Learning how to stay focused while reading can be a tough one in today’s day and age.
We’re so distracted by screens, smartphones, and our own minds that it’s easy to get lost in the page.
And even if those aren’t your main distractions but you just find it difficult, these tips to stay focused while reading are practical, easy to implement, and will make sure that you’re taking in what you’re reading and not needing to go back and read entire paragraphs or chapters (yes, I’ve definitely “read” an entire chapter and not remembered any of it 10 seconds later!)
Study Tools You Need RIght Now
1. Put Your Finger on the Page to Follow Along
This is one of the most basic tips for reading that we learn when we’re young, but if you’re struggling focusing while you’re reading or staying focused on homework, it really does help.
Follow the words along with your finger under each word as you pull it across the page.
This eliminates the ability to look at words underneath to see what’s coming up, and there’s something about the physical pointing that really allows you to focus your mind on the words.
It constantly reminds you what you’re supposed to be doing and focusing on and that physical reminder is invaluable.
2. Read in Short Bursts
I’ll talk later on about the length of time to spend reading, but this tip is specifically for people who find it hard to focus on reading because their mind is flitting around to 100 different things.
Sometimes, you don’t need to sit down and read the entire chapter all at once.
Focus your attention on reading 1 page or even 1 paragraph at a time.
This is one of the top productivity tips for people who find it difficult to concentrate.
When we read too much at once, it can be pointless as we start to trail off and aren’t really taking much in.
When you give yourself a shorter task, you can focus much better as you know you only have that small bit to do and can “give it your all.”
3. Make Your Environment Perfect
Some of us like reading in complete silence, others maybe prefer to have some background noise.
Whatever your preferred environment is, make sure to test different ones to make sure you really are in the environment right for you, and then try and replicate it every time you need to keep your focus on your reading.
One of the most important things, no matter what kind of noise you prefer, is to make sure you’re alone and not constantly being interrupted.
If you like the background noise of people whispering in a library, that’s one thing, but if your family members are continually walking in asking you questions while you’re trying to focus on an article about thermodynamics, it’s not doing to work.
4. Turn Off all Other Electronics
I have such a bad habit of trying to read while I’m watching television or checking my phone.
One of the biggest reasons we find it hard to stay focused on what we’re reading in today’s day and age is because there are a million more “blingy” things to be focused on.
We give up the quality reading of a proper novel in order to take a Buzzfeed quiz about what kind of cake we are.
We don’t pick up a real magazine, or even read long-form articles online, because we’re busy watching the latest crazy Netflix documentary.
If it’s possible to silence your phone and you don’t need to worry about any emergency calls, do it.
Turn it off or turn it down and flip it over so you can’t see notifications or texts or anything else.
Turn off the TV, hide your tablet from yourself, quit social media, whatever you need to do to get rid of distracting electronics.
5. Pause After Each Chapter or Paragraph to Explain to Yourself
If you’re trying to stay focused on your reading in order to learn something, it’s always a great idea to pause throughout and then try and explain the concept you just read.
I used to do this with my stuffed animals when I was in school and you feel stupid doing it, but it really helps.
If you don’t want to try and explain outloud, try and summarize the concept on paper without looking back at what you’ve read.
If you know in advance you’re going to do this, it helps you focus on the right things when you’re reading in preparation for having to summarize it.
You could even do this in tandem with a friend so you can both read and then explain to each other as you go – perhaps a way to help you both study for two topics at once!
6. Read Out Loud to Yourself
Another time honored trick that really works.
If your problem with getting distracted while reading is that you’re constantly getting lost in the voice reading it in your mind and you are mentally getting distracted, train your body to focus on what you’re reading by opening your mouth and reading it out loud into the world.
Again, you might want to make sure you have the right environment with this or are completely alone so you don’t feel silly, but this is a great way to truly making sure you are reading the words and not skipping over any.
It takes longer, but can help a lot.
7. Dedicate Enough Time to Get into It
Contrary to my earlier advice to read in short bursts, some people find that the problem with learning how to stay focused while reading has more to do with not having enough time to “get into it.”
This can be solved by dedicated longer stretches of time fewer times throughout the week or day to do your reading.
Give yourself enough time to really delve into the concepts or get into the story and get interested in what comes next.
This works for people who have longer attention spans and are just struggling with daily life constraints or a feeling that they don’t have enough time to read which is why they’re unfocused.
They feel they can stick to a plan better when they can get immersed in it.
If you find it really hard to stay focused while reading because you lose interest quickly, try the short bursts first before moving on to this option.