Concentration is a very important characteristic that helps us remain attentive towards the task at hand. It is a key point in most activities, and it allows us to successfully and effectively complete tasks, take part in conversations, follow a movie, and yes, it also helps us while reading.
It is very important to understand how to focus on reading, since reading is such a beneficial activity. Therefore, our team of experts here at Basmo came up with some great tips on how to concentrate on reading.
How to focus on reading?
Nowadays, staying focused on the task you’re working on is quite the challenge. Do you remember how our folks used to have discussions at the dinner table? They could go on and on without stalling, glancing over their shoulders, or checking their phones. In our times, it seems like after two or three remarks the conversation dies down and people start checking their phones obsessively. This saddening phenomenon is especially common among teenagers and younger adults.
While this loss of focus is quite concerning on all levels of life, we want to concentrate on a very specific segment, namely how to focus on reading. I will take it for granted that you guys already know and are convinced that reading is important and beneficial.
Concentration and focus
Let’s make sure we fully understand what these terms actually mean and imply. Both of these words in fact have multiple meanings, but I’ll be talking about only one for each of them.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “concentrate” with the following words: “to focus one’s powers, efforts or attention.” Already, these two words are linked. But there’s more. The same dictionary defines “to focus” as “to cause to be concentrated”.
Pretty cool, right?
Regarding concentration, imagine working on a certain task without concentrating, or in other words, without focusing your power, effort and attention on the said task. Well, the result is pretty obvious. It will take you much longer to finish it, and your results will most likely be way off.
So now that I’ve made a case for the importance of focus and concentration, let’s see how they apply more directly to reading.
When am I focused on reading?
Has it ever happened to you to be reading a paragraph, and halfway through it to realize that you have no idea what’s going on? Or perhaps even worse, to realize that you’ve been re-reading the same sentence over and over again without processing the information in it? These are classical examples of what happens when we don’t concentrate on what we are doing, in this case reading.
One way to know that you were focused while reading is to test your knowledge of what you read. See if you can remember details clearly, and can reconstruct the order of events correctly as narrated in the book.
Check out our article on remembering what you read for more information on this subject.
So what would be the best-case scenario? What qualifies as being focused on reading? Well, my own take on it would be this: you are focused when you are reading attentively and consciously while concentrating on the text, and also understanding and remembering the information contained. Sounds like a walk in the park? Actually, it’s not always that easy.
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Why can’t I focus when I read?
I think there are quite a few reasonable answers to this question. I’ll start by asking you some more questions. Do you have a good reason for reading? Do you like the books, articles, journals, etc. which you are reading? Do you prepare in advance for your reading session, making sure you will not be interrupted? Are you able to keep your phone and other distractions away while you read?
If you can’t honestly answer these questions with a definite “YES”, then it is clear that there are some issues with your reading habit. I will list some of the main factors which are likely to cause you to lose focus when reading, and I will then elaborate in the next section.
- Distractions. These most often come from your phone, but not only. Other people can often keep you distracted by engaging with you in dialogue. The tea kettle whistling on the stove or the laundry waiting to be hung are household chores that will keep you preoccupied.
- Motivation. It drives all of our actions. We do things for a reason. It’s the same with reading. The less motivation we have, the less we’ll focus on concentrating on the text.
- Fatigue. Most of us have fallen asleep several times while reading, or at least started to nod. We will obviously lose focus quite quickly if we are tired out and in need of sleep. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t concentrate on reading for a long time if I am tired.
- Stress. If you are worried and stressed out, and thinking about many things that are pressuring you, you will most likely not be able to concentrate at all on the book you are reading. In fact, you may become even more stressed out because you see the time going by without any progress in your reading.
- Boredom. It happens sometimes that the book we are reading leaves us uninspired and downright bored. Reading a boring book is quite the challenge, and in some cases may not even be necessary.
- Energy. If you’ve been sitting at your desk all day and are almost jumping out of your chair because you have so much energy, then it’s probably not a good idea to force yourself to read. If you push yourself to read in such a situation, you may end up skipping rows and not understanding much.
- Reading position. Your posture impacts your mental outlook more than you think. If you lay down while reading, you may in fact be telling your body subconsciously that it is time to sleep. If you don’t sit up, you’ll find your mind wandering and becoming drowsy.
How to stay focused while reading a book?
“I want to read but I can’t focus.”
If you’re thinking this, then it’s time you learned how to concentrate on reading. Now that we’ve seen what some of the major obstacles are, I will attempt to provide some advice and insight on how to tackle these problems and overcome them. I will take them in the same order, and go into more details on how these factors can cause you to lose concentration and what you can do to combat this issue.
1. Remove Distractions
You may be wondering how to read without getting distracted. It’s clear that you will not be able to pay attention to whatever you’re doing if every five minutes someone asks you something, or if your phone notifications go off constantly. Technology has many great aspects, but it also poses many serious risks.
Hopefully you are aware of the corrupting and addictive powers of technology, and are taking measures to combat this. By now you may be thinking “what has all of this got to do with reading?”. Well, quite a lot actually.
If your mind is preoccupied by your phone, then you’ve already compromised your focus. You won’t be able to properly concentrate on your reading if you’re wondering if there’s any new texts waiting, and so on.
So how can you ensure your reading session will be “distraction-free”? For starters, it would be a good idea to turn on Do Not Disturb on your phone so you stop receiving notifications. Disconnect! It may be scary if you’ve never done it before, but believe me, if you keep with it for a while, you’ll start noticing how peaceful the world can be, and how clearly you can start to see things.
Regarding other distractions such as household chores, try to get them done before your reading session, so that you can sit back, feeling content that your work is done, and enjoy your book with a clear mind.
