I noticed somebody had been searching for the term – “Mind distracted, what to do?”
I am more than sure the searcher is a student who wants to focus on studies. I thought I’d share some insights about how to handle a distracted mind.
A distracted mind indicates you’ve not trained your mind to stay focused.
You should be able to focus on the task at hand. Once that task is completed, you can start another one.
The key is to stay focused on one task at a time so you can achieve better results.
It’s not that you don’t have the motivation to focus on your studies. You do get motivated the minute you see a student who scores high marks in exams every single time. And you say to yourself – “It’s time to focus on studies.”
You begin. Everything goes well for 3 – 4 or maybe 7 days. But then you get bored. Something else fascinates you. You leave that science chapter incomplete and start exploring WhatsApp messages.
The cycle keeps repeating itself. Nothing gets completed and your studies suffer. You know in the heart if you want to make a career in the field of your choice, you need to keep your concentration level high and stay focused on studies. (But this damn mind, arrgh, it keeps getting distracted.)
Have you ever thought why it’s important to stay focused? Well, let me tell you a story I had read in one of the fluentzy books by Prof. Kev Nair. (Fluentzy is a self-study course to help improve your spoken English)
The story goes something like this:
There once was a man who wished to have water. He went out, chose a spot at random and started digging. After 15 minutes, he got bored “Oh! There’s no sign of water yet, I think this is not the right spot. Let’s find another one.”
He left that spot and started digging at another spot, and pretty soon, he was bored again. Once again, he was searching for the “right” spot.
He kept on doing that until evening and finally ended up with no water in sight. Frustrated and discouraged, he went back home and narrated the story to his wife.
She thought for a moment, smiled, but didn’t say anything.
Next morning, the wife went out, examined several spots carefully and chose one that she thought was “right.”
She started digging. 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour…the clock was ticking and she was digging with all her might. The husband was curious.
The sun, birds, and the trees around were surprised at her determination. She kept digging and had water by the sunset. She was happy and her husband was delightfully surprised. “How did you do that?” he asked.
“Focus!” the wife replied.
In order to focus, you need to eliminate as many distractions from your life as you can. It’s true you cannot eliminate the distractions completely, but you can surely minimize them. The more distractions you can eliminate, the more focused you shall be.
The question is how to minimize distractions so you can focus on studies.
Want to Focus on studies? Focus on ‘Staying Focused’
If you keep trying to find ways to not get distracted, you’re sure to get distracted because that’s what you’re focusing on.
Instead, focus on staying focused. I know it sounds like the same thing in different words, but it’s not. It’s an entirely different approach.
Remember: Life takes you in the direction of your focus.
Acknowledge that from now onward, you shall direct your focus on staying focused (and not on “I don’ want to get distracted”). Close your eyes for a moment and say to yourself “ I want to stay focused and that’s what I am going to work upon from this very moment.”
‘Jack of All Trades, Master of None’ Doesn’t Work
The mind wants to have it all: It wants to become a cricketer, an astronaut, a model, a singer, an engineer, a movie star, and what not.
The good news is – it’s possible – in your fantasies.
The reality is – you can make your career in one or two fields only. There’s no such thing as an All-rounder. The sooner you realize it, the better it will be.
When I started training for voice acting, I tried quite hard to master as many as 4 languages – Hindi, English, Urdu, and Sanskrit. After a year, I realized I was getting nowhere. Then I started concentrating on the languages important for my career. And things started to improve. You don’t need to pursue everything. Just focus on one subject at a time and direct all your energy to that subject only.
Mark the Distractions
There are two types of distractions in a student’s life.
- Distractions you can control
- Distractions you cannot control
Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp – these are examples of distractions you can control.
You can eliminate them temporarily (or permanently) at this very moment. I know it feels like an impossible task, but you need to take a stand if you want to focus on studies.
You need to ask yourself – “Has somebody been forcing me to use Facebook, Twitter, or Whatsapp? Or is it me only who’s been wasting time by checking statuses, tweets and messages zillion times a day? Is technology serving me or am I serving the technology?”
What is more important to you – socializing, or scoring good marks in exams? Scoring good marks requires you to improve your focus.
Just log out of your Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp account at least for the time being.
I am serious. No kidding!
Send an email to the people who keep forwarding forwarded emails to you (about the world’s craziest, sexiest, funniest, or deadliest things). Ask them politely to remove you from their forwarding list.
Also, make it clear to your friends and family members that you’re serious about focusing on your studies. Don’t let anyone distract you in the name of “Hey, do you have a minute?”
