Do you stare at the wall sometimes and lose track of time and your focus on studies? Do you start doodling while studying or writing? You think you’re studying/ working ten hours a day. What if I tell you, you aren’t. You may be putting in hours by the clock, but the output – that’s what matters, right? –and maybe it is equivalent to just four hours of focused study/ work. High-achievers know this difference. No distractions and deep focus, that’s how you produce great work. But how to properly focus on studies? How to avoid distractions while studying?
Peeping into mobile screens instead of focusing on studies and logging in here and there while studying. These are the signs of distractions and that hamper your focus on studies. Time management and efficiency are the core components in getting more work done in less time. Learning how to sustain an intense focus on studies for a prolonged period is important. The biggest reason why people fall to distractions is lack of interest in the stuff they’re doing, and that lack of interest largely emanates from the absence of an overarching ‘why’ (or the purpose) that can kindle their interest, motivate them.
What stops you from maintaining your focus on studies are the temptations that are building inside you saying loudly “ go, check out your mobile phone “ or “ go, watch Netflix or TV “ but first let us know what distraction is and how it’s hampering you in going towards your goal. At the end of this article, you will be able to get the answer to your question: ” how to focus on studies without getting distracted ?”
Distractions – the most significant cause of why you lose your focus on studies
Distraction is a simple common word but what does it mean? Is it something from inside ? or anything else ? Let’s come to the definition of distraction first and how does it make our focus on studies zero.
A distraction is something that takes your attention away from what you are supposed to be doing.
There are two types of distraction:-
- Internal distraction:- This distraction mainly comprises of psychological needs and emotional thoughts.
- External distraction:- This type of distraction mainly occurs due to technology and people.
Modern technologies like smartphones and computers can be used for great good, but they’ve also taken a tremendous toll on our ability to focus on studies or work. There is a great equation:-
Time*intensity = quality of work produced.
We are all limited by the same 24 hours in a day. To get a leg up then, one must work on the intensity piece of the equation, and to do that we must cure our inability to stay focused on studies for prolonged periods.
Common sources of distractions are smartphones, Netflix, or the TV in general, rambunctious roommates, and video games. Let us discuss what you can do to avoid these distractions and focus on studies better.
How distractions make you lose focus on studies?
According to a University of California-Irvine study it can take, on average, nearly 20 minutes to get back to the earlier level after an interruption. Yes, that quick reply to a text can set you back by several minutes, and just count how many distractions you heap on yourself during your most productive hours. That’s an important reason why at the end of the day you wonder why you achieved so much less than what you aimed for in the morning.
An analogy to make you understand what distractions can do in a practical way.
To give an analogy, if you’re driving on a highway with no speed-breakers, you’ll maintain your peak speed almost throughout the journey. But if you face speed-breakers, your average speed will go down significantly, because a speed-breaker forces you to slow down to almost zero before you accelerate back to your top speed. The speed-breaker maybe just two feet across and the combined width of all of them on your journey may be less than 0.01% of the total distance you cover, but it’ll increase your journey time by as much as 20-30 %.
Distractions do something similar. Few, innocuously short disruptions in your schedule reduce your productivity by a lot and all that hard work you did for maintaining that focus on studies, goes in vain.
To give you an even expressible insight let’s watch a video first
The dogs were supposed to reach the end of the distraction filled tracks in shortest possible time. The high achievers are like the fist one. They know what their goal is an in-spite of those luscious looking distractions they continue to work.
Now look at that Golden Retriever. That’s the general mass today; we easily get attracted by the thing that pleases our mind. Just for that slight dopamine rush, we drift from our goal and lose our focus on studies.
Attraction to Distractions will drift you away from your goal.
What to do to avoid distraction and focus on studies?
This section will give you the answer to “ how to not get distracted while studying?“ and after reading and following these simple steps, you will surely be more focused than before in your studies and you will easily be able to concentrate while studying.
1. Prepare Yourself
Preparing yourself for the study and signing a proper schedule for that in which your primary focus would only be on studies have always helped me focus on my work. For this, you will require a time period. Making a time period will basically help you in managing your time and will also lower down the fantasy of getting distracted and you will feel comfortable while you focus on studies.
What you can do to focus on studies
For preparing yourself you will require a timetable in which you have to make sure that you have kept a sufficient amount of time for other activities as well. But most importantly, it should be realistic, i.e. the one you can actually follow. This way your mind will know that this is your study time and this is your social media or playing time. Try to follow this time table daily so that your mind and body gets used to doing it. It will be hard to follow at first but it will get easier with time. Just don’t lose hope.
2. Stay away from smartphones
In this current world usage of smartphones have been increased rapidly. But you can win over this distraction and focus on studies by following a few easy yet hard steps.
