Q&A: I Can’t Concentrate on Reading. What Should I Do?

Quora is a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited, and organized by its community of users. I’m one of them, and my answers have been viewed nearly 300,000 times, as of this writing. On February 10th, 2018, I answered the question, “I Can’t Concentrate on Reading. What Should I Do?, and here is my answer:


Accept the fact (at first) that you’re finding it difficult to concentrate.

I would say that that’s the first step, as opposed to overloading yourself with all these guilt feelings about not being able to focus.

Resisting the feeling of being overwhelmed is just going to lead to spinning your wheels in the mud, and, as they say, accepting a negative experience is actually a positive experience, while desiring a positive experience is actually a NEGATIVE experience.

So, you can’t concentrate. Now you know what the problem is that you need to solve. And fortunately, there are many decent ways to go about this.

I would say that next comes working with your physiology. Sitting slouched over with horrible posture isn’t going to make it easy for your brain to get going.

Much in the same way that standing up straight with your shoulders back makes you look and feel more confident, adjusting your reading posture will help you to concentrate. Your mind and your body always work together.

Third, and perhaps obviously, you should work to eliminate distractions in your environment.

Even if you don’t THINK that what’s going on around you is hampering your concentration, it is. The conscious mind perceives only a small fraction of what makes it into your brain, and if your brain has to work overtime in order to help you focus, you’re not using it to its full capacity.

If you came to me for advice, I’d also tell you that perhaps the problem isn’t necessarily with “you” but rather with your choice of reading material. Read something interesting! If you’re finding it hard to concentrate on reading, pick a different book, something that you can’t wait to read.

I know this is easier said than done, since you may or may not have had this specific reading material “thrust” upon you. But to the extent that you can, it’s worth it to align your reading with your REAL interests. Life isn’t long enough to read boring books!

In much the same way, you should engage more with your reading, if you are to find it more interesting. That means asking questions while you are reading (reading as if the author were on trial for his life), and taking notes on the important things that jump out at you.

I’m on my way to reading 1,000 books before I turn 30, and I have at least a half-page of notes on each book. Sometimes as many as 20 pages of notes! It keeps me focused, and, judging by the inherent fallibility of human memory, it’s the best way to help you remember what you read in perpetuity.

Hope this helps!

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

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