In this social media dominated decade, it’s super difficult to focus on studies.
You can’t even concentrate for a second without your phone chirping.
Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat keep buzzing on our ears for attention like hungry little vultures crying for food.
The distraction is overwhelming. Concentration is brittle. Every day I have to wrestle with myself to stay focused on a task for only 30 minutes.
As an artificial intelligence researcher, I came across complex sophisticated algorithms that required laser-focus to digest and understand.
This forced me to develop techniques for effective and efficient studies.
In this article, I want to share with you five of these strategies.
They are the most effective that will completely revolutionize how you study.
You’ll start to work smarter and not harder.
So, let’s get to it…
1. Shut down your mobile data
I understand this might sound like a cliche, but I had to start from it.
You must have heard it a thousand times. Please, hear it for the thousand-and-one time. It’s that important.
When you set your time to study or do anything important, start by turning off your mobile data. Here is why
A few months ago, I came across a video of Robin Sharma and he said something that didn’t make sense to me at first.
He said “Your phone is costing you your fortune”
I thought this was one of those things people say on camera just to sound smart. So, I shrugged it off.
But, a few weeks later, I accidentally found out the truth for myself. Here is what happened.
On October 1st, 2020, my phone suddenly crashed. I had a research project I had wanted to write and submit for an international student academy competition.
However, procrastination and distraction had paralyzed me. The deadline for submission was October 4th.
I decided to take the opportunity and get into the competition.
Without a phone, I focused my mind on coding and writing for hours every day.
At 2:30 a.m on October 4th, I completed and submitted the project.
First of all, I never believed in my entire life, I could write a high-quality research paper in just 4 days.
Not only that, the research project just won the first position in the Science category of the competition.
When I realized how deep I could focus without my phone, I decided to delay the buying of a new phone.
I spent two months without a phone just to experiment on how much I could achieve.
Within that period, I built this website from scratch. I completed the writing of the second draft of my new book and many other things.
Robin Sharma was right after all.
You have no idea how much distraction comes from your phone and how much it is costing you.
If you want to study effectively and achieve remarkable results, you have to take total control of when to be online and when to be offline.
When you sit down to study, turn your mobile data off.
I’ll recommend that you keep your phone away from your sight.
In fact, leave your phone in a different room. Then go to study in a different one.
You’ll learn faster, do more in less time, and develop laser-focus.
2. Free your Brain
This technique I’m about to share might sound so simple, yet it took me light years to figure it out.
It is summarized in the short phrase below.
Don’t think in your head. Think on paper.
Here is why
Your brain is like a dense network with millions of interconnecting neurons.
Every split second, electrical signals are fired randomly from one neuron to another.
Think of these random signals as your thoughts. It’s very difficult to logically organize anything in that environment because it’s usually chaos unless you’re a monk.
That’s why most of the time when you try to focus on an idea for just a minute, it suddenly disappears and gets replace by something completely unrelated.
Here is what to do to pin problems down and get to the solutions faster.
Before you sit down to study, have a paper and pen ready.
As you study, you’ll get to a point where something doesn’t make any sense. The more you think about it the more confused you get.
That’s the perfect time to get it out of your head and onto the paper.
When you do that, you stop your brain from spiraling further downwards into the pit of confusion.
At that moment, your eyes can see the problem on the paper.
Therefore, your brain has a better visual representation of it and hence can analyze it with more accuracy.
Practice this technique every day and you’ll be amazed by how fast you understand what you’re reading.
Also, you’ll be able to rapidly come up with solutions to problems.
3. Work hard, Rest hard
When I got admitted to the Computer Science Department of Istanbul Technical University, I spent the entire first semester on campus. Monday to Sunday, morning to evening.
The campus library was my home. I worked so hard that my brain froze.
It reached a point where I couldn’t understand anything anymore.
I just kept pushing. I thought I wasn’t studying enough, so I switched gears and increased my reading time.
Then, I reached a breaking point. Anxiety kicked in. My brain was overloaded. I had no idea what was wrong.
Overwhelmed by school, and drowning in frustration, I decided to call my grandma.
I just needed someone to pour my brain out on. She was the perfect choice.
In utter silence and with ears as sharp as those of a moth, she listened to me.
I went on and on and on about my troubles. Then finally, she spoke. What she said completely changed how I approach studies.
