How to Study with INTENSE Focus - 7 Essential Tips

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Tell me how familiar this sounds to you.

You've got some work to do, so you pack up your backpack.

You find the perfect study space,

perfect amount of sunlight, plenty of space to work in,

a little bit of nature thrown in,

a fatherly picture of Nick Offerman staring down at you.

You brew yourself a fresh cup of coffee.

On go the noise-canceling headphones,

and you find yourself an excellently tailored study playlist

to accompany your impending deep dive into the practical

uses of l'hopital's rule rule for Monday's calc assignment.

Everything is set up perfectly for you to start

doing some good old fashioned deep work, and then...

- [Friend] Oh hey Tom, productivity guru,

is that, uh, is that the IKEA cabinet planner?

- No uh, it's for research.

- [Friend] You're disgusting.

- Now I know what you're thinking.

- It's too real Roy, it's too real!

- It's the same thing that I think all the time,

how can I make sure that when I sit down to

do my work, I actually do my work instead of

falling into a distracted rut?

After all, just sitting down at my desk isn't gonna result

in really anything getting done.

One of my favorite lines in Cal Newport's book

Deep Work is his productivity equation.

Time times intensity of focus equals

quality of work produced.

One of his case studies in the book, Peter Roosevelt,

though at this time a freshman at Harvard University,

knew this rule really really well.

His biographer Edmund Morris wrote that every single day

Roosevelt would look at his schedule between the hours of

8:30 and 4:30 and block off everything

that was already scheduled.

Things like classes, recitations, lunch,

and his athletic training.

Anything leftover was time spent for studying.

And Morris noted that these fragments didn't usually

add up to a large number of total hours but

he would get the most out of them by working only

on schoolwork during these periods

and doing so with a blistering intensity.

So the question that we wanna answer today is

how do you achieve that ability to work with that

blistering intensity like Roosevelt did?

And hopefully the following seven tips that I have compiled

will help you get started.

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First off, when you go into a work session,

have a single target of focus.

One of my biggest pitfalls in my professional life

is that I'll wake up in the morning and

I'll create a list of things I need to do but then

when I sit down, I don't choose one to work on.

I get confused and I don't really know which one

that I wanna start with which leads to me just getting

distracted and looking at car specs on the internet.

So, one piece of advice that I'm really trying

to apply in my own life and that you should too is that

before you earnestly start a work session,

decide on the one task that you're going to work on,

this creates limitations for yourself which can be

very, very helpful as is emphasized by

one of my favorite quotes from all time

which comes from the I Ching

"Unlimited possibilities are not suited to man,

if they existed his life would only

dissolve in the boundless.

To become strong, a mans life needs limitation

ordained by duty and voluntarily accepted."

Now there is a lot more that could be said

about this passage as it applies to many, many

areas of life but in this particular context,

just remember that one particular single focus

creates limitation that narrows and strengthens

your level of focus.

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Tip number two is to keep the work session sacred

and what I mean by this is that when you sit down

to do you work and you've chosen your one task,

only work on that task.

Don't do anything before even if it's light,

even if its checking your email, even if its

watching a little video on YouTube or even if it's eating.

So this comes from a common pitfall that I've noticed

in my own work.

I will get it into my head that I need to go

to a coffee shop because that's my favorite place to focus

so I will go to Starbucks and then sometimes I'm a little

hungry so I'll get like a little breakfast sandwich,

one of those little protein packs and a coffee,

and of course I don't wanna do real work while I'm eating

so I'll look at Reddit or I'll look at YouTube or

I'll do something really really light while I

eat that sandwich.

The problem is, now I've gotten myself into a distracted rut

and it's very hard for me to transition myself

into the real work that I actually went to Starbucks to do.

So the change for me is eat breakfast at home or eat

whatever meal it is at home and then only go

to the coffee shop to get coffee and to do work, no food.

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A third way to keep your level of focus high is to ensure

that you're using the right tools and maintaining them.

I love to cook, it's one of my favorite things to do

at night when I'm done working.

But one of the things that can make me really not

want to cook is a dull chef's knife.

If you've ever tried to cut an onion or an eggplant

or really anything with a dull knife it is not fun to do

at all and actually it's pretty dangerous as well.

Now on occasions in the past, I've let my knife

get dull and a lot of times when that happens,

I'll start using it and I'll start cooking a meal

but then I'll get frustrated and then we'll just end up

ordering take out.

So I've learned that if I wanna be cooking

on a consistent basis, which I do because it's healthy

and it's fun to do, I need to sharpen my knife

on a consistent basis as well.

Every couple weeks or every month at the very least.

Now this doesn't mean that you need to wait around

to have the perfect tools to start doing your work

because that is a road you don't wanna go down.

But just like a knife's edge dulls a little bit

every single time you use it, something like say

your computer's file system, gets unorganized

every time you use it.

So build a little time in your schedule to maintain

the tools that you already have and if an opportunity

presents itself to acquire a better tool that's not gonna

take a ton of time or resources, take it.

