You’re trying really hard to focus on studies, but nothing is happening.
And you’re wondering if there’s something wrong with you.
The truth is: there’s nothing wrong with you. All you have to do is to look at the focus in a new way.
Let’s get started.
The first thing to understand when you’re trying to focus on your studies is this:
Distractions are not your enemy. They are there actually to help you build focus. Anybody can stay focused when there’s peace and calm around. The real challenge is to remain focused amidst distractions. That’s the real deal.
Distractions have always been there. The only difference is that with time, the ‘names’ of the distractions have changed. For example, when I was a kid, I used to address distractions as “Comics, Gilli Danda, Kanchhe, Lattu, Cartoon shows, etc.”
Things have changed quite a bit in the past few years. Now you call distractions “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, snapchat, Whatsapp, YouTube, internet, video games, mobile games, Xbox, Netflix, Amazon Prime and stuff like that.”
Distractions have always been there even when your great-great-grandfather was a small kid.
He survived them.
I survived them.
And you will, too. And for that to happen, you need to train your mind to stay focused despite the distractions around. And here’s the first mistake the ruins focus.
#Mistake 1. Focusing On the Wrong Thing
There’s a simple rule to life: the thing you focus on grows.
If you focus on staying focused, your focus shall grow. But if you focus on not getting distracted, then that’s exactly what will get bigger in your life–the distractions.
If you fight with the distractions, the battle is already lost.
Don’t be anti-distractions; instead, be pro-focus.
Does that make sense?
Okay, here’s the next mistake you need to avoid.
#Mistake 2. Training the Mind Incorrectly
It’s a mistake we all make at some point in time. Don’t fall for it. It’s a trap.
The ‘Gurus’ suggesting that you should multitask to complete more in lesser time are (I’m sorry to say this) naive.
You see, multitasking keeps your attention divided. You jump from one task to another every couple of minutes.
Guess what, the more you do something, the more you train your mind to do the exact thing, the same way.
So basically, when you jump from one task to other and then another, you’re preparing your mind to stay unfocused on any given task at any given time. And remember that the way you do one thing is the way you do everything.
If you multitask while studying-moving from one subject or one topic to another every couple of minutes, you’ll do the same with your food, with your interactions with your friends, with your sports activities. You won’t be present with full undivided attention in any task, and I mean, any.
Beware of multitasking.
Focus on one task at a time.
#Mistake 3. Believing You Lack the Motivation to Focus on Studies
No, you don’t.
You are motivated.
How do I know?
Because your blood boils whenever you see him – the topper, the highest scoring student of your class – the boy who’s a hot cake among girls, and the apple of the eye of the teachers. Blood starts dripping from your eyes, you turn into a fire-breathing dragon, and you declare to yourself, “It’s time to focus on studies. Let’s show the world, who’s the boss!”
And so the battle begins.
Everything goes well for three, four or maybe seven days.
But then you get bored, distracted, and demotivated. Social media catches your attention, and guess what, you leave that science chapter incomplete and start exploring WhatsApp messages. Boom!! The focus just went down the drain.
And it keeps happening. You start, you drop. You start again, and then you drop again.
You know in your heart that you must focus on studies if you were to make your dream career a reality, right? (But this damn mind, it keeps getting distracted!)
But why is the focus so goddamn vital? Why your parents, teachers and everybody under the sun keeps telling you the same? Ever thought about that?
How about me telling you a story to answer that question?
The Husband Who Wanted Water and the Wife Who Knew How to Get It Done
There once was a man who wished to had water. He went out, chose a spot at random and started digging. After 15 minutes, he got bored. “Damn! 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 place, and pretty soon, he was bored again. Once more, he was searching for the “right” spot.
The man relentlessly kept looking for the right spot. And guess what, he ended up with no water.
He was frustrated. Angry. Heartbroken.
With a lowered head and a gloomy face, he went back home and told his wife everything.
The wife took a deep breath, closed her eyes as if she was trying to see something inside. A smile came on her face, but, she kept silent.
Next morning, she went out, sifted through several spots and chose one that she felt was “right”, and started digging.
Fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, one hour – the clock was ticking, and she was digging as fast and as hard as she could. Her face got red. She got drenched in sweat. Her hands started hurting. But she didn’t give up.
The husband was curious.
The sun, the trees around, and the birds on those trees, everybody was surprised. The wife kept digging, and finally, there was water – shining like silver! She was delighted, and the husband was amazed. “How did you do that?” he asked.
“Focus!”, she replied with a beautiful smile.
Moral of the story: If you want to develop your focus, eliminate as many distractions from your life as you can.
I know, it’s impossible to remove the distractions entirely, but nothing can stop you from minimising them. You are not powerless when it comes to distractions.
#Mistake 4. Assuming You Are Powerless Against Distractions
There are two types of distractions in life:
- Distractions you can eliminate
- Distractions you cannot eliminate
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Whatsapp – these are some examples of distractions you can control and remove (if you choose to).
And I can tell you from my experience that you can eliminate them temporarily (or permanently) at this very moment.
Does that sound impossible.
You MUST take a stand: Are you serious about your studies?
If you’re serious about the studies, be clear about that. And also, if you’d still love to kill time playing with distractions (social media being a major one), be clear about that, too.
And stop complaining that you can’t do anything about it. It’s you who chooses to waste time with social media. It’s you who keeps awake at nights, checking Facebook posts, Instagram photos, WhatsApp messages. Nobody is putting a gun to your head.
Decide what is more important–investing time in studies so you can have your dream career, or wasting time on social media and spend the rest of your life like a loser?
Studies, you said?
Then do something drastic. Log out of your Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp account at least for the time being.
I am serious. No kidding!
That’s what I did.
You see, I love peace. And you cannot have peace when you’re distracted.
My friends are often angry with me, “Why are you not on Whatsapp?” “Why didn’t you respond to my friend request?”
Well, because I don’t like getting distracted a thousand times a day.
I do have a facebook page, but I don’t have Facebook, Twitter, or Whatsapp installed on my phone. My iPhone does not accept calls when I sleep, or when I don’t feel like it (which is quite often).
It’s simple. But not easy.
People take me for crazy–a guy who’s lost his freaking mind.
But I am not concerned much about what people think of me, as long as I can enjoy a relaxed life.
Anything is possible if you are determined.
Save Yourself from the Social Media Madness
Send an email to the people who keep distracting you now and then about the world’s craziest, sexiest, funniest, or deadliest things. Tell them politely that you don’t want to get any such emails and they need not mark you in future.
Also, make it clear to your friends and family members that you’re serious about focusing on studies. Don’t let anyone distract you in the name of “Hey, do you have a minute?”
Do you have any idea of how much time social media and socialising kill every day? You’ll realise you have a lot of free time only after getting 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 most significant distraction in exam days, just like TV and gaming consoles. I am not saying smartphones are evil. They have their place, but right now, you need time for studying, right?
Can You Eliminate All the Distractions?
You can control something. But not everything.
Sounds and noise coming from the streets – fruit vendors, vehicles, people talking, radios, TVs, and things like that are not under your control.
But you still can manage the effect these distractions have on you, at least to some extent.
Use small cotton balls in your ears for blocking out unwanted sounds and noise. They cannot eliminate the noise, 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.
If that’s not possible, try studying late at night or early in the morning.
You cannot manipulate the outside noise, but who says you can’t control your study timings?
A Relative in Need is a Relative Indeed
Request a supportive relative to give lend you a room for studies, for the time being, of course.
Or maybe you can request a friend to give you some study space if his house happens to be in a quieter neighbourhood. With only a couple of gangs of dogs barking at full volume. (wuff, wuff!)
Or how about your local library? Libraries are generally more peaceful than homes. And you can focus better on your studies in a library than in a lousy and noisy neighbourhood.
#Mistake 5. Worrying Too Much About Distractions
Remember what I said in the beginning? About focusing on the distractions instead of focus?
It’s so goddamn important that I am repeating it here.
Focus on staying focused, and not on not getting distracted.
Your life energy flows in the direction of your focus – you become your focus.
Take a deep breath. Close your eyes for a moment and speak to yourself, “I am now going to focus on my studies. I know distractions are there, but they mean nothing. My focus is powerful than distractions.”
