One distraction after another can really tank your time and short-circuit your concentration.  Here’s a slick trick to grow some mondo focus chops.

Your is like a big puppy.  Puppies know that when you get out the leash the walk around the block is soon to follow.

“A walk! Joy!”

Your brain thrives on similar cues to pattern its behavior. Examples…

  • Just thinking of rush-hour traffic can wind us up tighter than an alley cat in a firecracker factory.
  • Walking into economics class can cause low grade narcolepsy.
  • Ringing bells make us salivate (thank you, Dr. Pavlov).
  • The sound of our alarm clock, even during the middle of the day, jangles our nerves and gives us caffeine cravings.

Use this to your advantage. Have a regular routine you use when you study.  The routine itself doesn’t matter as long as you use it consistently.  Here are some examples…

Example One; Do forty sit-ups, take off your watch, turn off your phone, and sit cross-legged on the floor with your books arranged in front of you.

Example Two; Go to Schlotzky’s deli, get a large diet soda, sit next to the window, get out your books, say a brief prayer, and crack your knuckles.

Again, the routine doesn’t matter as long as you do it every time before you study and ONLY before you study.  Just like that puppy, after a while, every time you go through the routine, your brain will go.  “Must be time to study.”  and it will settle right down to the task at hand.

Bonus Tip: Is your brain just not behaving? You sit down with the best intentions but ten minutes later you realize you’ve been obsessing about your girl/guy troubles again.

Never fear. Psychologists have a very effective cure [hidepost] called thought-stopping. Here’s the basic idea.

  1. As soon as you notice the off-task thought–girl/guy troubles, in this case–do something to distract yourself.  You could loudly yell, “STOP,” (which scares the bejeezus out of the other Schlotzky’s patrons, in my experience) or you could try something a little more subtle.  I sometimes put a rubber-band around my wrist and snap it when I notice those unhelpful thoughts slinking through my skull.  The point is to distract yourself momentarily from the unhelpful thought.
  2. Now that the thought is stopped, take three deep, slow breaths, trying to keep your mind blank.  Let yourself relax as much as possible.
  3. Then reward yourself.  I briefly imagine myself schussing down the slopes at Aspen and take about five seconds to thoroughly enjoy the daydream.
  4. Then get back to work.
  5. Repeat as necessary.

After twenty-or-so repetitions of this process, your brain eventually figures it out.  The unhelpful thought immediately triggers a relaxed, happy feeling, and a return to your studies.

Too simple?  Studies have found this method can successfully cure phobias, eating disorders, and depression!  Put it to work for you.[/hidepost]

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