In this ever advancing world of technology there has never been a better time to be able to get things done from anywhere in the world, but there have also never been so many distractions stopping you getting things done. With the constant connectivity to the internet, facebook, twitter, etc etc we are now absorbing more information every hour than we ever did in a week.
If you are going to succeed at anything in life you need to master the skill of how to focus.
When was the last time you actually turned off your phone? I bet there are not many of you reading this that have actually turned their phone off other than when you went to watch a show, and even then you just put it on silent so if a message came in you would see it!
Whilst my focus for this blog post is how to focus when studying it will also affect every area of your life.
I always used to think that successful people, those who managed to get so much done where very good at Multi-Tasking.
The truth of the matter is that Multi-Tasking is a Myth!
The people who get things done just focus on one task and complete it and then focus on another task and complete it.
The man who tries to catch two rabbits catches none - Confucious
So how do you get focus and eliminate all distractions from your life, below are a few of my top tips.
7 Tips to Stay Focused While Studying
1. Find a place to study
This is one of the most important tips that I can give, trying to study or focus on a task whilst balancing your laptop on your lap on the sofa while eating your tea is not going to get you anywhere. If you have a spare room use it, put a desk in there and shut the door behind you. If you don’t have a spare room or your house is very busy get out of the house, check out your local library, do they have quiet areas. The library is one of the places I go if I just want to get through a piece of work, there is something special about a library that focuses your mind on the task in hand. If libraries are not your thing even a corner of a restaurant / pub / coffee shop with some headphones on is a great place to get things done.
2. Turn your phone to Airplane mode
Unless you are an on call doctor what would be the worst thing that would happen if you turned your phone off for an hour? I appreciate we all have responsibilities and need to be contactable but in this modern world the fact that anyone can demand your attention just by calling you means you cannot focus because at any time that focus can be broken. So if you are trying to get a task done switch your phone to Airplane mode and complete your task. You will be surprised that when you turn your phone back on again that the world is still there.
3. Turn off Facebook / Email / Twitter / Internet etc
As with the phone we can constantly have our attention drawn away from a task in hand by an email that just drops in your inbox which you have to react to. Don’t let someone else’s email schedule affect your focus. If you have a job to do turn off your email, tell everyone that matters that you will be checking your email at 9, 11, and 4:30pm - anything outside of these times will be dealt with on your schedule and on a priority basis. Try it, as with point 2 you will be surprised that if it takes you 2 hours to respond to an email that world will not fall apart.
This point does have to be taken in context, if you are working in a service industry and responding to service requests or customer queries, then a response time of 4 hours is not going to be acceptable. If responding to email is part of your job then you can’t ignore it. If on the other hand email is a way for people to contact you and give you information then make it work on your schedule.
I have discovered this great extension to Chrome called StayFocusd it lets you block access to all sites or some sites so the temptation is not there.
4. Stay Hydrated
If you are going to focus on a task your brain needs working well, you need to be able to think straight and you can’t do that if you are not hydrated. One of the most important things I do as soon as I wake up is drink a pint of water. Your body has been de-hydrated all night and as soon as you wake up you need to get some water in. Coffee is also ok now as there have been many studies that say that drinking coffee counts as water. If you are not a big drinker you can also hydrate by eating water rich foods. Watermelon, Strawberries, Cucumber, Celery are all great to eat and very dense in H20
5. Get enough Sleep
If you don’t have enough sleep you can’t focus on anything, so make sure you are getting at least 6 hours a night, if you just can’t focus on anything ask yourself how much sleep am I getting? If it is less than 6 hours a day and you are having trouble focusing on tasks this may be the problem.
6. Clear Your Mind
One of the biggest distractions whilst trying to focus on a task is your mind remembering things, so just as you have turned off your phone, switched of the email, found a quiet place and started on your task you just remember that important task you had to do this morning, so you spend the next 30 minutes doing that and the task you had to do gets forgotten.