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Now for the fourth and least fun tip on this list.

If you want to work with that blistering level of intensity,

if you wanna be like Teddy Roosevelt, you need to practice.

An intense work ethic is something that is built over time

just like the calluses on the hands of a lumberjack.

When you start out you might be able to focus intensely for

say 20 minutes, but day after day after you keep doing it

again and again, that ability is going to

grow and strengthen.

A couple of years ago I realized that I wasn't reading

as many books as I wanted to, so I bet my friend Martin

100 dollars that I would read 25 pages every single day

for three months.

When that challenge started, I found it really hard to read

25 pages a day especially if the book that I had selected

was really technical or detail oriented but something

interesting happened as the months went on.

Later in the challenge I found it really easy to

intensely focus on those 25 pages even if they took

a full hour to read until I was done.

So if your initial attempts to work with that intense

level of focus seem difficult, just remember that over time

it's going to get easier and your ability to do it

is going to improve.

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Tip number five is to use timers to guide your work but

leave some buffer room at the end of those timers

in your schedule.

Now I talk a lot on the channel about

the Pomodoro technique, setting a timer for 25 minutes

and working on that single task you selected and

nothing else until the timer goes off.

But a lot of people seem to think that they're obligated

to take a break at the end of that Pomodoro session

and I don't do this.

For me, the Pomodoro session is just a way to get started,

to overcome that initial resistance to doing the work.

But once I get into it, I often work for an hour or more.

I ignore the timer when it goes off.

The thing is, it can really take some time to get into

that state of mind where you're

really intensely focused on your task.

You can't do it within five or ten minutes so again,

the Pomodoro technique is just a way

to get yourself started.

Let yourself work past the end of that timer.

That being said don't give yourself too much time either.

Because time pressure can be a very powerful motivator.

As the author Adriana Trigiani once said,

"There's nothing an artist needs more,

even more than excellent tools and stamina,

than a deadline."

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Our sixth principle was best expressed by the artist

Pablo Picasso,

"Without great solitude, no serious work is possible."

If you want to be able to focus on your work intensely

and get really good creative work done, for the most part

you need to be doing it alone.

Now there are obviously caveats to this,

a lot of good collaborative work is done in teams.

But often the best way the teams work is by coming together

for short little bursts, communicating, collaborating

and then having everyone go off to work in solitude

to really focus on their assigned part of the project.

And there are even some times when working together

with a partner for a full work session does work well.

When I took statistics back in my sophomore year,

I did have a partner who would come to my dorm every

single time we had an assignment, we would do it

together but what I concluded about that experience is

number one, I wasn't good friends with this person at all,

she would show up, we would do our work, and that was

basically the extent of our relationship.

And secondly, statistics is a particular kind of subject

where you can kind of come to the answer very logically.

Math works that way.

But if you were writing something or doing something

that requires more of a creative mindset,

it's better to do it alone.

And to reiterate, that statistics partner was somebody

I didn't really know well.

A lot of times, working with study partners means

that you're working with friends which means

the conversation inevitably drifts into other things

besides your assignment.

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And finally tip number seven,

give yourself time for recovery.

Nobody can work intensely all the time and if you try to

you're eventually going to burn out.

So take advantage of the flip side of

that productivity equation.

If you wanna have intense focus, you use a little bit

of time on your studies and the time left over you can use

to relax, you can use to play video games or

pursue something that's really interesting to you

or hang out with friends.

All that time spent relaxing may not seem productive

in the moment but it's gonna leave you refreshed and

able to focus with that all important blistering intensity

the next time that you do need to work.

Now in addition to all the practices that we've gone over

in this video, another essential ingredient in the formula

for intense focus is interest.

Without some amount of interest in your subject,

your brain is gonna resist all of your attempts

to focus on it.

And one of the best ways to spark that interest is to

give yourself a challenge, something to actively work on.

That's why you should check out Brilliant.

Especially if you're at all interested in

improving your mastery and anything related to

math, science, or computer science.

Brilliant is a learning platform built around

the principle of active learning and throughout the courses

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and many many more, you'll find yourself immediately

presented with challenges that build interest

and encourage the intense focus that's crucial

for efficient learning.

For example, in the first ten minutes of their

into to probability course I found myself having to learn

how to multiply probabilities.

In a normal classroom I probably would've had to start out

by introducing myself to the class,

telling everyone my favorite dog is and then passively

sitting through a lecture for quite a while

before actively being challenged.

And while this active approach to learning will help you

more quickly reach mastery of the specific

concepts you're studying, it all serves as crucial practice

for building a mental framework that will allow you to apply

your critical reasoning skills to any problem you face

in the future.

It makes you a flexible thinker.

So if you wanna start learning more effectively

I highly recommend giving Brilliant a try.

You can use the link down in the description below

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I wanna give a huge thanks to Brilliant for sponsoring

this video and helping to support this channel and

as always thank you guys so much for watching.

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