You've probably already heard that the ability to concentrate is a natural gift: you are either the type of person who can read a whole novel in a day, or the type who looks out the window every five seconds to notice the slightest change in a passing cloud. … But concentration is a skill that can be learned through practice, it is not really an innate ability. There are certain steps you can take and strategies you can devise to get the most out of your time and get the job done without too much distraction.
Part 1 of 4: Create the Right Environment
Step 1. Find a quiet place
Consider potential workplace distractions and choose where they will be least likely.
- The ideal location will depend on the person: if the presence of other people distracts you, you should not choose a library or a common room in the house. If your biggest concern is noise, the library might be the perfect option for you.
- You should also avoid places that you associate with other activities, as this can also serve as a distraction. If, for example, you decide to work out in a room that has a TV, you may eventually be tempted to turn it on. A bed may be the right place to work for some, but it may make some feel sleepy.
- If you have chosen a certain place, believing that it will suit you, and then find that some factor is still distracting you, leave this place and go to a place where this factor will not exist. Forcing yourself to ignore distractions while trying to read or study will definitely not focus your attention on the task at hand.
Step 2. Prepare your work area
Make sure the area is well lit and large enough for you to conveniently arrange all the books and supplies you need. Use a chair that helps you maintain proper posture but is comfortable for you. Check if you have what you need before starting work. If you interrupt later to find something that is missing, it will disrupt the work process and may lead to other distractions.
Good lighting is essential. Dim lighting can make your eyes tired more quickly, and this can lead to you taking more breaks than necessary. If you are using an artificial light source, place it directly above the page, not behind your shoulder
Step 3. Play music if it helps
The effect of background noise on concentration is highly subjective; perhaps you are better off working in complete silence, or perhaps music can help you to completely disconnect from both actual and mental distractions.
- Try listening to different genres of music and see which one will help you concentrate the most: you may be distracted by words and prefer ambient, or perhaps you will find that the rhythm of rap helps you stay focused. When you find a genre that suits you best, listen to it.
- Creating a sound environment that promotes concentration does not have to be associated with music. Perhaps you prefer the background noise in a shared dorm room or coffee shop.
Step 4. Sit down and do what needs to be done
This, of course, may seem like an obvious advice, but it can be difficult to force yourself to admit the fact that there is a certain work to be done, and the sooner you take on it, the sooner you will finish. As soon as you prepare a place for work, imagine yourself as a pilot of a jet plane - enter the cockpit and sit at the control panel. The plane is awaiting takeoff and you are responsible for it!
- You can also imagine a thin bubble around your body and workspace: everything that really matters right now is inside. The bubble will burst as soon as you finish and let the outside world in again.
- To this end, listening to music with headphones is a good way to use sound to place yourself in a closed bubble of concentration.
Step 5. Return to the same place every time you need to concentrate
There are psychological benefits to the habit of reading or working in the same place. When you come to this place, the mind associates the environment with the activity you are doing here (for example, reading) and starts to work faster.
Once you develop this habit, you no longer have to make an effort to start concentrating. Through association, your mind will automatically read the physical transition to that location (study room) as a mental transition to concentration mode
Part 2 of 4: Set the pace you want
Step 1. Find the schedule that suits you best
This, of course, comes from other obligations, but first and foremost, you need to understand how your body works. This is again subjective. Whether you are a morning person or an owl, choose a time of day when your energy is at its highest.
- If you need to make the most of your time to complete a large project, leave the simplest assignments for a time of day when your focus level is lower. For example, if you are writing essays, meditate, read, and research while your concentration is higher, and format or edit text when your concentration is lower.
- A set schedule is like the right place: you train your body to associate a certain time with a task, and this facilitates the transition from leisure to work when it is time to concentrate.
Step 2. Focus on one thing
Multitasking is usually the privilege of those who have no problem concentrating in any situation. But if you find it difficult to stay focused, it is better to limit yourself to one activity, so you will not be distracted by other tasks.
- Choosing the right setting and the right time is extremely important: this is why it is best to avoid places where you are engaged in other activities, such as bedrooms, kitchens or living rooms. Because libraries and classrooms are specifically designed to eliminate distractions, this is where most people can find their focus.
- A mobile phone or laptop can be a powerful distraction. If you are reading from any of these devices and notice that you check your mail too often, download the necessary documents with which you are working (if it is an online source), and turn off the Internet, and put your phone in silent mode and put it in your pocket or bag.
Step 3. Divide large tasks into smaller ones
Sometimes the distraction comes from the task itself: if you are intimidated by the scope of the task, make a clear plan of small steps you can take to complete the task. It will be easier for you to get to work if you break it down into more doable parts.
For example, having to read 15 books in a week can be a little overwhelming: make a list of those books that are more important and that need to be read more carefully; divide them into categories; make a plan for what you should read each day; Take some time to read the sources that summarize the highlights of each book so you know what to expect when working with them
Step 4. Take breaks
It is unnatural for a person to remain focused all day long. Not allowing yourself to take breaks can reduce concentration and lead to fatigue. Be sure to include several breaks of varying length in your daily schedule so you can “reboot” and refresh your strength.
- You can take more breaks when you are just starting to work on your concentration skills, and reduce them when you feel that your attention span is increasing.
- For breaks, choose activities that help clear your mind (this can be exercise), or focus on something outside of work (such as cooking or talking with friends).
