1. Take detailed, handwritten notes while you read. Just the act of writing helps with retention.
2. Set a timer for 45 minutes. Read and take notes until your timer goes off.
3. Set another timer for 10 minutes and take a break, even if you don't feel like you need it. Use the whole time.
Here's the most important part: RESIST the temptation to continue reading until the end of a paragraph, page, or chapter. As soon as your timer goes off, stop reading that instant and make note of where you stopped. We have a tendency as humans to want closure, so we say, "I'll just finish this chapter". The problem is that it's harder to pick back up after your break and start a new chapter. If you stop mid-sentence, you can pick RIGHT up where you left off (maybe you have to reread that last sentence), without having to spend as much time getting back in "the zone".
It's also very important to use your breaks so that your mind has time to rest and recharge a bit. You'll be able to study longer if you give yourself these regular breaks instead of pushing through until you're exhausted.
I found this technique to be absolutely vital for long study sessions. Before adopting this technique, I could study for maybe two hours, max. After I started doing this, I was able to study for 8 or 9 hours at a time and my retention was much better.
Best of luck!
I hear you saying that you have trouble focusing on your studies, and I wonder why that is. Can you isolate the problem? Is it that you are distracted by invasive thoughts, or by social media, or by troubling events in your life? Are you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by the quantity of work you have? I think that the most constructive thing to do first would be to identify the potential reason for your inability to focus, if that is possible. Once you have identified the source of the inability to focus, you can begin to treat it. I find that it helps me to focus to play music quietly, as music clears my mind and stops any invasive thoughts that I may have from taking hold. It also helps me to set clear goals for myself, and to find a good reason to follow through with them. Perhaps it would be helpful for you to promise to study to someone who you respect, or to think about why you are really studying.
Keeping your concentration for some is hard to do if you have distractions. Try to find a place where there is little distraction and if you're not using your mobile device to study leave it where you can't get to it. Texting, emailing, surfing on the web is a distraction for many. It all depends on what you're being distracted by. Set aside some specific time where you can focus on your studies.
Lisa recommends the following next steps:
I agree to what Yesim has mentioned above! I am very easily distracted while studying as well but I find myself being able to focus longer by doing these:
(1) Phone off - I turned my phone off and put it far away where I have to make an effort to move to get it. Out of sight, out of mind, I was not distracted by any phone notifications that comes in.
(2) Quiet environment - I choose a quiet place to study with very little objects/distractions around me.
(3) Study breaks - I usually take a 5-10 minutes break after every 30 minutes of studying for my brain to digest what I have learned for the past half hour.
Everyone learns differently. Feel free to try different study methods and practice them! Good luck!