5 Ways to Build Focus and Concentration – College Info Geek

– Be honest with me here. When you study or get work done, how good are you at
focusing on that work? And by that I mean how
susceptible are you to distractions that pop up or
the temptation to multitask? This is a really important
question to ask yourself because a lack of focus,
a lack of the ability to concentrate is
one of the best ways to waste a lot of the time
you dedicate to studying. That's because when
you get pulled away from your main task
into a distraction or some other task,
you're not just wasting the time that it takes to get
that distraction done with. There's also something
called a cognitive switching penalty, and as
Josh Kaufman points out in his book The Personal MBA, which I highly
recommend, by the way, "In order to take action,
your brain has to load the context of what you're
doing into working memory. If you constantly switch
the focus of your attention, you're forcing your brain
to spend time and effort thrashing, loading
and reloading contexts over and over again. That's why it's possible
to spend an entire day multitasking,
getting nothing done, and feel exhausted at the end. You've burned all of your
energy context switching instead of making progress." This is why it's so
important to build the ability to focus. If you can do that,
you're going to eliminate a lot of these potential
cognitive switching penalties you could have
incurred from your day, and that means you're
going to be able to pack your work into
a more concentrated, shorter amount of time,
and get more done. So in this video, I'm
gonna give you five quick ways that you can
start building the ability to focus and concentrate
on the task at hand. The first one is
called pre-commitment. Pre-committing to a
task is simply building some sort of device that
binds you to finishing it before you actually get
started, and to do this you can use what are
used commitment devices. It's why I use Beeminder
to ensure that I create two things every
week on my website. If you have some
way of making sure there's a consequence for
not getting your work done, you're gonna be more motivated
to stay focused on that work. This can be as simple
as writing down that you're going to get
X done in 30 minutes, and if you don't finish
within 30 minutes, you know that you've failed. You've externalized that
goal by writing it down, and now that you've failed
it, you're gonna feel bad. You could even do
something crazy like hiring a lady off Craigslist
to slap you in the face like Maneesh Sethi did, or you could stay within
the realm of sanity. That's cool too. You can also
pre-commit to one task by eliminating your
ability to do anything else during that time. This is often called the
burnt ships technique and it's in reference
to an inaccurate but still compelling
story about Hernán Cortés telling his men to
burn their ships before they attack the Aztecs. The motivation for doing
this would have been to keep his men
focused on the task because they had
no other option. They couldn't go back. Now you probably don't
have an actual boat to burn of your own, and
even if you did, it probably wouldn't help
you get your homework done, but you can take
inspiration from this idea by removing the ability
to do other things while you're focused on a task. One way you can do
this is by blocking distracting websites
on your computer using an extension
like StayFocusd or a program like FocalFilter. You could even entirely
disconnect the internet if you didn't need it. Tip number two is to
have a distraction sheet next to you while you work. Now I talked to you
about this before as an addition to the
Pomodoro Technique, but whether or not
you're pre-committing using that technique or just
studying in a different way, having a piece of
paper next to you where you write down
what's distracting you helps you get back
into your work because you know
you've made a reminder of that distraction, you
can get back to it later if it's important, but
you're externalizing it. You're pulling it
out of your brain and you're allowing
your brain to get back to the task at hand. Tip number three is to try
out an app called Forest, which is available for both
iPhones and Android devices. Forest is an app that
tries to help make your smartphone less
of a distraction, and it does this by
letting you plant a seed and then if you don't touch
your phone for 30 minutes, it grows into a tree. If you do touch your
phone, it kills the tree and you failed that session. Now I can see it already,
people in the comments saying that you could
just turn off your phone or leave it in a different room, and that does work, but the thing that Forest
does is it provides an instant reward the minute
you finish a 30-minute session. Getting immediate
tangible and quantifiable results for something
is a great way to build good habits. If you're just
turning off your phone and putting it in
the other room, you may not see those
immediate tangible benefits, but if you get a nice
cool tree on your phone if you don't touch
it for 30 minutes, then that's a nice
thing you can look at. So, if turning your
phone off works for you, that's cool, but if it
doesn't, try the app out. Tip number four is to
meditate once a day. I've been doing this
for a few months now, and honestly, I just
do it for three minutes in the morning, and I try
to focus on my breath. Now, the idea behind
this is your attention is like any other
muscle in your body. As you train it,
it gets stronger, and your ability
to focus increases. I've found that just trying
to focus on my breath for three minutes a day
has increased by ability to stay focused on other
tasks, like reading or writing. Now, an important thing
to note with meditation is that your attention will
wonder, and that's okay. The act of noticing that
your attention has wondered and that you've
started daydreaming, and then bringing
that attention back to your initial point
of focus is what helps build that attention muscle. My fifth and final
tip is to eliminate potential distractions
while you're studying. Now when I talked to you
about pre-committing earlier, I talked about the
burnt ships technique, and that's focused on
eliminating your ability to distract yourself,
but there are also a lot of distractions
that can happen to you, environmental distractions, people coming in and
asking you to do things, and if you can
eliminate the potential for these to happen,
you're going to have an easier time focusing, so pay attention to
any potential source of distractions
before you study. This could be something that
can pop a notification up, like your phone or
something on your computer, or just being in a
specific location where your friends are
likely to find you. I actually have a whole
section on eliminating distractions in my book
on earning better grades, which is free. So if you wanna get
more tips in this area, then you can click
the card there, or the link in the
description, and grab the book. So, those are my
five tips this week for helping you
build concentration and your ability to focus. Hopefully you
found this helpful, and I wanna leave
you with a quote from the Roman poet,
Horace, who said, "Rule your mind, or
it will rule you." Now, if your internal
ability to rule your mind and stay focused right
now isn't as strong as you'd like it
to be, that's okay. Work on building it,
but also take advantage of the external systems
and tools we have to help you out. That could be using
apps and extensions like Forest and StayFocusd, hiring some lady off Craigslist
to slap you in the face, or just asking a friend to keep tabs on you
while you're studying. Anyway, I hope you
found this video useful. Thanks for watching, and
I will see you next week. (upbeat music) Hey guys, thanks so much
for watching my video on how to build more
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