Success Tips

Concentration How To's

by Abby Marks Beale

Do you have a hard time concentrating while you read? Know you are not alone! With a multitude of distractors—such as email dinging, phones ringing and other people interrupting you—it’s not surprising that focus while reading is challenging.
I believe there is nothing more frustrating than trying to get through a simple 10 page article that—because of all the interruptions—takes all day! Gaining focus can make you immediately more productive AND less stressed.

The tips included here are for you serious readers who need to read for work or school purposes where good comprehension and retention are required. Though they can be used for the avid pleasure reader, know that pleasure reading can, and should, be done anywhere you want! Try any or all of these based on your focus issues:

Pick a smart location like a desk or cleared off table. Reading in bed or on a couch in front of the TV can be done but don't expect to get through a lot quickly or with great understanding.
Move to a better place. If you work in an office and you are constantly interrupted, in order to concentrate, you may need to secure a conference room for yourself or go to the cafeteria off-hours. If you are a student, and there are always people around or TV's or radios playing, you too might need to find a more conducive place like a library, empty classroom or quiet kitchen after meals.
Let email wait. It will be there when you are ready to check it.
Listen to your own thoughts. Getting rid of distractors like music with words, television, phones, email beeps or other people talking can greatly increase the amount of reading you can accomplish in a shorter period of time.
Know when NOT to read. There are times when reading is just not a good idea—like when you are exhausted—either mentally or physically—or when you have an emotional situation on your mind. Ask yourself, "Is reading a good use of my time, right now?" If so, do it; if not, don't.
Set a time goal with a reward. Allocate a specific timeframe to read—say 30 minutes or an hour—and set a goal for how much you want to accomplish in that time. When your time is up, reward yourself with things like a quick snack, time to watch your favorite TV show or if you really accomplish a lot, a night out with friends.

Getting to and through your reading piles is one of life's little pleasures. Here's to better focus!

Abby Marks Beale helps busy people work smarter, faster and just plain better. She is author of Success Skills: Strategies for Study and Lifelong Learning (soon to be out in 3rd edition) and 10 Days to Faster Reading (Warner Books). For more, please visit