Concentration is a very important characteristic that helps us remain attentive toward 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.
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. that 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.
- Poor reading habits. In order to properly focus on reading, we always need to make sure that we make a couple of right decisions. For example, having a completely disorganized reading schedule or not taking enough breaks can lead to quite a lot of concentration issues.
- Inadequate lighting. Poor lighting can have a negative impact on the quality of your reading session. If you read in a room with poor lighting, you risk putting unnecessary strain on your eyes, which can lead to headaches and concentration issues. Even though very few give it much thought, this is a very common reason why people can’t concentrate when reading
- A bad diet. Having an unbalanced diet can have a negative impact on the way your brain works. A caloric deficit can make you feel weak and decrease your ability to focus when reading. Also, having a diet that lacks important nutrients will have a similar effect on your overall health and on your power to properly concentrate when reading.
- Attention deficit disorders. According to specialists, around 75% of adults with ADHD remain undiagnosed throughout their entire lives. This is due to a lack of awareness and the way the disorder manifests in adults compared to the more obvious symptoms we can easily recognize in children. As you can imagine, an attention deficit disorder can have a tremendously negative impact on your ability to focus while reading.
- Undiagnosed learning disabilities. Dyslexia and oral/written language disorders can negatively impact how efficiently you are able to focus on reading. Especially when undiagnosed, these disorders can lead to serious concentration issues and even to a complete lack of interest in reading.
How to focus on reading?
“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 detail 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 with 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 are 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, feel 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 favorite 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 readers’ needs, this app has neat features that might boost your interest in reading. For instance, you can organize your books in collections and name them any name you see fit.
Once you’ve found your motives for reading and begin to understand 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. Afterward, 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 to 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 that 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 afterward, 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
Your posture plays a significant role in your awareness level. Moreover, different places mean different things to us. When laying in bed, we almost tell our bodies that it’s time for us to sleep. When sitting at our desks, 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 that will keep you alert. Thus, a habit will be built, and you may also see a boost in your focus.
8. Create an adequate reading space
Sometimes, the answer to “why can’t I focus on reading” is quite easy to find by simply judging the location of your reading session. While the matter can be a complex one, more often than not, it can just be a matter of reducing background noise to improve your focus.
Your reading nook plays a tremendous role in the quality of your reading sessions and your performance. You should always choose a quiet and comfortable place, where distractions can be controlled and reduced to a minimum. Your surroundings always play a role in your mental state.
A cluttered, messy room can negatively impact your ability to think clearly, can make you feel overwhelmed and restrained, and can ultimately significantly reduce your ability to focus on reading. You should invest some time and effort into decluttering and arranging your reading corner the way you like it.
Make sure it’s properly lit, that everything is in its rightful place and that you can breathe in some fresh air while reading. An oxygenated brain should never be overlooked when it comes to your ability to focus while reading.
9. Have some coffee
There is no question about it. Coffee is an amazing drink. It has a plethora of benefits for our bodies and minds, and it can also help you improve your ability to stay focused. Caffeine, the magical substance in coffee that gives us the buzz we need every morning, has been shown to improve our level of alertness throughout the day and even enhance our short-term mental capabilities.
Caffeine improves focus by stimulating the brain’s central nervous system and increasing the production of dopamine. It reduces fatigue, makes us happy, and helps us see things more clearly. Not bad for something that is also absolutely delicious, right?
10. Don’t break the 50-minute rule
The 50-minute rule, extensively described and explored in Peter Drucker’s book “The Effective Executive” is a productivity-boosting technique that is thought to enhance the mental performance of those who use it.
The idea here is that the 50-minute intervals have been found to be the ideal timeframes for a person’s ability to stay focused on a certain task. Reading is obviously no different considering that it is an activity that requires a lot of brain power for top performance.
Within these 50 minutes, you should be able to dedicate your entire attention to reading. Once the 50-minute mark has passed, your ability to concentrate decreases significantly. Instead of pushing yourself beyond what you are able to do naturally, you should take a 10-minute break according to the way this productivity booster has been designed.
A 10-minute break should be enough to restore your ability to focus when reading and you should be able to remain properly concentrated for another 50 minutes.
11. Read with a purpose
Reading with a purpose is similar, but not identical, to having good motivation. Whether your goal is to relax with a good book after a long day or to learn something new, adding a clear purpose to your reading session is going to make it a lot more likely for you to be able to focus on reading.
Your ultimate goal is irrelevant in this context. As long as you visualize your purpose and make an active effort to keep it in mind while reading, your ability to focus is going to be enhanced.
A clear purpose set for each individual reading session will make the experience more rewarding and that added interest in reading will give you a boost in terms of focus and concentration.
12. Set clear goals for your reading
Similarly, setting goals for your reading, in general, can have a positive effect on your ability to focus on reading. Goals can be different from one person to another, but it’s important to recognize their merit.
The even better news is that you can now set and track your progress toward meeting your goals a lot easier than ever before. Using a reading app like Basmo is an amazing way to make your desired achievements official and to see your progress toward meeting them.