Do you have any idea how much time social media and socializing kills every day? You’ll realize you have a lot of free time after you get rid of these distractions, not before.
And if you’re really serious about staying focused on studies, then give your smartphone a rest till your exams are over. Smartphones can be the biggest distraction in exam days, just like TV and gaming consoles. I am not saying that smartphones are evil. They have their place, but right now, you need to focus on your studies.
I Am a Focus Freak
I am notorious for being a focus freak because I really like to enjoy a focused life – a life with minimum distractions. And that’s possible only if you eliminate as many distractions as humanly possible. My friends complain why am I not on Whatsapp, why don’t I respond to their friend requests on Facebook? Simply because I don’t like getting distracted thousand times a day. I don’t have Facebook or Twitter or Whatsapp on my phone. My phone does not accept calls when I am sleeping or when I am not feeling like talking over the phone (which is quite often).
Is it easy being a focus freak?
Hell no! People treat me as an outcast for being so crazy about focus. But I don’t care much what people think about me, as long as I can enjoy a peaceful life.
I am not suggesting you take the same path. I am just sharing this to give you a glimpse that anything’s possible if you’re determined.
Can You Eliminate the Distractions You Cannot Control?
It includes sounds and noise coming from the streets – fruit vendors, bike horns, car horns, people talking, radios, TVs and what not. You’ve little or no control over them, but you can control (at least to some extent) the effect they have on you.
For blocking out unwanted sounds and noise you can use small cotton balls in your ears. It’s true they cannot eliminate the noise completely but they do block some. Installing heavy drapes (go as heavy as you can) on the windows of your study room can also give you decent results in blocking out outside noise.
If that’s not possible, why not try studying late at night or early in the morning? You cannot control the outside noise but you surely can control your study timings.
Ask for Help
Request a relative to lend you a room for studying for the time being. You can also request a friend to give you some study space if his house happens to be in a quieter neighbourhood. You can also become a member of your local library. Libraries are generally quieter. You can focus better on your studies in a library than in a noisy neighbourhood.
Train Your Mind to Focus
Many people recommend meditation to students to fix a distracted mind. It almost never works because what’s needed is concentration, not meditation.
What’s the difference?
Well, when you focus your attention on one and only one subject, it’s concentration. When you sit and watch the distractions inside (thoughts) arising from your mind, it’s meditation.
I know meditation is the only way to go beyond mind and experience silence and bliss, but attaining that stage requires a lot of hard work and time. It can take years. Yes, you can surely find time to explore the path of meditation but not at this time.
Draw a small dot on the wall of your room. Sit in a relaxed posture at least 3 feet away. Focus on that dot and that dot only. Your mind will revolt. It’ll think about a thousand and one things. Just don’t pay attention to your thoughts.
Your mind can handle only one task at a time – it can either focus on the dot, or it can think. Direct all your energy to focus on that dot and you’ll have none left for thinking. Start with 2 minutes and keep increasing the duration till you reach 10 minutes or more. You can expect this exercise to be quite hard in the beginning but with time you should be able to focus steadily.
This focus exercise (known as “Tratak”) can train your mind to stay focused on the task at hand.
Most of the times we under-utilize technology.
Technology has only one purpose – to give you more free time to do things you enjoy doing.
If you wish to take full advantage of technology, choose a high-speed Internet connection. It may look like a waste of money but it’s not. A high-speed connection lets you complete tasks at hand in less time so you can have more time to focus on studies.
Maintain a ‘To Do’ List
Staying focused on your studies can be easier if you know how you’re going to spend your day.
Maintain a list.
When you know the steps you need to take to achieve your goals; unproductive and time-wasting activities disappear. A to-do list ensures you maintain focus on studies for a longer time.
Use Productive Distractions to Your Advantage
Want to stay focused on your studies but outside noise is driving you crazy?
You can either curse your fate or use a productive distraction to mask up the outside distractions. A productive distraction is one you can control. Try playing soothing music or background noise on your computer. In a way, this too is a distraction, but it’s a good distraction that can mask up the outside noise.
www.noisli.com is a wonderful website for creating background noise. You can mix different sounds to create the atmosphere to focus on studies.
Be at Peace with Distractions
It’s true that your goal is to focus on studies, but the more you fight with distractions, the more annoyed you shall be.
Feeling agitated because of the distractions? Close your eyes and surrender. Accept the fact that distractions are there and you cannot do anything about them.
Stop fighting. Give up for the time being. Accept the fact that you’re powerless against distractions. Sit for about 10 minutes with this feeling and soon you’ll experience peace you may have had never experienced before.
And when you do, focus on studies, again!