Step 5. Be strict with yourself about keeping the schedule
If the break is supposed to be 10 minutes, enjoy it to the fullest, but as soon as it is over, immediately return to work without any delay.
Step 6. Reward yourself
Having a little prize at the end of each concentration period will help you work faster and more efficiently. The reward also gives the mind a greater incentive to develop long-term concentration skills. It can be anything that brings you pleasure.
The amount of remuneration should correspond to the volume of the task performed. After a two-hour study session, reward yourself with a delicious snack, after a full day of work, indulge yourself with a gorgeous dinner, and a whole week of writing an essay is worth a good evening with friends
Part 3 of 4: Develop Effective Reading and Learning Strategies
Step 1. Determine the purpose of the reading
A research topic can be a distraction in itself if you don’t know how to work with it. Set clear reading goals based on what you are reading for. Determine in advance what information you need to take out of the text, and look for it, instead of reading from beginning to end.
- Make a list of tasks and questions, the answers to which you may find in the text. This will turn the reading task into an investigative work and allow you to skip irrelevant passages. If, for example, you are only interested in a generic argument created by an author, find the paragraph where it is clearly stated and go through the data.
Review and analyze.
Read on to get the general idea. Look for keywords and paragraphs in the text. Pay more attention to the headings, as well as the first and last sentences of each paragraph.
- Can pre-read the textby simply revising the headings and subheadings. Then you can return to them with a connection diagram of their most important argument. On a second reading, you will know what to expect and which sections to spend more time on.
Step 2. Use all your senses as you read
Reading is much more than just visual activity: you can read important points or make comments aloud, write them out or mark them in the text. All these actions will create a connection between you and the text and involve you entirely in the learning process.
If you are better at comprehending information visually, highlight the text and take notes so that you can focus on it and remember it. If you are better at memorizing sounds, use rhymes and acronyms
Step 3. Mark up the text and take notes
Highlight or underline important passages and keywords, and take notes in the margins or in another document. This will make it easier for you to go back to the text and see the main points immediately.
If you borrowed the book from the library, take notes on a separate sheet of paper or in a document on your laptop
Step 4. Focus your energies on understanding the subject
When you read, your mind may wander in thoughts that have nothing to do with the information in the text. Repeat the main points in your own words, silently or aloud, to make sure you fully understand the meaning of the text. Being interested in what you are working on is a major factor in your level of focus. If you can't connect with the text, here are some ways you can develop interest in it:
A critical approach.
ask yourself questions and feel free to disagree with them by coming up with evidence against a specific argument.
- Predict what will be said further, based on what you have read up to this point, it can speed up the reading process.
- Find a connection with what you already know.
Step 5. Present information using an outline
It can either be simply pictured in your mind, or you can draw it in your synopsis. This will help to summarize the arguments and focus on their overall meaning.
Even so, it is helpful to link the information in the text to what you already know, as this is the best way to connect with the text and fit it into the structured knowledge you already possess
Step 6. Use self-regulation techniques to avoid distractions
If you've tried all of the strategies outlined and still find it difficult to concentrate, or have had to study in a place where outside interference is unavoidable, here are some basic methods to help you disconnect from them:
- Be here now: When you realize that you have lost touch with what you are reading or doing, say to yourself "Be here and now" to actively return your mind to the task.
- Spider method: Learn to ignore background noises and actions, knowing that they are not important. This method is named after the spider's reaction after the object shook its web several times. After the first few vibrations, the spider will check to see if the insect is caught in its web, but then it stops associating these vibrations with the potential presence of food and ignores them.
- List of worries: Keep a notebook handy so you can jot down the unrelated tasks that need to be done and that pop into your head when you try to focus on work. When you write down these worries, you will definitely not forget them - put them aside to deal with them later when you complete the current task.
- Wedge method: Start by focusing on your work for a very short period of time, let it be 5 minutes. When it's over, you can take a short break if you want, but if you do, promise to return to work for a slightly longer period of time, after which you can take another short break and then work even longer. This will help increase your attention span.
Part 4 of 4: Take Care of Your Body
Step 1. Eat enough
Skipping meals or rushing to lunch will not help you stay focused any longer. Concentration requires a lot of energy. Hunger at a time when you have to concentrate will only weaken your ability to concentrate and eventually interrupt your work to find something to eat.
- A healthy diet is as nutritious for the mind as it is for the body: balance the nutrients and eat regularly several times a day. Breakfast is especially important in order to fill you up with enough fuel for the day ahead.
- Drinking plenty of water is also beneficial to improve concentration.
Step 2. Get enough sleep
To be energetic, you need to rest. The more you strain your body, the more it affects your mind. In addition, during sleep, information that you have learned throughout the day is fixed in your mind and turns into long-term memories.
Step 3. Engage in physical activity
It can help you relieve stress before a work or study session, or release mental and muscle tension after a day at your desk.
A good way to let off steam after a long period of concentration is with a cardio exercise like jogging or swimming. But this, in fact, depends on the preference of the person
Step 4. Use stimulants in moderation
Caffeine, sugar, and other natural stimulants such as mate tea may help you stay focused, especially after a heavy meal when you feel sleepy. But consuming too much of them can lead to agitation, and therefore loss of focus or disruption of the sleep cycle.