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How do you keep focused?

When i do my homework, my mind always wanders off to some other place, and i cant keep focused.

Any suggestions?

Thank you!

11 Answers by Expert Tutors

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Connie W. | Registered Nurse with University and Community College Teaching ERegistered Nurse with University and Com...

There have been several suggestions throughout the years regarding the best ways to stay focused. Some of my favorite ideas are:

  • Everyone has a time of day when focusing and studying is optimized. Each person needs to find this time period for themselves. This is the time to study the hardest or most time consuming material. 
  • Find a place that  is quiet, well lite, and comfortable. However, not in a comfy chair or lying on a couch. 
  • Avoid being hungry, thirsty, in need of a bathroom, or tired.
  • Limit the continuous study time to 45 minute increments.

Happy focusing equals Happy Studying!

Chelsea P. | Sturgis Ky American History and Social StudiesSturgis Ky American History and Social S...

Another good way to stay focus is to go somewhere that is quiet. While you are doing homework or you are taking a test you should try to think positively. Think of something peaceful..for example the beach. When you are studying it is very important to stay focused so you can stay motivated. The best way to not give into temptation is not giving it an option to. Put a way your phone or turn it off for an example. When you are studying and your phone receives a text message; all you can think about is that text message. You think in you mind that is what you should be focusing your time on when at the same time you know you need to be studying. Teachers don't give you homework for their health. Teachers give out homework for an opportunity to study for things that could possibly be on a test.


Also, don't think about the time. Honestly what I would do is if you have a clock in your room...remove it or remove the batteries until you are finished. The ticking and the switching of the time is very distracting. You think that you are in a race subconsciously when you really aren't. Take your time and breathe.

Ellen M. | Education/Learning Difference Specialist/Study Skills ExpertEducation/Learning Difference Specialist...
4.5 4.5 (2 lesson ratings) (2)

Great advice, Kathryn! I would also add, Annie, that you check your planner, or at least list what you need to accomplish immediately, and what is due later, and RANK each subject by priority. Then, you can see visually, what needs to be tackled first and what is not due till later in the week.

i would also advise, that if, for instance, you tackled Algebra, then change to a subject that requires you to do something different, maybe reading  a chapter in a novel for English or history. That way, it may be help sustain your interest and subsequently, your focus.  Make sure that you have a snack, or start your homework after some outside activities or sports after school.


Kathryn M. | Certified Math and Science Teacher, Available for EOC and FSA TutoringCertified Math and Science Teacher, Avai...
5.0 5.0 (118 lesson ratings) (118)

First, if you struggle with staying on task, you should always do your most difficult homework first, while you are still focused.

You should always sit at a desk-- this will also keep your mind from wandering. One of the worst things you can do is be on the couch watching TV if you struggle with concentration.

You should also take breaks, but breaks should NOT be watching TV, playing video games, checking Facebook, etc. Keep your mind in a non-relaxed mood-- do some chores!

You also should not sit for more than 15 minutes at a time. Do chores (as described above) as a break, or you could always go for a quick walk, or change the subject you are working on!


Marilyn M. | Spanish, English and Homework tutoringSpanish, English and Homework tutoring

Everybody has a different approach to be focused and study. Think of what is helpful to you. For example, maybe you need to find a place where people or objects will not distract you. Some people prefer to listen to music while studying. Also, maybe you can break it  down into short periods where you study/ do some work and then take a break. In my own personal experience it helps me to organize everything I need to use to study and then think the order I should do the things. Once I am organized, I find a place and choose one of the tasks I organized. This way I am not overwhelmed trying to do too much at the same time.

S Joy F. | Psychology - Writing - Research - Vocabulary and English HelpPsychology - Writing - Research - Vocabu...
4.8 4.8 (23 lesson ratings) (23)

A good strategy that works for me is to take a lot of short breaks and play a game every time you complete a section of what you are working on. It works like giving yourself a reward for getting something completed. You just have to make sure you are not playing the game for longer than you are working on your task.


Melissa M. | Certified Elementary Level Teacher Certified Elementary Level Teacher
4.3 4.3 (7 lesson ratings) (7)

Another good thing to do is get a fidget toy. I know it sounds weird but if you have something in your hands,  like a stress ball, you will actually stay more focused. A good thing to do is get a balloon and fill it with sand or rice. Hold it while you are reading or thinking on a problem. It is a technique used by children with attention problems in the classroom. I've used one myself when I have to read a chapter or a book on a topic I am uninterested in. Having something in your hands will help your mind focus. 


