How to stay focused while studying


If you’re looking to improve your grades or you have a big test coming up, effective study skills can help you prepare for any quiz, exam or essay without feeling overwhelmed. By getting into good habits(opens in a new tab or window) after school hours, you'll be able to stay focused and boost your academic performance.

Whether you’re an elementary, high school or college student, it's never too late to develop good study habits. Everyone learns in their own way and some study tips will be more helpful than others, but having a variety of study techniques in your back pocket can help you push past procrastination and leave study stress behind.

Read on to learn how to stay focused(opens in a new tab or window) and become your most studious, successful self.

Mapping out your study plan

Establishing a study routine and updating it as your workload evolves can help you get right to studying without feeling frazzled. Here are some study tips for planning ahead:

1. Set a routine

Some students like to tackle assignments immediately after school, while others wind down with a textbook after sports practice. Either way, it’s essential to plan out your daily and weekly schedule so you can carve out enough time for all your studying and other commitments. Block off time for each activity, keeping in mind when you’ll be most productive and alert. Once you get into a good routine, you can adapt it when finals week is approaching or you have a big project coming up.

2. Establish study goals and rewards

To avoid getting overwhelmed by the amount of studying you have to do, set achievable goals for each session. Give yourself specific, concrete goals like:

  • Completing two hours of history review on Monday and Wednesday.
  • Spending one hour tonight practicing and understanding a new math concept.
  • Writing your own English study guide before the weekend.

Pre-planning little rewards can give you an incentive to push through. When you achieve a goal, take a homemade coupon and claim the reward as a way to celebrate your achievements for the day. Having fun rewards to choose from — like buying a fancy coffee or having a mini-binge of your favorite TV show — gives you something to look forward to.

Remind yourself of your study goal and the special treat that’s waiting for you by customizing a White Scenery Gift Certificate(opens in a new tab or window).

3. Plan out a study schedule

It’s easy to forget subjects you covered in class weeks ago — but you can’t afford to miss studying that older material when there is a cumulative test on the horizon.

Use a working calendar(opens in a new tab or window) to manage your time. This will not only let you count down the days until your exam but it will also empower you to evenly spread out review sessions. Use your calendar to jot down assignment due dates and other important milestones so you stay on track. If you already know what you need to get done each day, it’ll be much easier to stop procrastinating and start studying.

4. Create a study checklist

Creating a to-do list or checklist is a helpful study tip that helps you remember everything you need to get done. You can make one to list out all the books, notes and other study materials you need to bring home, and another to outline the subject matter you plan to study. Crossing off items as you finish them is a great way to track your progress and keep yourself in a positive mindset.

Add your to-dos to our Blue and White Striped Checklist(opens in a new tab or window) to stay on top of your study tasks.

Gearing up for a successful study session

Getting in the mood to study starts with preparing a suitable workspace. Each study tip below will get you one step closer to a productive, focused study sesh.

5. Create a positive study environment

Nothing will make your mind feel fuzzier than a cluttered desk and noisy surroundings. When setting up your study space, choose a tidy and quiet spot where you can spread out and concentrate.

Personalize your at-home study area with a few touches of comfort and inspiration, like a desk plant and a blanket if it gets chilly. Hang a mood board(opens in a new tab or window) on the wall that depicts your dreams and goals for the future. Whenever you start to feel a little stressed, take a deep breath and look at your vision board to re-center.

Customize this Simple Pastel Grid Photo Mood Board(opens in a new tab or window)template with your visions and goals so what really matters to you will always be in sight.

Image by Ella Olsson

6. Set aside online distractions

To be a successful student(opens in a new tab or window), you’ll need to leave behind sources of distraction. One of the most useful tips for avoiding distractions while studying is to turn your smartphone off and put it in another room.

If you need to, let friends and family know you’re going offline for a few hours or even staying off social media during exam week. Whenever you study using a computer, close any web browser tabs that don’t have anything to do with your studying. Remember, you can always open them back up when you’re finished. You’ll hardly miss a beat.

Create a social media post starting with a template like our Beige Round World Book and Copyright Social Media Poster or White with Photo Social Media Day Social Media to let your followers know you're replacing social with studying for a little while.

7. Fuel up with nutritious study snacks

A grumbling tummy can be really distracting when you need to focus on your schoolwork. Bringing healthy brain food to your study session is helpful if you want to stay motivated and energized.

Stay away from high-sugar snacks that will make your energy levels spike and crash. Instead, choose snacks that help your brain function at its best. Nuts, seeds, blueberries, dark chocolate, carrots, avocados, bananas and other healthy foods can all leave you feeling awake and energized.

