Focus has been one of my biggest weaknesses for as long as I can remember. Unlike many people, I have not been gifted with an incredible attention span or memory, which made it incredibly hard for me to engage in various kind of activities. Learning, reading.. even thinking for more than 5 minutes was challenging for me. I remember spending days and hours reading a novel, just to realize at the end of it that I didn’t understand and memorize what I’d just read. In short, I’d wasted my time!
On the other hand, I could see some people like my girlfriend who stayed focused on her work for hours on end. How is that possible? For a long time, I accepted it as being a part of who I am. “My focus sucks because I was born this way,” I often thought. But what I was really doing was giving up.
Fortunately, I’m now equipped with enough knowledge and experience, allowing me to stay focused for a longer period of time – whether it be for reading, or anything else.
Before we dive into the actual content and how you can improve your focus while reading, there are some distinctions I would like you to make first.
BEING PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT YOU READ
Reading something you’re passionate about is an easy way to instantly boost your focus. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss any juicy information that you’re interested in. On the other hand, you probably couldn’t care less about some other things.
BEING IN A QUIET ENVIRONMENT
An environment that constantly disrupts your focus is a no-no. In fact, studies have shown that it takes about 20 minutes just to get to that same level of focus you were in after you’ve been distracted. Depending on how your body functions, you may be okay with being in a noisy environment, but it’s still important to mention it since some people like myself find it extremely challenging to focus when even a small sound can rob their attention.
WATCH OUT FOR THE STATE YOU’RE IN
Needless to say, but reading in a bored state will feel completely differently than reading when you’re excited. It wouldn’t even be the book’s fault for being boring, but your state which will affect how you feel about the book!
7 EASY WAYS TO STAY FOCUSED WHILE READING
What I’m going to share with you are ways that I have personally used and benefited from. Let’s talk about 7 ways that you can stay focused while reading.
1 – GO FOR A WALK
Going for a walk as a way to stay focused while reading may sound counterintuitive, but it does wonders. The logic behind it is simple: it keeps you alert. Have you ever tried reading in your bed before your head hits the pillow? I have, and the results were disastrous: I fell asleep within minutes.
When you go for a walk, you force your body to keep working which you can use to your advantage by directing all the energy it gathers toward your book.
2 – READ FASTER
If you want to stay focused and remember what you read, one of the best ways I’ve found is to simply read faster than usual. Reading at normal speed is boring, and leaves room for daydreaming.
On the other hand, reading faster than usual forces your brain to keep up with the speed and so ensure a certain level of focus.
You may be concerned that speed-reading may affect your retention and understanding rate, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Read at a pace that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable, but don’t overdo it. Your job is to find that sweet spot which’ll be hard enough to keep your brain engaged with the content of the book but not so hard that it affects your understanding.
3 – TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
Let’s face it, we’re not robots. You can’t force your brain to focus on something if it’s tired, so don’t obsess over productivity if you physically can’t. Adding a few, short breaks inside your reading session may just be what you need.
A few years ago, headaches were a common occurence when I learned for more than thirty minutes. Instead of pushing myself and exhausting my body, I took regular breaks.
4 – MEDITATION
If you’re not satisfied with your current attention span, then working towards increasing it might be another way of staying focused while reading. Concentrative meditation is designed to do that. The goal of this type of meditation is simple: getting your attention on one specific target of your choice, whether it be your breathing or an external sound.
Consistency is key with meditation. Doing once is not enough, just like anything in life. Keep working at it everyday for at least 10 minutes.
5 – USE YOUR FINGER
Kids often read that way, and so it may not look cool as a grown-up, but it’s actually a great way to read faster – and so to stay focused while reading.
Slide your finger across the pages at a challenging pace – not too easy, not too hard either.
6 – EMPTY YOUR MIND
When your brain is stressed out and can’t stop thinking about a particular issue, it affects your focus. In those instances, reading might not be the best idea.
Doing some activities to change what you focus on like meditation or even doing nothing first will help getting your focus back on the book.
7 – DON’T READ IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING ON YOUR MIND
Sometimes, big things outside of our control happen and we’re simply not in the mood to read. In that case, that’s okay, you don’t need to force yourself. If all your attempts at distracting yourself and changing what you focus on fails, just let it pass and try again tomorrow.
I noticed that inner resistance is a common struggle we all share. I’m referring to that situation when your mind wants something but your body can’t keep up with the demand. A healthy behaviour would be to understand your limits and call it a day instead of pushing yourself too hard.
HOW TO STAY FOCUSED WHILE READING
In the end, there may be various reasons why you can’t stay focused, ranging from physical reasons to psychological. Identify what’s holding you back and use one or more of the 7 ways I’ve shared with you accordingly.