15 Tried-and-Tested Tips to Avoid Lack of Concentration While Reading

A bookworm’s definition of a perfect world is the one where everything they read is appealing and interesting. In reality however, that’s rarely the case. We often encounter situations where we are obliged to read something that is of little to no interest to us and yet we have to go through it to extract valuable information for the sake of finding answers to our problems. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to focus or have to read the same passages over and over again just so that you can retain information you just read, you need to improve your concentration levels. Luckily, there are some useful tips that may help you stay concentrated when reading even the most boring of reading materials. Follow these and you will see a positive impact on your ability to focus in a few days time:

Turn off all your "instant messaging gadgets"

Turn off all your “instant messaging gadgets”

Yes, that is the law! Or at least it should be. These gadgets are probably the most difficult thing to put down since we have come to rely on them so heavily and are the biggest of distractions we have today, especially when reading. We are bound to feel a little mental nudge every time our smartphone or instant messaging devices beep or vibrate, begging us to be picked up and viewed. Even if you stay determined on your reading task, you will probably lose the momentum you built and it will take your mind time to regain that consciousness and zone in on our reading. Even the slightest of interruptions cause our brains to ramp down, setting off reading inefficiencies. The most dreaded drawbacks of such interruption is that it causes us to lose focus from the information we were at before these interruptions and we are forced to begin anew.

The perfect environment for reading

The perfect environment for reading

The first thing you need to be doing is create an environment for reading. This one step is the most crucial of all, like a death trap you just have to let yourself into. It means getting rid of all distractions that might affect you in any way. Let’s break down this one into further subdivisions to better understand what a perfect environment looks like:

The perfect environment doesn’t involve any visual clutter. A place that is free from mess or reminders of tasks that needs to be accomplished. This reading haven must also be free of any human activity or nearby movement.

Secondly, avoid acoustic or auditory clutter as well if you wish to focus all your concentration on a single task and i.e. reading. Instrumental music or white noise helps you concentrate, so if you wish to listen to something to improve your focus, do that!

Lastly, work on your posture. Be fully satiated when trying to avoid lack of concentration. Hunger, thirst, feeling too hot, cold or uncomfortable, might cause loss of concentration in varying degrees. Furthermore, if you feel stressed or any other overwhelming emotion that might disrupt your concentration, its better you don’t read as you will not be able to concentrate.

Make it interesting

Make it interesting

When having to read something that doesn’t align with our personal interests or doesn’t match the style or tone we usually like to read, maybe because the author’s prose is boring or the information is very fact-oriented or figurative. So, in order to make it seem less boring, search for any online video lectures, documentaries on the same topic or YouTube tutorials that might provide the same information in a rundown form. Let Google Search be your best friend – search online for relevant information by different authors and bloggers if you find the content difficult to apprehend or grasp. Once you find relevant referenced material, you will be able to understand the content better and focus.

Why are you reading?

Why are you reading?

Ask yourself, why you are reading this? Is it just to get through an exam, or are you trying to find relevant information to solve a specific problem at hand?
What will be outcome of it, and is it really necessary to read it all? Once you ask yourself all of these questions, you will not only be able to prep your mind for the upcoming task better, you will also have improved focus and retention.

You will also be able to unconsciously tune into relevant information which you might have skimmed before, considering it useless. Not all the information in a book or article will be of use to you. For example, you might be looking for some information on weight loss tips and you purchase a book. The first page will not have all the answers you were looking for. Instead, you will have to read your way through everything, and then, after, let’s say 10 pages, you might find the answers or solutions you had been looking for. So all that material before those 10 pages may seem useless to you but you had to read it to better understand the transition and how the author has segued into the topic of your interest.

Scan your reading material before the actual read

Scan your reading material before the actual read

Before starting, scan through the reading material. Does it have any headings; bullet points or lists the author used to point special attention to? If yes, make use of them. The reason writers, authors and bloggers use such means is to instantly grab the attention of the reader so as to inform him of what’s being expected and discussed below.

Employ proven reading techniques

Employ proven reading techniques

Ever wondered why it is easier to comprehend and attune information when reading it for the second time? The first time we read information, our mind tries to calibrate to it. It’s raw and new and may not even make sense. The second time you read it, the information is still fresh in our memory and creates less internal resistance this time on the brain. This technique of mimicking reading twice lets the brain focus better even when reading boring material.