So be it, my child. 🙂
#Mistake 6. Practising Meditation
Some people recommend meditation to fix a distracted mind. It rarely works because what’s actually needed is, concentration.
Is there a difference?
When you direct your attention to one and only one subject, it’s concentration. And when you watch the distractions inside (the thoughts) within your mind, it’s meditation.
Meditation can help you experience silence and bliss. But it can take years. And I strongly suggest you stay away from it because it might not be for you.
Right now, just focus on your studies. And do everything you can to improve your concentration.
Ever heard of Tratak?
The following is how to practice it:
Draw a small dot on a wall. Sit at least 3 feet away from the dot in a relaxed posture.
And now, concentrate on that dot – focus all your energy on that point no matter how much your mind revolt. Of course, the mind will try to break your focus. But be careful. Ignore your thoughts, and keep your awareness fixed on the dot.
You see, the mind can handle only one task at a time – either focus on the dot or think.
Don’t give it time to think. Simple as that. When you direct all your energy towards a particular object, you get none left for thinking.
Practice for two minutes, and keep increasing the duration until you reach ten minutes or more. Tratak can be seriously challenging in the beginning, but you’ll be just fine.
Just keep doing it.
#Mistake 7. Doing Everything in Your Head
It’s a mistake we’re guilty of at times. We try to do everything in our head. We try to remember what we’re going to do on a particular day and rarely note it down.
You see, you can focus on studies easily if you know how you’re going to spend the day.
And you can do that by maintaining a to-do list.
Note down every task you want to complete today. A list will give you clarity and focus. And when you know exactly what do you need to do, the unproductive and time-wasting activities – they just vanish!
#Mistake 8. Trying to ‘Have it All’
Do you want to become a cricketer, an astronaut, a model, a singer, an engineer, and a movie star?
Well, the good news is, it’s possible – in your fantasies. In reality, you can make your career in one or two fields only. There’s no such thing as an All-Rounder. The sooner you realise it, the better.
Let me give you my example.
As you probably know by now, I am a motivational speaker, and blogger. And I am also a voice actor. (You can listen to my voice on my other website tondakvoice.com.)
When I started training for voice acting, I tried hard to master as many as four languages – Hindi, English, Urdu, and Sanskrit. After a year, I realised I was getting nowhere, simply because I wasn’t able to focus. And so, I started concentrating only on the ones critical to my success. And then, things improved for good.
Be careful not to pursue anything and everything. It won’t take you anywhere.
#Mistake 9. Believing Slow and Steady Always Win the Race
Most of the times, we do not utilise technology to the fullest.
You see, technology has one primary purpose – to give you more free time to do the things you love.
Don’t fall for slow internet service plans just because they are cheaper. Instead, go for the fastest Internet service you could afford. A high-speed net connection lets you complete more in less time. And that can give you the freedom to focus more on your studies.
#Mistake 10. Neglecting ‘Breaks’
You see, your mind is a fragile tool, and fragile things demand better care.
You can work harder when your mind is fresh and relaxed. Studying continuously for long hours causes mental fatigue, and that’s counterproductive.
You need a break. Don’t neglect it. Take one for about 15-20 minutes every two to three hours.
Here are some quick tips:
- Go for a walk down the street.
- Stand in your balcony and stare into the sky.
- Black coffee, maybe?
- Listen to a song ( or how about singing one?)
And don’t plan what you’re going to do in your next break. Be spontaneous. Planning brings boredom (which is the last thing you would want).
# Mistake 11. Not Making Friends With Distractions
Is outside noise driving you crazy?
You have two options:
- Curse your fate
- Be friends with productive distractions.
A productive distraction can help block unwanted sounds. For instance, play soothing music on your computer. I know it’s a distraction, but a good one. It can mask up the outside disturbances.
Try out Noisli.
And hey, don’t fight with distractions.
Acknowledge that distractions are there, and you cannot do anything about them. Accept that you cannot do anything about distractions (for the time being).
Give Up. Surrender. Let go.
Sit for about 10 minutes with the feeling of letting go, and you’ll experience peace and unwavering focus.
And when you do, focus on your studies.