Put your phone on silent mode and place it at another end of the room. This way you won’t be interrupted by phone calls or text messages while you are trying to focus on studies. To avoid smartphones craving you can always check your mobile every 45 to 60 minutes when you take a break if it is that much necessary.
If we check our devices once in a few hours, then digital distraction wouldn’t be the menace it is. The problem is we can’t resist checking and rechecking them every few minutes for the fear of missing out on something important. Many get anxious if they’re separated from their devices for long (recall the time when you faced hours of separation from your phone). This fear of missing something important is completely unfounded and irrational and can be shed by gradually increasing your period of digital abstinence.
3. Turn off your Internet Access
You might use your computer for work but you can easily find yourself on Facebook or YouTube instead. When you are using your computer the world wide web is just a click away. Don’t trust yourself to register temptation.
What to do to avoid getting distracted from the Internet
Turn off your internet access before you begin your study session. If you need to access certain online resources then download all of the necessary information at the start of the session before you turn off your internet access.
Get off the internet: Either pull the plug on the internet or use browser extensions such as StayFocused to nuke the internet or study at a place with no access to the internet. I use StayFocused, and it has worked wonderfully for me and I can now focus on studies really well, I can tell you from my experience that once you know that you’re off the internet for few hours, your mind adjusts to the new reality, and the deprivation turns out to be much less painful than we think. I started with blocking the internet for 30 minutes, and now I routinely block it for eight hours (if I don’t need internet for my work) at a stretch. Just as you build physical muscles through practice in the gym, you can build anti-internet muscles too through practice. It’s not as tough as you think. Just start small.
4. Try to avoid people who annoy or disturb you
At the time of studies, you always need to avoid people who annoy or disturb you. Such people might include annoying neighbors or your disturbing friend or your relatives
What to do to avoid people who annoy or disturbs you
What you can do to avoid getting into disturbing situation and focus on studies is to sit at a quite place where you cannot hear any noises from outside or you can tell your family members before you start, not to disturb you while studying. Also try to avoid talking to your friends before you sit to study. Most of time, after the conversation you will be distracted by what they said. Keep interactions with people to minimum while studying to focus on studies better.
5. Deal with hunger first
Yes, you read it correctly. You might think that won’t be a problem for you and you have much bigger distractions that you need to overcome but even a slight drift can pull you back 10 steps from your goal. Sometimes students just can’t concentrate because of physical needs such as hunger and fatigue. Here is the article that will help you to avoid cravings while studying.
What to do to avoid getting distracted from hunger and fatigue
Make sure you serve a healthy and filling meal during lunch, dinner, or snack break. To manage your energy during exam time you need to eat well. This does not mean a lot but a well-balanced diet that is reasonably healthy. Do not intend to skip meals or survive on chips or pizza for meals. Your body and mind will not thank you. Falling ill at the crucial time is the last reason you would want to lose focus on studies.
6. Get a good sleep every night
Get 8 hours of sleep every night to increase focus on studies. Sleep is vital if you want to perform well anywhere and that includes academic excellence as well. It is an established scientific fact that sleep affects your memory, concentration, and brain function. If you are not sleeping enough you are yourself not up for the success in your student life because you simply aren’t in your best condition. When you are sleep deprived you will also be an easy target for getting distracted. Click here to fix your sleep schedule.
Here are some ways to help you get to bed earlier
- Have a strict night bedtime routine. And when I mean strict, I mean strict!
- Read some interesting book before going to sleep.
- Don’t drink caffeine after 3 pm.
- Stay away from electronic devices al least 30 minutes before you plan on sleeping.
- Keep yourself busy during the day and complete the things you decided in the morning. You sleep better when you are satisfied.
7. Audit yourself
The best thing you can do is examine yourself first, your own habits, and systems to figure out in what ways you can optimize yourself most effectively. This will also help you in rebuilding yourself.
8. Being direct- increasing concentration and focus while studying.
We want to focus on the largest pain points that allow us to put in the least amount of effort and get the maximum result.
What you can do to rebuild focus
Try to write the things that distract you while studying and reduce their time-consuming hours daily by 5 minutes, this way you will get fruitful results and you will see in a month or so that there is nothing left that can distract you while studying.
You should do something similar when you’re at work. In the middle of your session, if you recall that you’ve to pay your phone bill today, then don’t drift to your mobile service provider’s website. Note the task down on a sheet of paper (also called distraction sheet), and continue with your work. Don’t chase random thoughts. Your motto should be ‘be here now’.
One important point that you have to follow sincerely is
Multitasking is one of the biggest distraction for youngsters. You think you are being efficient but instead it can stab you in the back.
Three researchers divided around 100 Stanford undergrad students into two groups – heavy multitaskers and light multitaskers of media sources (internet, electronic documents, texting, and so on) – and asked them to concentrate on a problem, simultaneously introducing lots of distractions. (Heavy multitaskers of media sources are the types with dozens of browser tabs and few other projects open. Light multitaskers, on the other hand, have much less digital clutter on their devices at any point.)
