Sometimes the mind can be a tricky, skittering around the corners of your workday, doing everything but what it's supposed to do. If you have trouble focusing in on one thing and seeing it through to completion, you're in good company. With a little effort you can harness your over-active mind, put it to good use, and become the best possible version of yourself.
Practicing Active Concentration
- Take notes while you work. One of the most effective ways you can actively concentrate on what you're doing is to write things down by hand. As opposed to typing, writing by hand forces you to actually engage with what you're learning in a more physical way, sticking in the mind more clearly and engaging with it in a more visceral way.
- If you struggle to pay attention during meetings or during class, take notes more actively. Keep your pencil moving. Even if it's not something that will be super-helpful later, you'll keep yourself from wandering into other thoughts if you take notes.
- Doodle. Long-thought a sign that people weren't paying attention, it turns out that some of the most active thinkers are also active doodlers. If you draw, even just squiggly lines and nonsense while you're trying to pay attention, some studies show that it can help you engage your mind and stay focused, keeping boredom at bay and keeping your mind active and learning.
- Speak out loud as you work. Similar to doodling and note-taking, speaking out loud while you work or study might have your roommates thinking you've got a few screws loose, but it's also proven to actively help you to internalize what you read and the ideas that you're engaging with. Like writing, verbalizing forces you to give words to knowledge, creating a two-step process in the learning that makes it easier to recall and makes you more engaged.
- If you're embarrassed, try finding an isolated super-quiet place to study, or wait until your roommates are gone to get some alone time to try it out. Or just don't worry about what they think. Talk to yourself! We all do it.
- See the right answer and only the right answer. To escape a skid, professional drivers are trained to look not at the oncoming tree they'd like to avoid, but the space to which they want to go. Successful soccer players move to open space, successful guitar players find an empty space to play a perfect note, and successful learners fixate on the right course of action and the right way of doing.
- It might sound so obvious that it's silly, but if you're reading a text and find your mind wandering into other thoughts, picture yourself doing it correctly. Tell yourself to actively read and pay attention. Change your mind and look toward the space where you're doing the right thing. Then do it.
Creating a Schedule
- Find your best time to work. Are you a morning person? A night-owl? Maybe just after lunch is your peak period. Find the time in the day that you're at your best and structure your life around that fact. There's no sense in pretending to be an early riser if you crave the 3am study session in your soul. Listen to yourself and do what works.
- Structure each day at the beginning of each day. Creating a plan for yourself helps to eliminate distracting thoughts and stress. Compartmentalize each thing you need to do in a given day, trying to anticipate how much time you'll need to accomplish it. Try to leave in some wiggle room in case you end up needing more time to bash out a draft of your paper, or more time to prepare for that presentation at work.
- Try your best to do one thing at one time. When it's time to eat breakfast and read the paper, just eat breakfast and read the paper. You don't have to worry about studying for that English essay if you know you're going to study for it at 4:30, after you get off work and before you meet up for dinner.
- Work on both short- and long-term goals actively. It's best if you can help to remind yourself why you're doing what you're doing to help keep you on track and remind yourself of the bigger picture. Remember your long term goals, and how the little things you do fit into your larger plan for yourself.
- One of the most nagging distractions when you're trying to sit down to study trig notes might be, "Why am I doing this? I should be out partying and living my life!" In those moments, it's helpful to remind yourself why you're studying: "I've got to pass this class so I can get my degree and go to grad school and become the most powerful pediatric neurosurgeon in Whitman County. My plan is in effect." Take time for an evil laugh, then get back to it.
- Create a routine and then shake it up. Monotony can be its own distraction. Learn when you're getting bored of the same old, same old. Try to structure your day by doing different types of activities back-to-back. So you don't have to do one housework thing after another, alternate studying and housework, or throwing in some exercise. Don't answer all your emails at once, answer a few, then take a break to do something else productive. At the end of the day, you'll end up being more productive if you shake it up.
- This may not be true for everyone. Learn how you work best. If it's more efficient for you to plow through and grade 20 papers all at once, more power to you. Pour a glass of wine and get to it.
- Take scheduled breaks. Breaks are important, but the temptation of a break can start to creep in at particularly insidious moments, like just as your essay starts to get hard and you might be better served by getting over the difficult hump of that paragraph or that page. If you schedule breaks regularly and try your best to stick to that schedule, though, you'll be able to keep yourself more productive and more relaxed.
