TFW you can't focus 🤦🏾‍♂️

GIF: Green and black robot uses laser eyes to slowly destroy laptop screen from top to bottom and reads

You’re not alone. A 2020 study by Barnes & Noble Education found that more than half of students (64%) expressed concern over maintaining focus.

If you want to know how to stay focused while studying online, use these tried and tested tips to get back on track in no time.

1. Try a mindfulness walk or exercise

A Harvard study found that people spend 46.9% of the day thinking about something other than the task(s) they committed to.

Do you find that when you're studying, you're thinking about something else altogether?

Distracted person in 70s suit trips and falls down stairs

How do you get back on track? When you know you'll be studying with your screen all day, try a mindfulness exercise or a mindful walk .

Mindfulness can help you:

Re-boot your ability to concentrate

✅ Focus for a longer period of time

Memorize more information

Manage stress

Two young people lean on boardwalk railing in the woods Photo by Elijah M. Henderson on Unsplash

2. Work around your distractions

First, do a brain dump of your frequent distractions. Things like:

  • Online shopping

  • Music with lyrics

  • Texting with your friend

  • Scrolling through feeds

  • Taking pictures

  • Snacking

  • Roommates/family/partner

Then, make a plan to convert these distractions into a strategy to focus.

❌ Can’t stop singing to your new favourite album? 

✔️ Schedule time to listen after a block of studying time.

❌ Still need music to focus? 

✔️ Make a playlist of your favourite genre with no lyrics — classical or lo-fi beats are recommended!

GIF: Blonde-haired dog with pointy ears typing vigorously in bed with a blue and white striped duvet and pillow

3. Make the most of your device’s accessibility features

Have you explored all of your device’s focus-friendly features?

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Browser extensions such as website blockers and personalized home pages can help you stay on track. You can even save a whole session of your browser tab rabbit hole for later.

GIF: Person in baseball diamond with a blue LA baseball cap and navy blue polo shirt on, asks,

4. Have a reward system

Have you heard of the Pomodoro method?

The Rumie community on Discord uses this timed method of staying on task with an automated Pomodoro bot, but you can also use any timer you have on hand. The method alternates both studying and short breaks to make exam prep more manageable.

The best part? You can build rewards right into your study plan!

This means that during Pomodoro breaks you (finally) get to:

  • Go online shopping

  • Take a nature walk

  • Listen to that new song you’ve been putting off

  • Have a TikTok session

Young child turns page of book in the classroom, then pretends to gather knowledge with hands and gestures toward his brain

Time to try it for yourself 🙂

Here are the steps to the Pomodoro method:

📝 Choose a study topic

⏱️ Study for 25 minutes

🚨 Take a 5-minute break after the alarm goes off

⏱️ Repeat this schedule 3 more times

🎮 Take a longer 30-minute break

⏱️ Then, start again!

Two tone background with pink on the left side, and seafoam green on the right, with sage green clock timer in the middle


While studying, you remember that you want a new pair of sneakers. What should you do?

5. Rewatching a lesson? Try a fidget activity

You may be thinking: wouldn't fidgeting be more distracting?

Not necessarily. Similar to any physical activity, fidgeting increases activity in the brain. Mind-body connection expert John Ratey, M.D. even encourages patients to see movement as a power generator for memory, focus, and productivity.

Ready to make fidgeting a practice? Try any activity to keep you busy with your hands, like:

✏️ doodling

🧶 knitting

🌈 multicolour pens

👐🏿 focus cube

Image: Grey and red-orange focus cube for fidgeting Photo by Kreeson Naraidoo on Unsplash

6. Join a structured online study group — or start your own!

A study done by The American Society for Training and Development revealed that your chance of successfully reaching a goal rises to 95% when you commit to a recurring appointment with an accountability partner.

Some call this co-working, and in the ADHD community, this is often called body doubling.

Blue mug and laptop sitting on a rustic orange table with a virtual group call on the screen Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

What is body doubling?

A body doubling session is when two or more people work together to focus on any task (work, chores, errands, studying etc.) for an agreed length of time.

Why should I study with someone?

Not only will peers cheer you on to the finish line, but the mirroring effect of working together gives you a shared sense of structure that motivates folks to concentrate on the task.

Three friends laughing as they work on their laptops in a cafe Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

How does body doubling work?

  • You meet with one or more people in person or on a virtual platform to work together in sprints.

  • You begin with each person stating their task(s) verbally or in a chat function.

  • Together, everyone tries to complete their task(s) by the end of the work sprint.

  • At the end, you discuss your wins and strategies to improve 🙌

Who can I body double with?

Friend(s), family, student peers or a virtual group.

Take Action

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Next time you lose focus while studying online, you can:


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