The key to this is to get every thing that is in your head onto paper. (Not your phone!) By emptying your head onto a piece of paper you get all the tasks that have to be done written down this gives you a physical view of all things on your plate, then you can assign priorities to them and then when you sit down to focus on your studies you won’t have any random task popping in your head as you have it all down and the important ones will have already been taken care of and the less important ones can wait.
7. Priority List - Paper not Phone
Finally keep all your lists and priorities on paper not on your phone. There are so many great productivity apps for the smartphone that you can get overwhelmed and put all your lists into your phone with reminders and that’s great, but the only problem is its like putting stuff in a drawer. Out of sight out of mind! By writing all your important tasks on paper and then pinning that paper up by your desk you keep looking at it and keep getting reminders.
I personally use an app called Awesome Note which I use to put notes in and things that pop into my head during the day, but I will then transfer that to paper for my main task list.
How to focus on one thing
Are you just trying to focus on one thing? There are tons of things that distract you from your ultimate goal. Distractions are part of our everyday life. We live in a world with constant distractions which makes it difficult for anyone to get anything done!
In order to just focus on one thing, distractions must be eliminated.
With so much going on, it can be very difficult to stay focused. There are so many things that are preventing us from being focussed on the task in hand.
1. Smartphones and text messages.
Constant notifications and text messages, Facebook, Whatsapp pings and Instagram alerts are enemies to staying focused when trying to do anything!
2. Online distractions
These can come from emails, internet surfing, Facebook, YouTube and online shopping. Losing focus from online distractions is becoming a daily part of life.
3. Doing things other than what we need to do.
Doing things which are irrelevant at the moment can create distractions like reading too many articles or spending too much time on them. Thinking about other potential research topics.
4. Negative thoughts
Thinking about how hard it is to do the task in hand. Being overwhelmed (getting started and trying to focus because there is so much to do). Not knowing exactly what to write on. Insecurity.
Feeling anxious about imperfections. Worrying that there is more data to search for or analyse over a very short time. Feeling restless.
5. Music to help you concentrate and focus
Your brain reacts to its surroundings. A noisy environment makes it very difficult to focus.
Studies also show that distractions eat an average of 2.1 hours a day. After an interruption, it takes 21 minutes to regain full focus and return to the original task. By the time you get back to where you were your ability to stay focused goes down even further.
New technologies also increases distractions and take a heavy toll on productivity. Listening to music can help you focus, but the big question is what music to listen to.
Focus at Will make scientifically developed music that will help you focus.
If you want to break through this thing called distractions, you will need to be your own disciplinarian. Also, once you get to know your enemy, that very thing that makes you lose focus, it is quite easy to kill. Here are some things you can do to eliminate those distractions. Tweak them to fit your preference, but use them. You will like them.
Doing two things at a time forces you to pay a mental price each time you interrupt one task and jump to another. Take care of necessities first. Make sure you have everything you need when you start to avoid distractions. Distractions make focusing on single tasks more difficult. You have to focus on one task at a time, this is where proitization and discipline comes in.
Use a suitable location
Many times location matters. Get to know your style and the type of atmosphere you prefer.
Hide or block unnecessary websites
Close unnecessary tabs on your computer. If you need the Internet, you can fight online distractions by hiding or blocking Apps and websites that takes your focus away.
6. Avoid anxiety
Don’t spend too much time worrying and fretting about what to write, how to start or imperfections. Writing is never any good when it is done in the grip of aniexty. A tense brain freezes creativity.
7. Prep your body and mind
Getting a good sleep can get you relaxed and focused on the task ahead.
8 . Set a goal and stick to it
Setting a goal and sticking to it can make you focus on the task ahead. It helps you concentrate on what to achieve at certain times.
9. Make a to do list
Trying to focus for a whole day can be tiring, so start your day with a list of things you want to do, and follow them strictly. With that you can focus on getting your tasks done on time, ensure you perform your most important tasks first!