- If you've got a long day ahead of you, some people find it effective to go for a 50-10 breakdown. If you've got a bunch of work to do, go all-out for 50 minutes and then take 10 minutes to do something relaxing. Get up from your desk, take a walk, watch a YouTube video of a bulldog bouncing on a trampoline, do what you need to do to get the break you need. Then get back to it.
- Find a comfortable work environment. There's no perfect place to concentrate. You may find it best to get out and work or study among people, sitting at a coffee shop or cafe, or you may find that unbearable and distracting. Likewise, the best place for you might be in your living room, seated at your writing desk, or you may find the call of the Xbox way too tempting. Try to identify your tendencies toward distraction and create an environment that eliminates those distractions.
- Take a day and Try to write down everything that distracts you. If you're supposed to be studying and you click on Facebook instead, write that down. If you should be working on a paper and you're playing guitar, write that down. If you're supposed to be listening in class and you're daydreaming about your boyfriend, write that down.
- At the end of the day, look at your distraction habits. When you get down to work tomorrow, Try to create a space where you'll eliminate those distractions. Close your browser while you study, or go somewhere without wireless. Put the guitar in the basement, or leave the house. Put away your cellphone and stop texting the dreamboat. They'll all still be there when you've got free time.
- Embrace the distractions you cannot control. Sometimes, there's just no way around it: something will distract you from your work. Even if you've gone to the perfect spot in the library where it's quiet, where you can get work done, where it's perfect, and suddenly, the old guy reading old New York Times papers starts barfing up a lung at the desk next to you. What do you do? Two options:
- Leave. If the distractions are insufferable, don't overreact, and don't sit there stewing and wasting time. Get up, pack up your things, and find a less distracting corner of the library.
- Ignore it. Plug in your headphones and cue up some ambient music and drown out the distracting wheezing from the other people, or just focus in on your reading to such a degree that you don't notice it. He's not trying to annoy you on purpose. Get on with it.
- Get offline as much as possible. Sometimes it seems like the browser window is designed to ruin your life. The distance between your English paper and a rabbit hole of old wrestling videos and emails from your girlfriend is just in an adjacent tab. You don't even have to close out of your paper! If you can afford to do it, stay offline while you're working. Put your phone away, turn your Wi-Fi off and get to work.
- If you struggle to work on a computer, or you need the Internet to do your job, head yourself off at the pass. Block the websites you find the most distracting by using a program like Anti-Social, or download a time-restriction software that will only allow you to use the internet as set times. In between, you'll be in charge, not the evil vortex called YouTube.
- Prioritize your efforts. One of the most distracting things can be dwelling on all the stuff that's crashing down on you: work, school, relationships. Something's gotta give! When you prioritize those items, however, you can control them, working through them and accomplishing them in order of importance and deadlines.
- Make good friends with the "to-do" list and stick to it as close as possible! Pick one thing at a time to work on, and keeping working on that one thing until it's done completely.
- You can't do two things at once, can you? Check your list for possibilities to double up and make your day more efficient. Need to study up for a math exam AND do the laundry? Review your notes at the laundromat and cross them both off your list, keeping up with home commitments and schoolwork.
- Get to it. The most debilitating distraction has nothing to do with YouTube, Facebook, or the animated couple chattering next to you in the coffee shop; it's got to do with you. Our minds can be like keyed-up lizards bouncing around a rubber room, and it's everything we can do to get them to sit still and do what we say. No matter where you work, what you've got going on today, and what you need to work on, it's you who has to make the decision to do it. Calm your mind and get busy. Nobody's stopping you but you.
- Try meditating in the mornings, or doing some deep-breathing exercises to center yourself when you start feeling overwhelmed. People who have trouble concentrating have a tendency to spiral into different levels of distraction, making it worse rather than pulling themselves out of it. Reverse the cycle by learning to anticipate it and chill out.
- The secret for concentration - sleep. Least sleep 4 times a week for more than 15 hours for perfect concentration. Even the recent studies have proved that sleeping increases IQ levels.
- If you want to concentrate, try to close your eyes and breathe deeply, this way, your brain will only concentrate on one sense.
- Concentration applies to all the activities of life. It should be established as a life habit. Make a business of doing one thing at a time with all your soul.
- When you concentrate, you get more work done! Try tuning out of devices and staying on schedule!
- [v161174_b01]. 15 November 2019.