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Can’t study from home? 5 Ways to Stay Focused

  • Sean 

Studying from home can be distracting and as a result, your quality of work can be low if you don’t do it right. This article describes in detail how to eliminate distractions, set achievable goals, and maintain motivation to get things done.

Studying from home is hard because your day is totally unstructured. To use this time effectively, you need to use techniques that will allow you to take control of your time. Studying from home is best done by establishing a dedicated study space, eliminating distractions, establishing a routine, and using a timer to keep yourself accountable.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what you need to do to actually focus and get some studying done.

1. Have a Dedicated Studying Space

First and foremost you need to have a dedicated workspace to study in. You should not be doing anything that isn’t studying in this location, ideally at least. Nobody is perfect but do your best with this.

Ideally, this location is not in your bedroom where you sleep but I know this isn’t always possible, and it’s definitely not possible for me. But you can still do really well by studying in your bedroom, you just need to follow the other tips more closely.

Something like the image above should be your goal. In order to get here it’s really important that we first cut out possible distractions, both physical and digital.

Cutting out distractions allows you to focus better because It makes studying the path of least resistance.

2. Eliminate Distractions

If there is one thing on this list you should follow, it’s this. Because distractions are the main reason that working from home is so much harder.

First, you need to clean up the objects that are demanding your attention around your study space. This is pretty simple, is basically just removing things from your visual field that are distracting and making them harder to access.

If it takes 2 seconds to pick up your phone and 5 seconds to open your essay then you need to make the phone harder to access. If you have game controllers and a console that are visible from where you are sitting, put these into drawers, etc.

Once you have cleaned up the physical distractions your desk setup should not have anything visually distracting in view of where you are sitting. If it looks fairly minimalistic you are doing a good job.

Eliminate Digital Distractions

The next step, and arguably the most important for removing distractions, is to remove digital distractions.

Social media companies are spending billions of dollars to keep you scrolling on their platforms. Once you open one of those apps, not getting distracted becomes exponentially harder. The key to not letting distracting sites like Youtube, TikTok, and Instagram distract you is to actually not open them in the first place.

But how do we resist opening these?

It’s simple. You just block them. Staying off these platforms, to begin with, is really the only way I have found that really stops the distractions.

Removing computer distractions

For your computer, you can use Coldturkey. It’s totally free, although the premium version is better. This is my favorite blocking tool because it allows me to schedule blocking time for websites like Youtube. I also include little breaks every hour or so that allows me to browse the web without restriction.

This means when I sit down to study at 7 AM my distractions are already blocked from the start. If I want to use Youtube for something I will just write down my search and do it on my break (yes I am serious, I know it sounds crazy).

Removing phone distractions

I know this is probably not an appealing notion to most people. But, on my phone, there is just permanently no social media or Youtube. The only thing to distract me is Spotify, which isn’t very distracting.

My inspiration for this was an article on the distraction-free iPhone by Jake Knapp that you should also check out.

The phone is actually much easier in terms of setup when it comes to blocking distractions compared to the computer.

I use an iPhone and I deleted all my distracting apps and then used a screentime passcode to block all distractions (All social media and Youtube).

I did this by setting a screentime passcode and writing it down on a piece of paper and hiding it in my closet.

So I don’t know the password to unblock anything on my phone and there is a lot of resistance to finding it (digging through my closet). If you want to take this even further you should give the passcode to a friend but I find hiding it in my closet has never caused me any temptation to go and unblock any apps.

There are many ways to use similar restrictions on other devices (here is a link to how to use parental controls on a bunch of other devices, including Andriod). But I have an iPhone and this is what I have found worked for me.

I honestly don’t even think about it anymore, I’m so used to not having access to these distractions, and it’s great for focusing.

3. Establish a routine

Once you have an environment that is conducive to high-quality focus it’s time to actually start focusing regularly on a schedule that works for you. This is a large topic but ill cover some very basic things here.

  1. Determine your goals: What do you want to accomplish each day? Set at least 2 achievable goals per day that actually give you academic progress.
  2. Plan out your day: Plan out how you are going to achieve those goals using a to-do list. I like todoist for a digital minimalist to-do list option (it’s also free). But you can even just use a piece of paper for this.
  3. Be consistent: Try to stick to the same schedule as much as possible, even on weekends. I like to start at around 7 am, but what’s best will vary from person to person.
  4. Be flexible: While it’s important to stick to your routine as much as possible, it’s also important to be flexible and allow for changes and adjustments as needed.
  5. Set aside time for self-care: Make sure to include time for activities that help you relax and recharge, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies.

4. Use a Timer

Not a lot of students do this but tracking your time is a very good way to stay focused. Using a timer like Toggl to track the time you work is a great option for this. This is because the timer creates a bit of pressure to focus.

You can either have the timer count up or count down. To start it’s best to have it count down and you can use the Pomodoro technique this way.

But if you are more experienced having it count up allows you to use what is called the Flowtime technique. This technique is harder to use but is definitely my favorite.

Having a timer also is just useful for knowing exactly how long you actually worked on a given week. You can keep your procrastination in check if you notice that you aren’t focusing during your timer sessions or that your tracked time is getting lower each week.

Here is what my time entries look like for a standard week. This totals roughly 21 hours.

Here is what a really bad week looks like. This totals only 7 hours. It is worth noting that the number of works that needs to actually get done should also be taken into account here. Sometimes the total time should be lower.

Having a timer and being able to see data like this is very valuable. You can actually see if your productivity is dropping without being able to hide it from yourself or make excuses.

5. Just work somewhere else

Lastly, if you really can’t get yourself to focus in your house you might be better off just leaving and studying somewhere else. There are plenty of other places to work apart from your house. There is actually good reason to do this as well.

If you want to switch up your studying location I have other articles that explain the different options for this to help you choose a new location. I have linked some of my other articles on different locations below.

On top of just getting a change of scenery, there is also evidence that studying in multiple locations has been shown to improve test performance compared to just studying in a single location.1

The Takeaway

Working from home is challenging. But there are ways that you can carve out a structure for your day to follow to make it easier. Having a dedicated space, cutting distractions, establishing a routine, and tracking your time are all great ways to focus while studying from home. However, sometimes it’s best to just study somewhere else if you really want to get some work done quickly.


  1. Smith, S. M., Glenberg, A., & Bjork, R. A. (1978). Environmental context and human memory. Memory & Cognition, 6(4), 342–353.