Customize and save these Orange Healthy Diet(opens in a new tab or window) and Organic Collage Food Wallpaper(opens in a new tab or window) templates as reminders to pack your favorite healthy snacks before you hit the books.

8. Help yourself stay motivated

Finding ways to avoid procrastination and keep yourself focused and motivated isn’t always an easy study skill to master — but it’s an important one.

One motivational technique is to write a list of reasons why you want to achieve something. For instance, you could list all the reasons passing a difficult class can help you and your future goals. Refer back to this big-picture reminder whenever you're lacking motivation.

Another option is to find inspirational quotes for students(opens in a new tab or window) or generate a random quote(opens in a new tab or window)that resonates with you. Hang these up in your study area and re-read them to find some renewed motivation.

Display this Autumn Motivational Poster in your study space or customize it with your favorite motivational quote.

9. Organize a study group

For social learners, study groups can be a motivational environment for staying focused on complex course material. Studying with classmates can also help make test preparation a little more manageable.

Get your peers excited to study together by sending out invitations. The more people who can join, the more brains there will be to share ideas, notes and knowledge with.

Image source: Pixabay

Creating and using helpful study resources

Once you’ve set the stage for a successful review session, it’s important to try out different study tools and a personalized learning technique that works for you. Here’s a look at everything from flash cards to cheat sheets and how they can help:

10. Cater to your learning style

Are you a visual, auditory, kinesthetic or tactile learner? How do you like to absorb information, and what helps you remember it the most? Identifying your learning style can help you tailor your activities for maximum productivity:

If you're a visual learner, personalize this Neat Illustrated Gaming Infographic or Shark Marine Conservation Infographic with your study notes.

11. Take study notes in your own words

Writing out concepts in your own words helps embed ideas in your memory so you retain the information better. Take notes while reading, or rework older class notes into a personalized study guide. This can help you make new connections between ideas.

12. Visualize ideas and topics

If you’re a visual learner, try mind mapping. This non-linear form of note-taking can help you create associations between pieces of information and gives you a visual overview of everything you need to know.

Start with your main subject, then branch out with vocab words, subtopics, characters, formulas, important dates, and other related pieces of information. You can build mind maps(opens in a new tab or window) on your own or use them as a warm-up activity with your study group.

Design your own using this Yellow Brown Minimalist Circles Mind Map template.

13. Make flashcards

When you need to memorize key dates, facts, names, words or other pieces of information, memory aids like flashcards are perfect retrieval practice tools. Write a question or prompt on one side, and the answer on the other side. Quiz yourself and spend more time reviewing the flashcards you don’t know the answers to immediately.

Work from this White Notebook Card(opens in a new tab or window) template to quickly create your next set of flashcards.

14. Use practice worksheets

Worksheets can be useful tools for assessing your knowledge and staying focused. Create your own that include questions related to your school subject matter, leaving space to write short answers. You can also make it more fun by creating a word search(opens in a new tab or window) type of practice worksheet. Once you've graded your own work, it can be rewarding to see how much you've learned. Plus, your finished worksheets can be repurposed as study guides later on.

Jot down your essay arguments using this Orange Simple Debate Writing Prompt Worksheet template or Teal Rounding Math Games Worksheet template.

Image by Rawpixel

A cheat sheet is a concise set of notes that you can use as a quick reference. Consolidating all of your notes into one sheet is great for at-a-glance test prep. Use bold headings, short phrases and color-coding to make it skimmable.

Use this Teal Gold Sports Timeline Infographic(opens in a new tab or window) as a starting point for your next cheat sheet.

16. Become an efficient reader

Reading every single word in a textbook isn’t the most effective way to study — and it might put you to sleep. Instead, develop an active reading technique of skimming and scanning the pages for key information and main ideas.

When you open up a new chapter, flip through it and review the subheadings, vocab words, illustrations and any summaries or callout sections. Once you know what material that chapter covers, go back and skim specific subjects that you need a deeper understanding of.

Personalize and print out a Sky Blue Simple Dove Quote Bookmark(opens in a new tab or window) or Yellow Coffee Illustration Cute Bookmark(opens in a new tab or window) to save your spot in the textbook when it’s time for a break.

17. Test yourself

So you've stuck to your study routine, memorized the flashcards, finished your worksheets and powered through thanks to a few energizing snacks and motivational quotes. Now it's time to check whether you know what you need to know in order to ace that upcoming exam.

Using practice tests is a great way to test your knowledge and mentally prepare 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.

Design a report card and keep track of your practice test performance and what topics you need to improve on.

If you’re a K-12 teacher helping your students learn how to study with these creative resources, check out Canva for Education(opens in a new tab or window) and access Canva Pro features for free!

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