Distractions, or barriers to concentration fall into two categories, internal or external. Examples of internal barriers are hunger, drowsiness, daydreaming, and lack of interest, personal worries, and anxiety.

External barriers include environmental distractions such as other people, radio/television, outside noise, lack of proper study space.

The first step in improving concentration is to recognize the distraction and take action to correct it.


Hunger/drowsiness Proper rest and nutrition are essential for good academic performance. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. A diet rich in grains, vegetables, and fruit, but low in fat and sugar is recommended. It will provide natural and sustained energy.
Daydreaming If your mind starts to wander, jot down the interrupting thought so you can deal with it later. In the meantime, continue to study. Or, try the opposite approach, when you start to drift off, recall the most important points of what you’ve just read, then allow yourself to daydream. When you’re ready to return to your study materials, do so.
Lack of interest Find a reason to be motivated. Try to focus on positive reasons for doing well in the course such as higher GPA or personal growth. Talk to your professor and classmates and examine their perspectives.
Anxiety/intimidation about studying Learn the various skills and strategies that lead to effective studying. If you are overwhelmed by the tasks at hand, break it down into smaller tasks. Remember that planning and time management is crucial.
Personal worries Identify the problem and take steps to resolve it. Talk with someone who can help; a friend, a counselor or a specialist.


Auditory – Conversation, radio, television, environmental noise Avoid all conversation when studying. Consider a “Do Not Disturb” sign for your dorm door to discourage visitors. Turn off your cell phone. While TV or radio can be distracting, continuous music (as found on a CD) might be conducive to studying. Keep it low so that it is more like a background sound. Instrumental music is probably preferable to music with lyrics.
Visual Study in an area that lacks any visual stimuli that might distract you. For example, if you study in the library, steer clear of the high traffic areas. Stay away from windows or settings that cause your attention to be directed elsewhere.When studying, keep only the materials related to that subject in viewing range. Don’t allow the temptation to be distracted by your other classes.
Disorganization Before starting study sessions be sure to have all necessary material in front of you. This eliminates the need to break concentration and search for an item. Make a point of keeping all your study materials in a particular place and when it’s time to study you’ll know where everything is.

Whether you find yourself plagued by internal or external factors, keep in mind that: