Yesterday Jasaswini Mohapatra messaged me on instagram with the following query – “didi can u help me i am unable to focus and i have starting issue i mean i sit to study but den i get messed up and finish nthng.” Then I asked her to tell me in a bit more detail about this, and she replied with – “actually every morning frst i make my daily planner what to study how much to do everythng and in time i strt but gradually i loose focus get distracted like in various stuffss this that and den i am unable to finish even a 25percent of what is planned and get messed up and wen i revise how much i have completed i wld have frgotten eveeythng i dun knw what to do this make me more stressed and i loose my patience”
As you can see, I have highlighted the key words in her message and prima facie we can see she is having trouble focusing and on closer inspection this lack of focus leads to incomplete tasks which leads to frustration, which in turn hinders the ability to focus. This is a vicious cycle that can be broken easily if you have the right tools. I have described the ones that I use –
- Find your golden ratio:
I read about this in the free e-book by Thomas Frank. Golden ratio is basically the ratio between the time estimated to complete a task with respect to the time actually taken. This technique obviously requires a bit of tracking your time but thanks to smart phones it is pretty easy to track time. You can use a simple stopwatch function to do it.
After tracking, all you have to do when you plan a task next time, estimate the time it will take you to complete it, and multiply your golden ratio to it. Most of the time, this will give you an accurate idea of the required time frame.
- Forest to curb phone addiction
There is plethora of apps available online for free these days to track your phone usage or up your productivity game. You can go to app store and check them out. I personally recommend Forest: Stay focused for tracking your studies. One added advantage of forest over other apps is that in the deep focus mode it locks your mobile for the specified time. In the event you cant keep control yourself, it will kill you virtual (and super cute) tree and that will remain on your record. Plus, if you are successful in your session, the app will award you some forest coins with which you can buy new trees (they release new ones almost two months) or if you save enough, you can plant real trees!
Futrher, the premium version is cheap. I bought it for INR 120 for a life time usage. However, if you switch to a new phone, you will need to buy the pro version again.
- Setting realistic goals
Just as Jasaswini mentioned, if you are able to complete 25% of the goals, then don’t go for completing 100% next day, instead reduce your to-do list. It might feel painful but trust me the exhilaration you will feel when you complete it will be on another level. So, if you can complete quarter of the work usually, write only 26-30% of your usual tasks. Priortise and complete it.
- Paper clip strategy/ Empty the jar method.
This is the latest strategy I learnt from Atomic habits by James Clear. (you can read about the original version here) I have modified this technique to suit my style and this is how I do it – I take two containers, One with paper clips (you can use marbles or anything you like really) and the other one empty. For example, if I have to complete 30 pages of reading, I will put in 30 paper clips in the container and as I go on reading, I will shift one paper clip into the empty jar per page I finish. And this technique works excellently and even more so on days when I find myself lacking the discipline to even pick up my book.
It works because it creates a visual trigger and helps in tracking our progress. I can trudge on with my reading because I can see the jar filling up and the quantity of paper clips decreasing on the other side.
So, you can implement the same in any respect you want! Any number of questions you want to solve, number of pages you want to write, etc.
And lastly before I conclude this post, If you scared of revision and feel as if you have forgotten everything, try active recall and repetition. I am linking Ali Abdaal’s evidence based study tips here and you can see for yourself which one your would like to implement
Hope this helps! Let me know if you try any of this.
Until next post, HAPPY HUSTLIN’ HON