17 study tips to help you stay focused

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Don’t save studying for the night before. By establishing good habits you’ll be able to stay focused and get the grades you deserve. In the article below, we provide you with 17 study tips that will help you stay focused and leave the stresses of study time behind.

Are you looking for ways to improve your grades? Or maybe you have a test coming up and don’t know where to begin. It doesn’t matter if you’re in high school, college, grad school or anywhere in between, it's never too late to develop good study habits that will help you knuckle down and concentrate on smashing your goals.

Everyone learns in their own way and focusing can look a little different for everyone. So we've narrowed down a variety of study tips that will help you kickstart your journey to becoming your most studious self.

01. Plan ahead

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It's never fun when you show up to an exam and realize you spent all your time studying one aspect of a subject, only to find that the exam seems entirely centered around another.

Use a calendar to manage your time and keep your study plan on track. This will not only let you to count down the days until your exam but also allow you to evenly break up your study time.

If you're studying for exams, start by dividing your time into classes or subjects. Then divide each of these into smaller chunks—maybe topics or modules.

Start using a calendar at the beginning of the year or at the start of a course so you can avoid missing assignments, deadlines, and any important occasions which mean you’ll need time off from study.

Working on your yearly plan with this Colorful Confetti Calendar.

02. Eat healthy

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Brain food is a real thing. Some foods improve our ability to stay focused, while other food can leave us feeling tired and sluggish. Knowing that your diet has an impact on your brain’s capacity to perform at its best makes having a healthy diet an essential part of your study plan.

Stay away from high-sugar snacks like cereal bars, and canned food—these foods can leave you feeling lethargic. Instead, try snacks that help your brain function at its best: Nuts and seeds, blueberries, dark chocolate, carrots, and bananas will all leave you feeling awake and energized.

If you need some extra motivation, create a desktop wallpaper that helps keep you motivated. This way, whenever you’re at your desk and ready to step away for a study snack, you’ll be reminded to go for the blueberries instead of the chocolate buttons.

Customize these Orange Healthy Diet and Organic Collage Food Wallpaper templates with your favorite healthy snacks so you can make sure your study snack is on track.

03. Consider your learning style

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Identify your learning style to help you to tailor your study technique for maximum productivity. Learning styles are often classified into three major categories: Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic or tactile.

In order to figure out what style works best for you, think about how you best like to absorb information.

  • Visual learners often enjoy having eye-catching study notes—drawing, mapping, or writing out notes visually to understand them.
  • Auditory learners prefer listening to other people explaining ideas or concepts in order to understand them.
  • Kinesthetic or tactile learners absorb information best by trying their hand at something and giving it their best shot.

Most of us fit into more than one category, and our learning styles vary depending on the subject or environment we are in. Finding a learning style that you think will work for you is a step to take early on when preparing to study.

If you’re a visual learner, try customizing this Neat Illustrated Gaming Infographic template or this Shark Marine Conservation Infographic with your subject notes.

04. Create a positive study environment

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Nothing will make your mind feel fuzzier than having a messy desk. Having a tidy desk space will help your brain feel less clogged and confused, so you can focus on your study.

Personalize your space to give it a few touches of inspiration. Having a plant on your desk can help your study space feel clean and fresh—research also shows that workspaces with plants are 15% more productive.

If you’re in need of some added inspiration, hang a vision board or mood board on the wall that depicts your dreams and goals for the future. Whenever you start to feel a little stressed or overwhelmed, take a deep breath and gain some motivation and inspiration from the board.

Tip: Keep your study environment far away from any loud noises, hallways, or places where your focus will be disrupted by people and sounds.

Customize this Simple Pastel Grid Photo Mood Board template with your visions and goals so what really matters to you will always be in sight.

Simple Pastel Grid Photo Mood Board (1)

05. Stay off the grid

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Deep focus is the key to effective study. But today, we have distractions all around us. We can watch TV, shop online, or check our social media notifications every ten seconds. And we’re trying to multitask and do it all at once.

This can be extremely difficult if you’re trying to focus on studying. Lucy Bodenham from the University of London says “studies show that when we check something our mind requires about 23 minutes of refocus time to get back on task.”

So take a moment every now and again to consider whether what you’re doing is an appropriate use of your study time and whether it’s really helping you concentrate on your studies.

