “persevere”!) but there are times when it’s clearly not the best course of action.
If we’d been working on a homework task for a long time and she was just getting less and less focused, I’d call a stop to it. When a five-minute task is only half done after 25 minutes, and there’s no momentum, there really isn’t any point continuing.
This is a tricky one, and I didn’t use it often. She’s a bright girl and she knew she hadn’t finished what she set out to do that day. But if we kept trying and getting nowhere, we would both become very frustrated and dejected – no good ever comes out of that.
So I’d suggest we leave it for now, and come back to the task when we were fresher. This way she wasn’t failing, it just wasn’t the right time.
#6 Eat More Fish
Crazy as it might sound, eating more fish or taking fish oil supplements, is apparently helpful.
Now, I’m not a nutritionist and I understand that the fish oil theory is unproven. But there seems to be research to support the fact that fish oil high in EPA (rather than DHA) can help improve focus.
I figured it was something that couldn’t hurt, so I did it. It seemed to me that each time her fish oil consumption dipped, she became less focused.
I’ve no real evidence to support that – it may just be in my head. 😉
#7 Encourage Self-Management
This is something I’ve only just discovered through reading the book Nurture Shock which discusses a preschool program called Tools of the Mind.
The Tools of the Mind program produces brighter children who are classified as gifted more often, but more importantly, it also produces kids with better behavior, greater focus and control.
Classes involve role play and each child creates their own detailed plan of their part. If a child gets off track, the teacher refers them back to their plan.
One of the ways the program helps is through encouraging planning and time management by setting weekly goals. This helps to wire up the part of the brain responsible for maintaining concentration and setting goals.
The Tools of the Mind philosophy is that every child can become a successful learner, with the right support. Children learn by using the skills they currently have – such as drawing and play. They think through their play plan, then draw a detailed record of it, then carry it out.
Using their skills in this way teaches children to set achievable goals, work out how to reach them, and stay on track. They learn they can be responsible for their own outcomes. We’ve been using this to teach my daughter self-management.
#8 Work Together
My daughter is nearly eleven now and has matured a lot over the last year. And I’ve just started using self-management techniques to help her set goals and plan how she’ll achieve them.
Earlier this year she said she really wanted to improve her grades, which I said was a great goal. Then she said she wanted to be involved in band, which means taking some band lessons in class time.
I asked her to plan how she intended to achieve both goals, given she has other extra-curricular activities she wants to keep up.
She created a plan to practice her instrument regularly and do more homework than she has previously. We’re at week 7 of our school year here in Australia, and so far she’s on track.
She dives into homework without being reminded and gets it done early. She’s also completing homework tasks to a higher standard, rather than madly (and messily) rushing through them.
Since starting band she’s been practicing twice a day, every day – without being asked. I know that if she loses momentum, or strays off track, I can direct her back to her own plan.
#9 Understand The Scale
At the end of the day, these traits are all a scale. Many of us can be inattentive and unfocused at times.
We all have different strengths and weaknesses. And attention and focus can vary wildly, particularly in the early years.
It partly depends on the environment, and partly the child.
Try and take the pressure off, and work with your child’s strengths.
Break tasks down and keep them fun.
Aim for a balance between physical and mental focus, and remember it’s OK to give up if the timing isn’t right.
Have realistic expectations, and know that your child’s focus will improve with age.
Don’t be scared to quit when things really are not working. Not doing a perfect job on the homework once in a while is not the end of the world. If it comes to a choice between quitting for the moment or screaming and yelling at your kids through the task, choose love and call it quits.
And finally, hang in there. It’s all going to be OK.
The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
Take a moment to consider your child’s behavior.
- How does it compare to other children? Either their siblings or a number of other kids of a similar age? (Try to compare them with a range of other kids – rather than one or two)
- Does your child seem to have age-appropriate behavior and focus? If you’re concerned, do you need to seek help?
- How can you start breaking down big tasks into manageable (snack-sized) sections?
- Is your child able to focus on things they like doing? Can you use that in your favor?
- Are your kids distracted by things that could be controlled?
- What strategies can you put in place to keep your kids focus?
The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
- Brainstorm some roles that you can use to elicit certain behavior. If you need your child to be quiet and still for a few minutes, what can they pretend to be? A King or Queen on a throne? A soldier on guard? Good posture during homework is a good idea, but if the only way to get your child to do it without a fuss is to let them pretend to sit on a throne or stand in attention, go for it!
- Think back over the things that your child struggles to focus on. How can you get them to use self-management techniques to improve?
- If it seems impossible to get your child to focus and pay attention ask yourself this: “If it were possible, how would it be achieved?” Make some notes.
- Take a moment to check out why Tools of the Mind works so well and think about how you might use their strategies at home.