2. Get your Motivation in order
As kids, whenever our parents would ask us to do something we would invariably ask them: “Why?” Sometimes, understanding the reason behind an action can determine us to do it. Otherwise, we’ll do it simply because we have to, but we won’t dedicate ourselves to it. This is a critical point. Motivation can build dedication, and dedication brings results.
If you don’t really know why you want to invest your time reading, then ask yourself. Make a SWOT analysis if you want. Understand how reading can help you. Some people read to learn new things and improve themselves. Some read for fun. Some read because it relaxes them. Whatever your reason is, make sure you know what it is and believe in it.
There are some other ways of boosting your motivation. Keeping track of what you read, writing down ideas and impressions, and saving favourite passages, all of these things help you implement what you’re reading.
The easiest way to do this nowadays is to use a reading app. They can turn out to be quite helpful in maintaining your reading habits and tracking your reading. And luckily, they can be still used while the DND feature on your phone or tablet is on.
Basmo, for example, allows you to do all of this and more. Having been tailored especially to suit reader’s needs, this app has neat features that might boost your interest in reading.
In Basmo, for instance, you can organize your books in collections and name them any name you see fit. You can do this in three easy steps:
- Go to the My Books tab on your Basmo home screen.
- Scroll down to Book Collections and tap View all collections.
- Tap + Create book collection to add a new collection.
- You can name it anything you want and start adding books to it.
You can also track your reading time:
- Simply tap on any book in any collection.
- Then tap the Start session button if it’s a new book or the Continue from page X if it’s a book you’ve already started. This will start the counter.
- As soon as you tap End session the statistics will appear on your dashboard.
Once you’ve found your motives for reading and begin to understand them and believe in them, you may notice that you will no longer feel like you are wasting your time when reading. On the contrary, hopefully you will become enthusiastic and gain a determination to further pursue reading in order to achieve your goals. This in turn will significantly help you stay focused and concentrated on what you are reading.
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3. Reduce Fatigue
Lack of sleep is a big problem for many people. You may be wondering how to concentrate on reading when you’re constantly tired. Whether you’re a teenager who parties too much or an adult struggling with insomnia, you’re probably feeling the effects of not getting enough sleep. It’s like you cannot do anything 100%, and are just waiting for the opportunity to put your head on the pillow.
It goes without saying that it will be nearly impossible for you to concentrate on your book if you are tired. Due to its relaxing capabilities, reading is definitely hard to tackle if you are not well-rested. You may get through a few paragraphs, start nodding, and then, after hitting your head against the book, wake up and realize you have absolutely no recollection of what you just read.
Having said this, try to be well rested before starting your reading session. Thus, you will have the mental stamina necessary to remain focused while reading. You will be able to comprehend and assimilate the information read and also remember it. If you begin reading and notice you are feeling drowsy, try taking a 15 or 20-minute nap. Afterwards, wash your face, and then start reading again.
4. Try to eliminate Stress
Stress, worries, anxiety… All of these things can compromise your concentration and prevent you from truly focusing on your reading. There are several ways in which you can try dealing with these problems.
Writing down whatever you’re concerned about and deciding to resolve it can help reduce the stress you’re facing. Also, realize that worrying is not helpful, and just robs you of the present moment’s happiness.
Once you’ve managed to clear your head and relax, start reading. Try to enter into the story. Get to know the characters. Take part in the action and imagine yourself being there. This might even help you take a break from your own problems.
Moreover, you can gain courage and inspiration from the characters’ own trials and tribulations and the way they conquered their fears. With a clear head you’ll be much more likely to be able to focus on what you’re reading and even enjoy it.
5. Fight Boredom
Reading a boring book is like watching a sport you have no interest in, or listening to a song that has absolutely no appeal for you. You’ve probably noticed that you can’t focus while reading an extremely boring book.
Thankfully, you don’t have to finish every single book you start. If you really aren’t getting anything out of the book, you can drop it. Try to find a different one which actually sparks your interest.
The Basmo app can be helpful in this aspect too. It allows you to look up various book titles and see what other readers thought of them. You may be able to find the book that interests you, and thus resolve the boredom issue at least partly.
If you notice you’re getting bored and losing focus, take a break, and if necessary, maybe even start a different book. Just don’t cheat. Sometimes a great book can have a series of pages where you begin to lose interest, but afterwards the action picks up again. Give each book its fair chance.
6. Learn to manage your energy levels
It may happen that you’ll sit down intending to read for an hour, but after ten minutes you find yourself drumming your fingers, grinding your teeth, and kicking your legs back and forth. Maybe you’re longing to be with your friends in the park, or out on the soccer field, and so on. If you have a lot of energy which is waiting to be used, then it would be advisable to go for that soccer game, or whatever sport you enjoy.
People are made to be active and interact with others. Sure, that doesn’t mean you have to be outdoors 24/7 and only come home to sleep. But if you’ve been working at your desk all day and are anxious to get outside, it might be a good idea to postpone your reading until after you’ve managed to get some physical exercise. Otherwise you will have trouble staying focused on your reading.
7. Adjust Your reading position
Last but not least, your posture plays a significant role in your awareness level. Moreover, different places mean different things for us. When laying in bed, we almost tell our body that it’s time for us to sleep. When sitting at our desk, we know that we’ve got work to do. And so on.
Following this course of thought, it might make sense to have a designated seat or place in our house where we do our reading. Try to adopt a comfortable but upright position which will keep you alert. Thus, a habit will be built, and you may also see a boost in your focus.
Remaining concentrated on what you are reading can be a challenge for many people. The aspects I’ve presented are meant to help you become aware of the ways in which you can improve your reading session. I also hope they show you how to focus on reading as well as how to remain concentrated. Try to apply them consistently and then examine your progress over time. Hopefully you will notice improvements.
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