But before you go offline, design a social media post for your dedicated followers. Let them know you’re going off the grid for a little while so that you can focus on your studies.

Customize either of this Beige Round World Book and Copyright Social Media Poster or this White with Photo Social Media Day Social Media templates and let your friends and family know you’re replacing social media with study for a little while.

06. Visualize topics

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If your preferred learning style is a bit more visual, mind mapping is a study method you can get behind. It’s also a great way for your brain to link and create associations with important information visually.

Start by outlining your main subject, then branch out with every keyword, sub-topic, character, formula, important date, or piece of information you can think of.

There’s no right or wrong way to go about creating a mind-map. It doesn't need to be a great work of art. Mind-maps are simply a non-linear method of note-taking.

Tip: Mind-maps are also a great ice-breaker activity for study groups. Dumping everyone’s ideas and knowledge down on one big piece of paper will give you a good starting point for the rest of your study session.

Design your own mind map by customizing this Yellow Brown Minimalist Circles Mind Map template.

07. Set goals

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Sometimes studying can feel like an endless endeavor. Your brain can start to feel full, and there seems to be no foreseeable end to all the hard work. The best way to combat this and to stay positive is by setting goals and celebrations for when you achieve these goals.

One important aspect to goal setting is rewarding yourself when you achieve your goals. Often when setting goals without a reward, it can be difficult to find the incentive to push through.

Coupons are a great way to set yourself up for little treats or rewards. When you achieve a goal, take a coupon and claim its reward. Having your celebrations lined up so that you have something to look forward to will encourage you to smash your goals.

Make sure that your goals aren’t too easy, but also don’t set unachievable goals that will leave you feeling additionally stressed.

Tip: Set both general goals like "complete four hours of study each day” or "grasp a new concept", and specific goals such as “write all my notes around subject X by Friday” to make the most of your study time.

Customize this White Scenery Gift Certificate or this Brush Strokes Hotel Gift Certificate for the next time you need to treat yourself to something a little special.

08. Use memory aids

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Flashcards are an easy and affordable way to test your knowledge. Like mind maps, they help our brains make connections and associations between ideas. And the best part about flashcards is that they work for almost any subject. You can use them for mathematical problems, scientific formulae, or even associations with art and design.

You will find that the process of creating flashcards also serves as revision. When creating your own, aim to make them small enough that you can easily transport them, and clear enough so that you can revise at a fast pace.

Customize this White Notebook Card template for your next set of flashcards.

09. Practice

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Worksheets are a fun, digestible way to stay focused when you feel like you’ve been sitting at your desk for hours on end. You’ll also find that once you've graded your own work, it can be rewarding to see how much you’ve learned and how far you’ve come. Don’t worry if you get things wrong, as this will help you start to assess the gaps in your knowledge. Make sure that your worksheets cover only a small aspect of each subject at a time. If you try and include a semester’s worth of topics into one worksheet it could get easy to miss important details you’ll need to remember later.

Design tip: Make sure your worksheet is easy to navigate. Use text boxes and make sure you leave plenty of room for long answers.

Work on your essay arguments with this Orange Simple Debate Writing Prompt Worksheet template or this Teal Rounding Math Games Worksheet template.

10. Reference your cheat sheet

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A cheat sheet is a concise set of notes that you can use as a quick reference. When it comes to exam or test preparation, formatting all your notes into one cheat sheet is an excellent way to remember the little tidbits your brain can never seem to hold on to.

To make scanning easier, use bold headings, concise wording, and color code your topic or subject material. The idea is that while you are doing your worksheets or extensive reading, you can quickly look over at the cheat sheet as a reference to help you overcome any hurdles of confusion.

Use this Teal Gold Sports Timeline Infographic as a template for your next cheat sheet.

11. Take notes in your own words

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The process of taking on information and writing it in your own words will embed ideas in your memory and help you stay focused. Take notes as you do your wide reading. Or rework your notes by organizing or reordering them (this can help you make new connections between ideas).

If you've purchased a study guide, writing notes in your own words from the guide will help you with the general comprehension of the subject. Being able to paraphrase accurately requires some understanding of the original material. So if you can paraphrase your study guide or the information you’ve been reading, it will help you consolidate your knowledge.

Customize this White Blue Note Taking Graphic Organizer template or this Red Hamburger Graphic Organizer template with your study notes.

