1- Practicing Active Concentration
• Take notes while you work. One of the most effective ways you can actively concentrate on what you’re doing is to write things down by hand. As opposed to typing, writing by hand forces you to actually engage with what you’re learning in a more physical way, sticking in the mind more clearly and engaging with it in a more visceral way.
• Doodle. Long-thought a sign that people weren’t paying attention, it turns out that some of the most active thinkers are also active doodlers. If you draw, even just squiggly lines and nonsense while you’re trying to pay attention, some studies show that it can help you engage your mind and stay focused, keeping boredom at bay and keeping your mind active and learning.
• Speak out loud as you work. Similar to doodling and note-taking, speaking out loud while you work or study might have your roommates thinking you’ve got a few screws loose, but it’s also proven to actively help you to internalize what you read and the ideas that you’re engaging with. Like writing, verbalizing forces you to give words to knowledge, creating a two-step process in the learning that makes it easier to recall and makes you more engaged.
• See the right answer and only the right answer. To escape a skid, professional drivers are trained to look not at the oncoming tree they’d like to avoid, but the space to which they want to go. Successful soccer players move to open space, successful guitar players find an empty space to play a perfect note, and successful learners fixate on the right course of action and the right way of doing.
2- Creating a Schedule
• Find your best time to work. Are you a morning person? A night-owl? Maybe just after lunch is your peak period. Find the time in the day that you’re at your best and structure your life around that fact. There’s no sense in pretending to be an early riser if you crave the 3am study session in your soul. Listen to yourself and do what works.
• Structure each day at the beginning of each day. Creating a plan for yourself helps to eliminate distracting thoughts and stress. Compartmentalize each thing you need to do in a given day, trying to anticipate how much time you’ll need to accomplish it. Try to leave in some wiggle room in case you end up needing more time to bash out a draft of your paper, or more time to prepare for that presentation at work.
• Work on both short- and long-term goals actively. It’s best if you can help to remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing to help keep you on track and remind yourself of the bigger picture. Remember your long term goals, and how the little things you do fit into your larger plan for yourself.
• Create a routine and then shake it up. Monotony can be its own distraction. Learn when you’re getting bored of the same old, same old. Try to structure your day by doing different types of activities back-to-back. So you don’t have to do one housework thing after another, alternate studying and housework, or throwing in some exercise. Don’t answer all your emails at once, answer a few, then take a break to do something else productive. At the end of the day, you’ll end up being more productive if you shake it up.
• Take scheduled breaks. Breaks are important, but the temptation of a break can start to creep in at particularly insidious moments, like just as your essay starts to get hard and you might be better served by getting over the difficult hump of that paragraph or that page. If you schedule breaks regularly and try your best to stick to that schedule, though, you’ll be able to keep yourself more productive and more relaxed.