Attention & Concentration Workshop Handout

Attention & Concentration Workshop Handout

Complied by: Anne Reith, Ph.D.

3 Levels of Concentration

Light Concentration: Occurs when you first sit down. This level continues for about the first 5 minutes. You are just getting settled into your reading, listening, or studying. You are easily distracted.

Moderate Concentration: Occurs during the next 5 minutes or so. This is when you begin to pay attention. You are not as easily distracted, although you may lose your concentration if someone talks directly to you.

Deep Concentration: You arenít thinking about anything except what you are hearing or reading. You may not notice if someone comes into the room or the ticking of the clock. You typically are not easily distracted by external or internal stimuli. You are working most effectively.

Effective Concentration Cycle

Beginning of Study Period

  • Light Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Moderate Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Deep Concentration About 40 minutes
  • Study Break About 10 minutes

Ineffective Study Session

Beginning of Study Period

  • Light Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Moderate Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Light Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Moderate Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Light Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Moderate Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Light Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Moderate Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Light Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Moderate Concentration About 5 minutes
  • Study Break or "I give up"

The Ideal Study Area

  • The noise level is appropriate
  • The table and chair are a comfortable size.
  • The work surface and surrounding walls are uncluttered.
  • Two or more sources of lighting are present.
  • Necessary supplies are readily available.

Setting the Mental Stage (RAVES)

  • Use Relaxation techniques to calm your mind.
  • Arrange your goals and priorities for the study block.
  • Visualize yourself capable of full concentration.
  • Remember the Emotional E-words related to success: effort, enthusiasm, energy, eagerness.
  • Use positive Self-talk to set a positive attitude.

Identifying External and Internal Distracters

  • Make a to do list before you start studying or as the responsibilities pop up in your mind while you are studying. Deal with these things only after you are done studying.
  • Visualize a mental storage box. Identify all your concerns, worries, or emotions; and then visualize putting them into this box. Then, visualize putting this box out of sight in a safe place.
  • Place a big red bow outside your door when you are studying as a sign to others that you are not to be disturbed and you need them to be quiet.
  • Don't fight the conditions around you (e.g., noisy people, room temperature): take charge. Move to a different location, unplug the phone, clean off your desk of unnecessary clutter, etc.
  • If you hear things around you, tell yourself there's no need to know what is going on right now. When you hear something, just tell yourself, "No need," and get back to the task at hand.
  • Keep a scorecard. Every time you notice yourself being distracted, give yourself a checkmark. With every study session, your goal is to have fewer checkmarks than during your last study session.
  • If you are distracted by the amount of material you have to study, chunk the information into smaller, manageable units.
  • Be aware of physical issues/problems. If you are hungry, eat something. If you are sleepy, take a 20 minute nap. A diet higher in protein will often improve concentration. Substances such as prescription and nonprescription medications, alcohol, illegal drugs, and caffeine can lower your ability to concentrate and shorten your attention span. Get a check-up; problems with concentration can be compounded if you arenít feeling well or if you are struggling with chronic pain.
  • Be an active learner:
    1. Take notes as you study (have a pen in your hand)
    2. Talk out loud to yourself as you study.
    3. Experiment with different study techniques to find what works best for you.
    4. Walk around as you read or recite.
    5. Quiz yourself. Write questions you think the instructor might ask on the exam.

Using Active Listening Strategies During Lectures (DATE IAN)

  • Eliminate Distractions so that you can concentrate effectively. Use the "take charge" approach described above.
  • Pay Attention to the development of ideas. Think about where the lecturer started, how the ideas are connected, and where s/he might go next.
  • Stay Tuned in even when information is difficult, unfamiliar, or uninteresting.
  • Monitor your Emotions. Use the "no need" technique described above.
  • Create an Interest in the topic being discussed (e.g., pretend you are a reporter and you will have to write an article on this topic for tomorrowís edition of the newspaper).
  • Ask questions at the appropriate times; e.g., at the end of a section or lecture. Write down your questions as you think of them so you can refer back to them later.
  • Be Nonjudgmental about the speaker's appearance, mannerisms, and speech patterns.

Taken from: VanBlerkom, D. L. (1994). College study skills. Becoming a strategic learner. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Inc.

Wong, L. (1994). Essential study skills. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co