How to focus on audiobooks like a pro

how to focus on audiobooks

Do you find yourself unable to focus on audiobooks?

Although audiobooks have been around for decades, they seem to be gaining popularity as people crave more ways to learn and relax. There are many benefits to listening to audiobooks! They are a great way to focus on your work or studies without the distraction of social media and other tasks. This post discusses how you can best use audiobooks to concentrate on what matters.

One of my personal goals for 2021 was to listen to more audiobooks when I cooked and cleaned. Motivated, I checked out Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. I had always wanted to read it. What could go wrong?

It turns out a lot can go wrong. The experience lasted a total of 15 minutes before I decided I preferred my Spotify playlist. No offense to Zinn or the narrator of that brick, but it wasn’t a brilliant choice for my first audiobook.

If you’re anything like me (chronic overthinker), then your mind wanders when you listen to audiobooks. Over the last year, I’ve worked on my deep listening skills, and I’ve seen improvement. You can improve, too! Check out the tips below, which will show you how to focus on audiobooks.

How to Focus on Audiobooks: 8 tips

tips for listening to audiobooks
how to focus on audiobooks

1. Reading speed is crucial.

For anyone who wants to get more out of audiobooks, the first thing you should do is figure out your reading speed. That way, you can work out how slow or fast an audiobook narrator has to read for it to feel easy and natural to your ears. 

Visit an online text-reading test website like Ace Reader or Swiftread. You’ll see a sequence of words or letters on your screen, which you must type into a box as quickly as possible. Your average word-per-minute score estimates your reading speed in words per minute. You can use this to find out which audiobook narrators best fit you. Or you can use this to speed up your book! 

Adjusting narrative speed is the most helpful advice I received when I asked others how to focus on audiobooks! You will have to experiment to see what works best for you! I do best when I speed up the audio by 1.25x or 1.5x. 

2. Listen to samples before buying

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of taking a test, you could try listening to samples of different narrators’ work on Audible.

There are three different types of audiobook narrators. The first is the traditional narrator, who reads the book in a theatrical style. Next is the celebrity narrator, who reads the book in their voice. Finally, there’s the self-narrator, who reads the book as if talking to a friend.

When selecting an audiobook narrator, many choose the reader they think sounds the best. However, there are other factors to consider when making this decision.

One important factor is personal style. Do you prefer a dramatic reading, or would you rather listen to the author’s voice? Another consideration is how the narrator reads. Do they sound like they’re talking to a friend, or do they sound more like a teacher lecturing in class?

Once you’ve identified your personal preferences, finding an audiobook that suits your needs will be easier. If you like the cadence or tone of a narrator’s voice, you’ll be more likely to remain focused on your audiobook.

You might also like The Best Headphones for Audiobooks.

unable to focus on audiobooks

3. If you cannot focus on audiobooks, don’t skip the preface!

Before beginning an audiobook, it’s good to familiarise yourself with what kind of story to expect. Audiobooks that jump right into the action without setting up the plot may be thrilling, but this approach is not suitable for everyone and can lead to confusion.

Head over to Amazon or Goodreads and peruse the synopses of different books. Once you find a plot or theme that looks interesting, familiarize yourself with the various characters. You’ll be more likely to understand and engage in the audiobook if you have background information on the story.

Some genres work better than others for listening. For me, thrillers and mysteries make great audiobooks because of the natural pacing of those genres.

4. Listen in small increments of time.

It can be beneficial to listen to audiobooks for smaller blocks of time and take breaks. These breaks allow your mind to stay fresh and focused, which will help you retain the information from the book. It’s also important to take breaks to avoid getting overwhelmed or frustrated. Breaks will help you stay motivated and keep pushing forward.

One session’s optimal time to listen to audiobooks is around 30 minutes. Listening to audio for longer can lead to fatigue and a decreased ability to focus. Personally, 20-30 minutes works well for me. You’ll have to find your sweet spot through trial and error.

You might also like Awesome Gifts for Audiobook Lovers.

5. Alternate between print and audio.

One helpful thing for maintaining focus is to alternate between print and audio.

You’re helping your brain focus on the information when you alternate between reading and listening. You’re also helping your brain to retain the information better. You only focus on the words in front of you when you read. But when you listen, you can focus on the words and the tone of the speaker’s voice. Alternating helps your brain to better process and remember the information.

Of course, keep in mind that both print and audio will capture your attention depending on how interesting they are. That makes focusing more manageable, too!

listening to audiobooks

6. Rewind as needed.

It’s normal to lose focus sometimes. Don’t be afraid to rewind! 

Here are a few tips on how to rewind:

  1. Look for the Rewind button on your audio player.
  2. If you can’t find the Rewind button, try pressing the Previous Button or the Volume Down.
  3. Hold down the button until you reach the point where you lost focus. Keep hitting it until you are back at the place where your mind drifted. Most audiobooks will allow you to go back 15 seconds at a time.
  4. Press Play and continue listening.

7. Give yourself time to adjust if necessary.

I need around five minutes after starting an audiobook before I can focus all of my attention on what’s being said rather than worrying about other things like work or chores that I would otherwise be doing during this time.

If you don’t give yourself enough room to get into the story, it will be harder to concentrate on the words rather than the world around you, making it more difficult to follow what’s happening.

Also, if you find any section of an audiobook particularly confusing or dull, but you are determined to finish it without rewinding (which can be frustrating), try listening at another time later in the day. It’s often easier to pay attention when your mind isn’t tied up with tasks and to-do lists!

8. Be patient and persistent.

Learning a new skill takes time and patience. It’s important to be persistent in your efforts and keep practicing even when you feel like you’re not making any progress. With enough practice, you’ll eventually get the hang of it.


Audiobooks can be a great tool. Like all good things in life, they need some effort and attention to be worthwhile. I hope these tips will help you get more out of this awesome form of education and entertainment. If you’re looking for more ways to improve concentration, subscribe to my email list, where I send bi-monthly articles on reading and books. 

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