The researchers expected heavy multitaskers to have a better focus on the given problem amidst multiple distractions. After all, they’re the ones who are much more used to distractions. But, surprisingly, light multitaskers did better. On every attentional test that the researchers gave, light multitaskers did better, sometimes significantly. To quote Anthony Wagner, one of the researchers in the study:
When they’re [students] in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal. That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.
So if a person is multitasking on three tasks (math assignment, chatting, and internet surfing), she is getting information from all the three sources – and memory – even though she may be at this moment working on the assignment. This failure to filter out information from the other two sources slows her down.
That’s the problem.
Human minds have evolved to pay attention to one task at a time. When you’re multitasking, you’re essentially switching (your attention) back and forth between those tasks, which is nothing but a huge distraction. John Medina, a leading authority on brain study and founding director of two brain research institutes, in his book Brain Rules, says:
The brain is a sequential processor, unable to pay attention to two things at the same time. Businesses and schools praise multitasking, but research clearly shows that it reduces productivity and increases mistakes.
You may be wondering at this stage, “How can I then walk and talk at the same time without compromising on any of them?”
In those few cases of multitasking where one does fine on both the tasks, one of the tasks is automated in your long-term memory. In the aforesaid example, you can walk and talk at the same time without compromising on any of the two, because walking is automated and you’ve to pay attention to only talking. Try talking and watching TV. You’ll compromise on both.
You can multitask, of course, but you can’t pay attention to more than one thing at a time. And it’s attention (you may also call it to focus) that gets things done.
In essence, multitasking is an extreme form of distraction wherein you’re getting distracted every few minutes as you switch between tasks. Avoid it. You’ll achieve much less when you read and surf the internet intermittently for an hour than when you take one task after the other sequentially for the same duration. And stop admiring your friends who seem to be multitasking so effortlessly. In reality, they’re working subpar.
How do you put it all together in practice?
The fundamental to working distraction-free is to work in sessions.
You set the timer running to start the session, and, once started, you religiously fend off all distractions. No phone, no internet, no breaks. And no winks or smiles at your friend across the table (I’ve seen this happening in libraries). During the session, you’ve to focus only on the task at hand. Nothing else. You may employ some of the methods we’ve covered till now to make your session distraction-free.
“But I find it difficult to work for a long duration without getting distracted. What do I do?”
If you’re not used to sitting tight, focusing on one thing, then start with 30-minute sessions. Yes, just 30 minutes. That’s short. And if you can’t manage even that, start with even shorter sessions. Idea is to start with something that you can’t fail in.
Once you’ve got a few successful sessions behind you, increase the duration by 5 (or, maybe, 10) minutes. Get used to the new normal, and then again increase it by 5 minutes. Eventually, settle the duration at around 50 minutes, if you can. (After 50 minutes or so, our focus starts waning. Therefore, one should take a 5-10 minute break every 50-odd minutes.) If you can’t handle 50 minutes in a go, then a shorter duration is fine too. Let it take weeks if it takes that long to reach the level. It’s normal. Weightlifters don’t start with 80 kg weights. They start much smaller. When you increase in small increments, you make the habit last.
Such sessions will get work done and you will be able to focus on studies a lot better. Pseudo-sessions won’t. That’s why some students who study only five hours a day achieve more than those who put in ten. Hours don’t matter. Attention does. Pull off a few such sessions every day, and you’re on track to success.
Just be there till the end. Don’t be scared of the time it will take for you to achieve your goal. It will get better slowly and you will increase focus on studies exponentially soon.
- Lack of distraction-free, focused work is one of the most important reasons – and the sole reason for the majority – why you get so little done every day and why you lag despite putting in so many hours.
- Avoiding distractions is not easy, but is doable. (Remember, most distractions are a result of plain bad habits, and they can be shed or controlled like any other bad habits.) Like any skill, this too requires practice and discipline to attain mastery, and the way is through sessions.
- Start small: 30-odd-minute sessions and a few sessions per day. And after a few weeks, clock longer sessions and more sessions per day.
Relying on motivation, inspiration, being energized or any other fleeting emotion will not sustain you and will not deliver the result that you desire. This is worth trying… and mastering because you’ll gain a huge arbitrage over others in a world where distraction is the norm. And it’ll serve you well lifelong. Not only it will help you to focus on studies better but it will also help you in your later years when you have to give your complete attention and focus in your work-life.
Remember, social media and other pleasurable distractions won’t pay your bills. Meaningful work will. There are always expectations in life, there may be students who might not get first in the class or score well in the class. Getting first is not important, important is that you give your 100%, so you have no regrets. As we all know there are more secrets to success. It is a result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
Do yo still have queries on how to do better? Ask us in the comments below.
Suggested read: Ways to improve mental health.