Use your resources

Use your resources

Nearly all of us have one or a few tics we hardly take notice of, something like unconsciously using a pen or our fingers to trace our progress as we read through new information, such as an exam paper, to better understand it. It is because our mind is programmed to function that way. We are more drawn towards moving objects. Once we fixate our eyes on something, reading for instance, complementing the exercise with a pen or finger, we actually bring focus to the task at hand. This helps us read and grasp the information faster, which of course is a great benefit.

Practice read and recall approach

Practice read and recall approach

It is better to regress while reading. By this, we mean going back over again and reading the material one more time for the sake of higher retention, allowing us to better understand the text we were unable to grasp before or our mind wandered somewhere the very first time. About 33% of all readers regress when reading something that doesn’t interest them much. This is at the expense of one of the most precious of our things – time.

To combat this problem, use this little trick. Make it a habit to read a paragraph and then mentally take note of what you gleaned from it. Try to recap the central idea to yourself in one to two sentences. Do the same after reading the next paragraph. Continue repeating this tactic throughout your entire reading material and you will surely be able to concentrate and retain valuable information much more effectively. Soon enough, this will become something you do reflexively.

Review your reading

Review your reading

Reading something that is boring and uninteresting is like eating food with no seasoning. You don’t like it, but you have to in order to stay alive. The same happens when you are compelled to read something just to retain and comprehend information that is not at all appealing. What you can do in such cases is review your reading in creative ways so that you can remember and recall it for later. To do so, read your notes out loud or create a mind map or images; just don’t let it overpower you, making you doze off or yawn continuously.

Tangible and intangible rewards

Tangible and intangible rewards

Rewards, be they tangible or intangible, are the true source of motivation. Motivation is still one of those mysterious areas behavioral scientists are exploring and find answers to as to the patterns it follows. Rewards push us to do many things we wouldn’t have considered doing, but do them once we see some benefit to it. Use the same tactic when trying to focus on reading something. Set small rewards for reading something boring. It doesn’t have to be a really big reward; sometimes even the smallest of things bring joy. So treat yourself to a reward after you have done your reading – you deserve it.

The study-buddy approach

The study-buddy approach

Hearing or listening things from other’s perspective often makes even the dullest of things become interesting. Indulge a buddy who is positive and creative and likes to read the same things as yourself. A friendly study session will not only keep you motivated and encourage you to read but also give life to interesting conversations, conflicting ideas and theories that might stimulate the mind in a fun way, resulting in a greater level of comprehension of the text at hand.

Consider reading as a game

Consider reading as a game

How fast you can read one page while fully concentrating and maintain a high level of conception? Challenge yourself by timing it. Remember the old times when everything used to be a game? Do the same with reading. Just because you have grown up shouldn’t mean everything needs to all work and no games. Games not only motivate us but can turn even the most boring of reading into a source of fun and enjoyment.

Practice proper posture

Practice proper posture

Already stressed before, if you don’t feel comfortable, you won’t be able to concentrate. While sitting, push your hips as far as physically possible and adjust yourself in such as posture that your feet lie flat on the ground and your entire back is supported by the backrest of the chair.

Clear your mind for one minute

Clear your mind for one minute

We all are aware of the benefits of practicing mediation. It is advisable to start reading after a good mediation session as it allows your mind to focus better with all the mental clutter out of the window. But not all of us have the luxury of a soul-refreshing mediation session before we get on with reading. A great way to go about it is to take about a minute or two to relax and provide your mind release from other thoughts before starting. This way, not only will you be able to better comprehend what you are reading but also free your mind from other clutter and enjoy higher levels of concentration.

50 minutes intervals

50 minutes intervals

Peter Drucker, the father of business management, suggests in his book titled “The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done” that the human mind can only concentrate for 50 minutes on a single task and not more than that. This strategy works wonders when trying to concentrate on reading. According to him, after 50 minutes, the human mind requires rest- a break of at least 10 minutes before it can restart and devote itself to the task at hand again. Many people argue that they have mastered the art of staying concentrated for more than 50 minutes but according to Peter, the efficiency of the brain to focus starts to decline whether we realize it or not. Using a similar approach might work for you and also help you train your focus while reading.

Reading should always be an enjoyable experience! If you practice these tips, you will not only be able to improve your focus but also form a habit of improved focus. Once you implement these tips, you will be able to comprehend and retain information much better.

Happy reading!