How to Improve Your Focus: Creating Less Distraction and More Focus
Because less is more.
Your girls at W&H are studying now for our board exams so we can get our license and start up our practice - YAY!
But I'm running into a serious problem...
Summer is here!
My problem is focus, and I know many can relate. You may know the feeling of gazing helplessly outside at the bright world where everything seems so much happier on the other side of the window. You’d rather be on a patio, playing in parks, reading by the waterfront… anything other than what you really should to be doing - hunkering down with your work.
To overcome this, I've created a strategy to get me through - because studying is non-negotiable! It's my priority. So in order to get through all the material and be prepared to write this three-day exam, I’ve created a way to stay focused amidst all the overwhelming temptations.
You can try this too, and create less distraction, have more focus and make more effective use of your time.
These are 4 strategies on how I am approaching my studying for the summer so I don’t have to miss out on everything and become a bitter, pale, little hermit.
1. Create a schedule. I used www.freecollegeschedulemaker.com and just plugged in my ideal day! You can see my own example here! Doing this gives you a way to visualize how your days and weeks will be structured. When you have a concrete idea of how your time is to be used, you can plan accordingly and know what to expect from yourself, and also let others know what they can expect from you. You may have a schedule in your head but bring it out and into reality! It will relieve some of that precious mental space – brain space can be used for more important things!
2. Multi-tasking is a lie. “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” – Russian proverb. Multi-tasking causes 'monkey mind' - not a real diagnosis, but describes the phenomenon where we jump around between multiple focuses. Surprisingly it takes more time to actually complete your tasks when you do more than one at a time – this is due to something called an interrupted workflow.
Figure. 1. Interrupted vs. focused workflow (Keller, 2013, pg 48.)
There is a lot of research showing how this is ineffective and produces worse outcomes than those who just do one thing at a time!
A cluttered workspace reduces your ability to be productive and efficient. So as important as it is to de-clutter your environment, it’s also crucial to reduce the scatter in your mind!
For your enjoyment and understanding check out this fun infographic on this crucial point! You can read more about letting go and clearing your mind in this article, Detoxification Series Part 3: Letting Go & Forgiveness
3. Reward yo-self! This has really been key for me. Without making sure you maintain happiness in your life, there’s not motivation to go on (dramatic, I know, but this is actually how I feel sometimes). Give yourself breaks and something to look forward to. I wouldn’t make it through a single day without doing this! It gives you a sense that the work you are doing will have a defined end, and a point where something that makes you happy will begin. It gives you the drive to maintain your focus knowing there is alight at the end of the tunnel!
4. Take care of yourself. Because no one else can do it for you! So don't sabotage all that motivation you've worked up for yourself by neglecting the very vessel that will carry you to success! This includes eating well, sleeping soundly, and moving your able body!
A comprehensive diet consisting of whole foods (not packaged/ processed) and incorporating variations of food groups is not only good for your body, but also benefits your mind! Ex. Eat brains for brains (ie. walnuts). Check out The Brain Food Pyramid for an idea of what foods can help.
Trouble sleeping? Especially leading up to a big exam or do you just want help to optimize your sleep? Read this article on how to Clean Up Your Sleep! Need a challenging and fun workout that takes you outdoors? Check out Workout Circuit @ the Playground! Or find motivation from a workout app with Margot’s 3 Favourite (and free) Workout Apps
With all that time at your desk many of us can get some pretty serious neck pain. Learn what you can manage this preventable outcome with 5 Tips to Nip That Neck Pain.
Nourish yourself so you can optimize your body’s function. The last thing we want is our body holding us back when our mind is set, determined and ready for serious action.
Good luck Class of 2017, and to all of you seeking to make the most of this glorious summer!
Disclaimer: this article is not a replacement for medical assessment and advice from your healthcare provider.
Keller, W. G., Papasan, J. (2013) The ONE thing.