12. Stay motivated

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Motivation is critical when trying to focus on your study. But unfortunately, it's not something that can be bottled and mass produced. It requires effort. So, what can you do to tap into your motivation and stay focused? According to Forbes, one tried-and-tested method is to write a list of reasons why you want to achieve something. When creating a list, take a moment when you’re refreshed and list all the reasons the exam can help you and your future goals. Once you have your list, refer back to it when you’re lacking motivation.

For extra inspiration, you can also find quotes that resonate with you or write messages to your future self. Hang these up in your study space and hopefully, in those moments where you feel like you're reaching the end of your wits, you can find some renewed motivation. Try this with the Autumn Motivational Poster for your study space.

13. Establish a routine

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When you’re studying, it’s important that you establish a routine.

Daily routines look different for everyone. Winston Churchill, for example, would wake up at 7:30 am every morning and then work from bed until 11 am. While Barack Obama was said to have worked till around 10 pm, in order to get a head-start on the following day so he could take his morning slow.

It's important that you find a routine that feels comfortable for you. Being aware of when you are most productive will help you make the most out of the time you have. There’s no point studying 14 hours each day if you’re falling asleep at your desk all morning.

Customize this Minimalist Grid General Daily Planner template or this Pastel Daily Planner template and stay on top of your routine.

14. Read as much as possible

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While we all know how seemingly far-fetched doing all the ‘recommended’ readings can sometimes seem, they can prove surprisingly effective when it comes to focused study.

Extensive reading is an extremely useful practice—so seize the opportunity to absorb as much knowledge as possible. You never know what will stick in your brain and what will come back to you when you’re sitting in an exam stuck trying to think of an answer.

Create some fun bookmarks to track your progress through the reading material or to save pages that you find particularly useful.

Design tip: Color-code or print words along the top of your bookmarks to make them useful for quick referencing when doing your readings.

Customize these Sky Blue Simple Dove Quote Bookmark template and Yellow Coffee Illustration Cute Bookmark template to keep track of wide reading.

15. Organize study groups

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For social learners, study groups are often the best way to stay focused on the class material. Working with your friends can also help you all keep tabs on each other’s study notes. However, pay attention to how focused your study group is. If a particular group isn't working for you try and find another one.

Study groups can also help you maintain a healthy mindset by making an exam or test preparation a little more manageable. If you find that study can feel isolating, being around friends can help.

Get your friends excited about your study group by sending them invitations. The more people who are excited about attending, the higher the turnout—and the more brains there will be to share ideas, notes, and knowledge with. Host your own study group session with this Cream with Breakfast Graphic Breakfast Invitation template or a Brown Birthday Breakfast Invitation template.

16. Track your progress

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Maintain a positive mindset by proving to yourself that you’re making progress in your studies. A great way to do this is with a checklist that breaks down areas of a subject you intend to cover.

In order to maintain maximum focus and productivity, it’s important that you are careful not to cover the same subject matter repeatedly, but also that you don’t skip over certain aspects of a subject. Create a checklist that you can tick off as you study to allow you to see the progress you are making. Once you've completed your checklist you can go back and cover aspects of a subject that you feel may require more attention.

Tip: Checklists, in general, can be a handy tool for staying organized. Create a daily checklist that incorporates some of our other study tips: Healthy breakfast? Check. Reading material? Check.

Customize this Blue and White Striped Checklist to keep on top of all your studies this year.

17. Test yourself

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You're coming to the end of your study journey. You've memorized the flashcards, stuck to your routine, finished your worksheets, and completed your recommended readings. Now it’s time to check whether you know what you need to know in order to ace that exam or test.

Don’t lose your focus! Now is the time where you’ll find it useful to test yourself. Try answering questions at the end of the textbook chapters, tackle quizzes, and complete old exam papers.

Working through a few past exam or test papers will not only help you identify areas where there are gaps in your knowledge, but it will also mentally prepare you for an exam setting. You’ll be proud of yourself when you see how well you're doing and how much all your studying has paid off.

Tip: Design a report card and keep track of how well you’re doing on practice exams or quizzes. That way, you’ll quickly be able to see what’s left for you to learn.

Customize this Blue School Report Card template or a Yellow Report Card template and keep track of how well your study is going.