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5 Ways to Build Focus and Concentration - College Info Geek



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- 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.

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on how to build more focus and concentration.

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If you wanna get links to anything I mentioned

in this video, then go to the companion blog post

by clicking the orange logo right there.

If you missed last week's video,

there's a clip of it playing right there,

so definitely check it out,

and if you wanna suggest topics

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Thanks.