With Basmo, you can set two different types of goals. One allows you to micromanage your reading habits by setting a daily goal for the minutes you spend reading every single day. The other one helps you focus on the big picture by encouraging you to set a yearly goal for the total number of books you read within a year.
You will certainly focus on reading a lot better knowing that your efforts will lead you to a clear goal you’ve set for yourself.
While it is definitely a very efficient tool in increasing reading speed, meta-guiding has been found to improve readers’ ability to focus on reading as well. This technique, despite its rather pompous name, represents the simple and banal act of using a finger or a pointing device to guide your eyes through a text while reading it.
It is a well-known fact that our eyes are sensitive to movement. They will track movement continuously, and meta-guiding basically takes advantage of this trait. Forcing your eyes to follow your finger or a pen that guides them through the text is going to have a huge impact on your reading speed and your ability to focus while reading.
Using meditation as a stress-relief tool is a great way to relax. But it can do a lot more for you than just that. Whether you use guided meditation, your own technique, or simply make an effort to be more mindful in general, this is going to have a positive effect on your concentration issues.
Through meditation, you eliminate unnecessary thoughts from your mind. We all have a million things on our minds at all times, we worry about things we cannot change, and constantly need to deal with changes that stress us out.
Meditation is a form of awareness training that simply helps us eliminate the jumbled thoughts and learn to focus on the things that really matter at that exact moment. It helps us gain perspective, changes the way we prioritize things in life, and clearly has a positive impact on the way we approach activities that require us to stay focused, like reading.
15. Use the 1-minute rule
Working in a similar fashion to what happens when we meditate, the 1-minute rule requires us to take a minute to clear our mind of unnecessary thoughts before we start reading.
Since not all of us have the luxury of being able to spend 30 minutes meditating, sometimes just taking a minute to relax and declutter our mind can have a similar effect. While the results are not going to be as good, they can be good enough for a satisfying and rewarding reading session.
16. Don’t skip your exercise routine
“Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano”. The Roman poet Juvenal said it first back in the first century AD. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. It is undeniably true, and it is definitely something that should guide our lives.
Paying attention to our bodies has a positive effect on how our mind works. It is always important to work out regularly, have a healthy routine, and do our best to keep our bodies in tip-top shape.
Whether it’s something simple like going out for a walk or a complex full-body workout, studies have shown time and time again that exercise improves brain health. Take this into account whenever you feel like you’re unable to properly concentrate while reading. Maybe what you need is to add some physical activity to your routine.
17. Multitasking is not an option
The multitasking myth has been debunked time and time again. We are physically unable to actually focus on more than one thing at a time. Yes, our brain is capable of switching from focusing on one activity to focusing on another in a matter of milliseconds, but that doesn’t mean that it is an ideal approach when our concentration needs to be at the highest level.
When reading, dedicate your entire attention to it. Don’t think that you’re going to have a good experience if you read and let the TV on and listen to the news in the background or that you’re going to achieve your maximum levels of comprehension and retention if you don’t focus your attention entirely on the book in your hand.
18. Listen to some music
Music has an incredible effect on our brains. It is one of the few activities that activate both the right and left hemispheres of our brain at the same time. Due to this effect, it can improve our ability to concentrate.
Ideally, to avoid letting it actually distract you, you should listen to instrumental music rather than pop hits that encourage you to sing along to the lyrics. Classical music is thought to be the most effective genre when it comes to improving focus. Chill, ambiental music arouses your brain in a similar way, increasing your ability to focus and actually absorb information while reading.
19. Adjust your diet
Eating enough and eating the right foods can help you maintain brain health. Healthy fats, protein, and vegetables are thought to have a positive impact on our ability to focus and get the best out of our brain power. Here are some examples of foods that will boost your brain function:
- Green tea
A healthy and varied diet is going to work wonders for your body and mind. It’s always important to remember that fueling your system with the right things is going to help you achieve your maximum potential.
20. Plan your reading sessions ahead
One of the most common problems readers face is a lack of organization when it comes to their reading habits. Choosing the wrong moment for a reading session is clearly something you should always avoid. Yes, sometimes it is perfectly fine to fill 15 minutes of free time with a reading session, but that doesn’t work that well when you are actually trying to get maximum value from your reading.
You should always plan your reading sessions ahead and make sure you schedule them at times of day when your mind is most likely to be decluttered and prepared for some effort. The best way to do this is by using a reading app like Basmo.
Within the Basmo app, you get, among other things, a reading scheduler. Scheduling your sessions is an incredibly easy and flexible process. You can choose the exact days you want to get some reading done and different times of day for each individual session. That way you can easily plan ahead according to your daily routine and the other things that are already added to your schedule. Moreover, the app will also remind you of any upcoming reading sessions that you scheduled so you never miss out.
By doing this, you avoid starting a reading session at the wrong time, improving, therefore, your chances of actually being able to properly concentrate on what you are reading.
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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