Clement T. | Top 0.2% English TutorTop 0.2% English Tutor
4.9 4.9 (916 lesson ratings) (916)
I think people lose focus generally when they feel overwhelmed.  I think feeling overwhelmed is perfectly natural when there is an extensive amount of work to be accomplished.  The way to avoid feeling overwhelmed in lieu of an extensive amount of work load is to partition your work load into small pieces, and proceeding to complete each piece one by one, taking breaks periodically or as is needed.  I also tend to employ a manner of completing my work load in which I diversify the sequence in which I complete the various pieces.  For example, I will complete a piece from subject A, then complete a piece from subject B, then complete a piece from subject C, and then complete a piece from subject A, continuing in such a cycle until my entire work load is completed.  This way, there is some element of non-monotony in completing my work load.
Solomon F. | Discover and Motivate the Scholar Within You (Read clients' reviews)Discover and Motivate the Scholar Within...
4.8 4.8 (82 lesson ratings) (82)
 Before studying, sit in a quiet place and for 5 minutes try to think of nothing. For every 20 minutes of studying, spend one minute stretching or walking. Get your mind right for a few minutes by listening to classical music if you can't just empty your mind of everything. 
Suneil P. | Knowledgeable and Passionate University of Pennsylvania Math TutorKnowledgeable and Passionate University ...
5.0 5.0 (25 lesson ratings) (25)
Thank you for your question Annie; it is an important one and your posting it here may be very helpful to other students facing a similar problem.
I am not going to write too much as it looks like many tips have been given already.
To begin with, as a general rule, when you do homework or any assignment that demands attention, it may be helpful to turn off or silence any gadgets of distraction (cell phone or lap top if not in use among others) if you are not expecting a call for instance.  At least minimize use to direct your attention to your work for that time.
I will just add a tip that I use and that I think is very helpful for keeping your mind in check when you are tight on time as well.
It is called thumb meditation: simply take your right thumb (actually it can be any object, but it should be something you do not have any emotional attachment to or that will trigger thoughts) and observe it.  That's it...just watch it.  If any thought comes to mind, just let the thought pass not cling to the thought.  Just focus on watching your thumb with a clear and emptied out mind and 100% focus.  Doing this for about a minute or so (at least about 12 seconds) will be be beneficial.  In fact, doing this harmless exercise on a daily basis for 12 seconds minimum can develop your concentration to a significant level such that your work will BECOME your meditation.
Good luck!
Helga B. | Experienced RN who loves to see the "light bulb" suddenly appear!Experienced RN who loves to see the "lig...
In college, at the beinning of the semester, I'd gather all my course information, take my calendar and start writing down the dates of all the quizzes, labs, midterms, paper due dates and any other assignment dates. it took me awhile to fine tune my system, but I'd work backwards from there, breaking everyday into self assigned study time, then review time for tests, write down which afternoons to go to the library to search for data for this paper. This was when computer time was calculated in minutes, using punch cards and the computer center was open 24/7.  getting into the library stacks to find books, then journals, making "xerox" copies of important articles, then dragging all that stuff across campus to my dorm.....
I decided to assign myself two-three study segments a day, depending on my scheduled classes. As I got better at refinements, by my junior year all my papers were done in plenty of time, sometimes as much as three days before the due date instead of trying to start preparation only a short time before the due date.
In my mid 40's, I had to answer 3 questionnaires, each at least 1/2 inch thick or more.  After meeting with the diagnostician, he confirmed several diagnoses I already suspected I had. THEN he shocked me by saying,"Oh, you also have ADD, too".  I met with a coach about managing my related issues. She asked how I'd one in college. Her jaw dropped at my GPA, so I explained my calendar method.  Apparently, I'd figured out how to not only keep up, but had pre-dated the now standard advice for ADD'ers by breaking my assignments into manageable bits, that had kept me on track to complete everything and graduated with a very respectable 3.4 GPA. 
For me, managing my time correctly was critical, but once I adapted to the system, I took great pleasure in making check marks next to each completed assignment, especially if it was finished ahead of time. by developing the system just to keep up, it then added to my motivation to improve and smoothly complete term papers, prep for exams, becoming both the carrot and the stick, making me work just that little bit harder to earn my own pat on the back. 
For the ADD'ers out there, take heart.  This does work to help you get focused on the subject at hand.  If you loose track of what needs to be covered Monday, just check what you planned out at the beginning of the semester, trimester, or the 8 week online classes.  It also can help any student get organized, although the younger ones obviously need parental assistance in making the assignments. 
For those children and adults who never could figure out how everything seemed to come at them like a bowling ball at a strike every single day, this way of organizing should help the student stay in control of the both the ball and pins, rather than playing hit or miss as a pin.  Success like that reinforces the method, which in turn enhances motivation.