“Beltus, you’re not resting. Take some time off. Go hang out with friends. Sit by the seaside and watch the waters.”
She was right. I wasn’t resting. But, I didn’t know that.
My uneducated grandmother saved my entire education and technically my life with only a few words.
The most effective way to study is to give your brain time to download and process the information you’re feeding it with.
The way to do this is to ensure that you take as many intermittent breaks as possible.
For example, studying for 4 hours with no rest is doing your brain more harm than good.
It’s better to study in blocks of 45 minutes. Then rest for 15minutes after each block.
Also, take the weekends off to hang out with friends, visit beautiful places, play your favorite game. Anything to relax your body and brain.
If you apply this technique in your education or work, you’ll be mind blown by how efficient you’ll become.
You’ll love and cherish what you do.
Remember, it’s not how hard you work but how smart you work that matters.
And, don’t forget to work hard and play hard.
4. Time Yourself
My Turkish friend once recommended to me a google browser extension called Block and Focus.
He said the extension was going to make me super productive. I didn’t believe him.
But, I decided to give it a try. The results were astounding.
Now, I can’t work on my computer without activating this application. It completely transformed my study process.
Here is how.
With a single click, this extension blocks all social media access for the length of time set by me.
Within that period, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, or any other social media platform can’t be accessed.
After the time expires, it gives you access to these platforms for 15 minutes. Then it automatically blocks them again for the next period.
Now, I time almost everything I do. As I write this article now, I’m on the clock.
Your time is the only thing you have. In order to maximize it and quadruple your productivity, you need to somehow measure the time you spend doing anything.
For example, let’s say you have a book you must read. You can set your timer for 30 minutes.
Now, within this time frame, the only thing you’re going to do is read the book.
Nothing else. No matter what happens, your butt is not leaving that seat.
Then, when the timer runs out, you can take a 10 minutes break.
At this time you can reply to messages and do whatever you want.
Then, you bounce back to reading your book for the next 30 minutes.
If you can practice this technique several times and make it a habit, you’ll be mindblown by how much you accomplish in a short span of time.
Your focus and retention will equally increase. You’ll become highly effective.
5. Absorb from multiple sources
Sometimes I wish I came out to this world later than I actually did.
Back in the days of no internet, the teacher was the only source of information. He was always right.
He was the Pope of the class. Infallible. Even if he didn’t understand what he was talking about, we just nodded our confused heads like lizards.
Now, there’s an overflow of information on the internet than we humans can ever dream of consuming. Yet, some people don’t even realize it.
If you’re a student in this decade, you don’t even need to worry whenever you miss lectures.
All you need is to go to youtube and search for the topic and you’ll find some random guy or gal that might explain it even better than some of your teachers.
I’m not saying you should miss classes. Don’t get me wrong.
Use the free resources that are at your disposal to effectively study.
You’re in school for two things. Absorb knowledge and make friends. That’s all.
If you want to learn and become the best in your class or field, you should consume knowledge from your lecturers and also from other free reputable online sources.
For example, this website offers free MIT undergraduate and graduate courses for almost every discipline.
Imagine listening to your lecturers in class, and then complementing the knowledge with that of MIT professors. How much better can you get?
There are other similar platforms filled with knowledge and waiting for you to mine it and use it to enhance your educational career.
Take advantage of these and become super effective.
To focus on our studies or work for just a few minutes without getting distracted by something is difficult especially in this age of social media.
Everyone and everything around us wants a piece of our time. It’s a constant fight.
In order to win this battle, thrive, and become effective in our studies, we have to apply certain techniques.
Start by turning off your mobile internet connection. If possible, leave your phone in a different room separate from your study room.
Secondly, always think on paper. Anytime you’re getting confused about what you’re reading, switch immediately to paper and pen down what you’re thinking about.
It gives your brain room to see what it’s thinking about.
Also, work hard but don’t forget to rest hard. Take frequent intermittent rest as you study to give your brain time to slowly send the information to it’s ROM,
Remember, that your brain is a biological machine and needs rest just like any other mechanical machine.
Become aware of how much time you spend studying. Time yourself every time you study.
This will help you to get more work done, and also build focus.
Finally, you don’t need to rely only on materials taught in school.
There’s so much free valuable information on the internet today.
Take advantage of it and understand concepts from different perspectives.
It’s what I do every day and I hope you can use this knowledge to become the most effective, efficient, and focused person in your field of studies.