With lectures on Zoom, Google one click away and no-one sitting next to you to shoot you a disapproving look as you scroll through Tik Tok, it seems harder than ever to get focused. Focusing isn’t simple – much like a muscle, it needs to be trained and developed over time. Not to mention, it requires resisting the buffet of dopamine dangled in front of us by social media companies. Companies that invest billions of dollars precisely to master how to divert our focus, fragment our attention and keep us addicted.
So, to help you get through your Zoom lectures, essays and assignments without spending too much time on Twitter, this is a list of techniques and tangible tools that you can implement to start training your focus.
- Brain Dump
A good place to start is with a clear mind. So, take all your To-Do’s on your mind and put them on paper!
- Get Specific
Choose one of your tasks that you want to focus on and get super specific. Write down exactly the next steps the task entails. This way you’re thinking through how you’re going to do the task, rather than just diving in – not only will this give you an action plan, but gives you a much better chance of logically attacking the task.
Now you’ve chosen, you’re To-Do and know exactly how to do your To-Do, it’s time to get focused! Choose a specific amount of time that you’re going to commit to the task and nothing else. Start your timer.
- Distraction Journal
For some reason when we sit down to do one thing, we suddenly remember that other thing. But, this is your focused time – so, rather than getting up to finish the other thing (no matter how quick it will be!) write it down on a piece of paper, or add it to your brain dump, and come back to it later.
- Remove your Phone!
This one’s self-explanatory. If you can: turn it off and put it away. If you’re not ready for that kind of parting: opt for the Do Not Disturb button.
Another option is to use an app such as Forest. Forest allows you to choose an amount of time that you want to focus for, during which a tree will grow in your “forest”. If you use your phone, the tree dies. Forest gamifies the process, helps hold you accountable and allows you to see how long you have focused for on any given day.
- But, what if I need my phone?
Firstly, make sure you’ve made it clear in your head what you need your phone for. Which apps do you need? Which person needs to reach you? To help use it for only these things during your focused time: before unlocking your phone, say why first. So for example – I’m replying to the message from X saying Y – get it done and all other notifications can wait.
A simple way to avoid getting taken astray by pesky notifications? Turn them off!
- Focused breaks
Taking breaks is important! However, if we always reach for our phone during a break one notification can lead to another that can then lead to 5…10…15 minutes of scrolling. To help make sure that your break is indeed a break and not the end of your studying, opt for a less distracting pass-time during your breaks. Get up from your desk, talk to a housemate, do your nails, get a snack, but don’t go on your phone!
- Check your Screen Time
No one’s perfect, and staying focused for a 3 hour seminar is no mean feat. Nevertheless, we have to hold ourselves accountable. Many of us subconsciously reach for our phones and have no idea just how dependent on them we are. Every awkward silence and every minute in a queue is filled with a quick scroll. In order to help you create some boundaries and set goals, keep an eye on your daily and weekly screen time.
I hope these tips help and feel free to share any of your own in the comments! 🙂