Why You Can’t Focus on Studies for Long Hours (and How to Fix It)

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“Shut up you motherfucker! Let me focus on studies!”

Isn’t that how a student addresses his mind (more or less) – the monkey that keeps jumping from one thought to another?

Well, it’s justifiable.

Focusing on studies is the most important thing for a student. After all, his career and future depends on it, right?

But then, there are distractions … Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, snapchat, Whatsapp, YouTube, internet and whatnot. And most of them make the mind wander.

So, the question is – what to do about the distractions?

And Who Says You’re Wrong?

I remember when I was a child, there were many things to distract me: Comic books, Gilli Danda, Kanchhe, Lattu, TV shows and stuff like that.

With time, distractions changed their faces. Now, we have electronic media, video games, mobile games, Xbox, Netflix, Amazon Prime and things like that.

Now that you have an idea about the changing faces of distractions, what do you think:

Are distractions something recent or a lot older than we believe (even older than my childhood)?

Take a guess.

If you just mumbled, “It’s not possible that distractions were not there in the older times”, you’re absolutely right.

You see, distractions have always been there even when your great-great-grandfather was a small kid.

But.

We survived them.

I did, and you will too. So, don’t bang your head against the wall, dear.

Now, if you get distracted quite often, that means you need to tame the monkey – your mind.

By taming your mind, you can make the study sessions more productive and fruitful. Otherwise, you’ll be like a wrecked ship – one that is on the mercy of the sea waves – it goes wherever the tides take it, and in the end,  it reaches nowhere.

Believe me; you don’t want to be that ship.

The Mistake that Ruins Focus

It’s a mistake we all make at some point in time.

And it ruins everything when it comes to focus.

Don’t fall for it.

It’s a trap!

The trap of multitasking.

The ‘Gurus’ suggesting that you should multitask to complete more in lesser time are (I’m sorry to say this) … they’re naive.

You see, multitasking is a really, really bad habit. It never lets you focus on one task with undivided attention, and you end up being a below average student. That’s pathetic!

Here’s the golden rule to focus on studies for long hours:

Focus on one task at a time, and do it wholeheartedly

“I know,  I know,  I need to focus on studies, but I lack the motivation?”

No, you don’t.

Stop fooling yourself. You are motivated.

How do I know?

I know it 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. Tell me I’m wrong.

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 girls, and the teachers, who’s the boss!”

And 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 this unfortunate cycle keeps repeating. You start, you drop. You start again, and then you drop again. That’s bad, really bad.

Your heart knows that if you were to make your dream career, you must keep your concentration level high, and stay focused on studies. (But this damn mind, shit, 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?

Why the Husband Lost and the Wife Won

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.

And it kept happening. He looked here; he looked there – all for the right spot. But guess what, he finally 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 thought was “right.”

And then, she 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 was red, she was drenched in sweat, her hands were hurting, but she didn’t give up.

The husband was curious.

The sun, birds, and the trees around were surprised at her strength. She 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.

The more distractions you end, the better your focus shall be

The question is, how?

How to Control Distractions

There are two types of distractions in life:

  • Distractions you can control
  • Distractions you cannot control

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Whatsapp – these are some examples of distractions you can control.

And I can tell you from my experience that you can eliminate them temporarily (or permanently) at this very moment.

Does that sound impossible.

It’s not.

You can do it. You need to take a stand if you’re even a little bit serious about focusing on your studies.

And by the way, has anyone been putting a gun against your head to use social media?

Anybody forcing you?

Or is it you only who’s been wasting time checking posts, tweets and messages gazillion times a day? Is technology serving you, or you serve the technology?

Decide what is more critical – socialising, or focusing on studies?

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!

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 how much time social media and socialising kills 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 that smartphones are evil. They have their place, but right now, you need time for studying, honey!

Can You Eliminate All the Distractions?

You’re not god. You cannot control everything.

And that includes sounds and noise coming from the streets – fruit vendors, vehicles, people talking, radios, TVs, and things like that.

And while it’s true, you have almost no control over them; you still can manage the effect distractions have on you, at least to some extent.

Use small cotton balls in your ears for blocking out unwanted sounds and noise. It’s true 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

Do you have relatives? I am sure you do. Don’t lie to me.

Why not request them to give you a room for studying? I mean, for the time being, of course.

Or you can request a friend to give you some study space if his house happens to be in a quieter neighbourhood. With only a few gangs of dogs barking at full volume. (wuff, wuff!)

How about your local library?

You see, 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.

Why You Shouldn’t Worry Too Much About Distractions

As they say, you get what you focus on.

So, if you keep trying not to get distracted, you will get distracted because that’s where your focus is.

Instead, focus on staying focused. I know it sounds like I am just spinning the words around, but I am not. It’s an entirely different approach.

Remember: Your life energy flows in the direction of your focus – you become your focus.

Decide that from this moment, yes, this very moment, you shall focus on staying focused, and not on that “I don’ want to get distracted” theory.

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. 🙂

How NOT to Fix a Distracted Mind

Some people recommend meditation to fix a distracted mind. It almost never works because what’s actually needed is, concentration.

Is there a difference?

Of course!

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 that takes a long time. 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.

This Ancient Method Can Improve Your Concentration

Ever heard of Tratak?

This is how you 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 till you reach ten minutes or more. Tratak can be seriously challenging in the beginning, but you’ll be just fine.

Just keep doing it.

Do This, and You’ll Stay On Track

Studying for long hours can be a breeze, if only you knew, how you’re going to spend the day.

Maintain 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!

Yes, You Can Do the Impossible

Do you want to become a cricketer, an astronaut, a model, a singer, an engineer, and a movie star?

I see.

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.

Do Slow and Steady Always Win the Race?

You know what, 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.

My advice?

Don’t fall for slow internet service plans just because they are cheaper.

Instead, go for the best and the fastest Internet service you could afford. No, it’s not a waste of money.

A high-speed net connection lets you complete more in less time. And that gives you the freedom to focus more on your studies.

A ‘Break?’ Huh, Who Needs It?

You see, the 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. Yes, you do.

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).

Can Distractions Help You Focus?

Is outside noise driving you crazy?

You have two options:

1. Curse your fate

2. Use a productive distraction

A productive distraction can help block the 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.

And hey, try out Noisli.

Why My Friends Hate Me

I like to enjoy a peaceful life – with minimum distractions, and that’s possible only if I could eliminate as many distractions as possible.

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 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.

Is it easy?

Hell no! I am an outcast.

My crime? I am crazy about focus.

But I don’t care what people think about me, as long as I can enjoy a relaxed life.

No, I am not suggesting you take the same path. I am sharing only to give you an idea that anything is possible.

Do This, and You’ll NEVER Be Able to Focus

Fight, and you shall lose the battle.

Don’t fight, instead, close your eyes and surrender.

Let go.

Acknowledge that distractions are there, and you cannot do anything about them.

Accept that you’re powerless against distractions.

Give Up.

Sit for about 10 minutes with the feeling of letting go, and soon you’ll experience peace.

And when you do, focus on your studies, again.

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Avdhesh Tondak is a blogger and voice actor. He writes for students, professionals, and seekers. Subscribe to receive his new articles by email.