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How to focus for long periods?

  1. Oct 29, 2007 #1
    I've just been sitting here at my desk for the last three hours, and I realized that I have gotten about 1/2 hour worth of work done. I just keep getting distracted by things. Do any of you have any good techniques for focusing on things (assignments/studying/research) for long periods of time? It's not that I don't find the subject matter interesting, it's just that I'll start thinking about something, and then one thought leads to another, and pretty soon I'm way off topic, and haven't gotten anything done on my assignment for the past 45 minutes. So I'll get back on track again, and last for maybe another 15 minutes or so, before my mind wanders again.

    I use the internet and my computer quite frequently for my assignments and research, so being without it isn't really an option.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 29, 2007 #2
    The simple answer is you don't spend that much time doing something.

    You work on something for 30 minutes, take a break, and then come back. You'll end up getting your work done faster than working for 3 hours straight and losing focus every 5 minutes.
     
  4. Oct 29, 2007 #3

    G01

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    One strategy is to change the subject you are working on every hour or so. Doing this, you give yourself a break from the current topic (which is usually what your brain is asking for when it can't concentrate on a topic) and are able to still continue getting work done.
     
  5. Oct 29, 2007 #4
    Personally when i am doing work and my mind begins to wonder, i take a break. The time for my breaks depend on how much work i need to get done and how much time i have. There is no need to be sitting at a desk daydreaming because you are a little bored or tired of doing work. Keep your mind completely off the work you are suppose to be doing during your break. When you feel rested enough go back to finish your work.
     
  6. Oct 29, 2007 #5
    Drugs. Also, get your S.O. to hit you with a newspaper any time you're on a forum instead of doing research.
     
  7. Oct 29, 2007 #6
    My bass teacher told me this strategy to play bass, and it carries over to pretty much any mental task: "Start doing it. When you start to lose focus and start thinking about your socks or some such, then stop and go do something else."

    Yeah, I have a hard time focusing on physics for more than 5 minutes at a time, because breakthroughs come in chunks for me. I'll hit a wall and not be able to get over it, then jump over it at another time and 5 minutes later hit another one.
     
  8. Oct 29, 2007 #7
    Incidentally, if you have enough work surface to have several homework assignments laid out separately with accompanying books, materials, etc...swap classes if you get stuck. Sometimes it helps. (Sometimes you just get stuck on all of them, making you even more frustrated. ^_^)
     
  9. Oct 29, 2007 #8
    I get easily distracted when I'm at home. If I really need to concentrate, I'll go to the library. Sure...I can still get distracted there...but there's not as much stuff to pull me away from what I should be doing. I'll also switch subjects to do whatever I'm most interested in doing at the moment...as long as that doesn't mean putting off something too long so that it becomes unmanageable.
     
  10. Oct 29, 2007 #9
    I'm not sure if this is possible or applicable to your situation, but I try to get away from distracting places(home) and I go onto campus and sit at a table. I also find it easier to study with a buddy or two.....kinda keeps you focused, and makes eachother study.
     
  11. Oct 29, 2007 #10
    Oh yea, I nearly forgot, doing your work with a cute girl helps. ;)
     
  12. Oct 29, 2007 #11
    Believe me No it doesn't, most unproductive hour of my life.

    But what I found is helpful is to set small goals. Like finish a specific chapter, then take 20-30 min break.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2007
  13. Oct 30, 2007 #12
    doing your work with cute girls usually leads to things other than school work
     
  14. Oct 30, 2007 #13
    Thanks for the suggestions guys, I'll try switching topics and/or taking breaks every half hour and see how that works. I have a 6 hour block today where I want to get as much done as possible, so we'll see how things go.
     
  15. Oct 30, 2007 #14
    Depends how cute you are! :(
     
  16. Oct 30, 2007 #15
    coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee. It keeps me glued to whatever i'm doing while getting me interested in it at the same time, also it inspires creative thought.
     
  17. Oct 30, 2007 #16
    Really? Caffiene makes me really restless and I can't sit still long enough to get anything at all done.
     
  18. Oct 30, 2007 #17
    I find that small amounts of caffeine (say, from hot tea) can be helpful sometimes. But energy drinks, sodas, coffee, and so on, are no good for me.
     
  19. Oct 30, 2007 #18
    Seems to have worked for me today. I switched back and forth between a few different assignments, and got a ton of work done. I guess I'd best keep it up then. I noticed though that I do better if I force myself to change before I get distracted. If I wait until after I'm already distracted, it's too late, the damage is done and it's that much harder to get focussed again.
     
  20. Nov 5, 2007 #19
    What I do is use a timer. 30 mins study. 10 mins Sopranos. 30 minutes study. 10 minutes Sopranos or whatever else you'd rather be doing but know you shouldn't. If you stay disciplined and stick to the 10 minutes you'll find you will get through your video downloads and your study.

    Works in theory. Still perfecting the technique. The Sopranos is pretty good...
     
  21. Nov 5, 2007 #20

    Moonbear

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    This is why you guys see me on PF so often. :biggrin: Under best conditions, the attention span of an adult is about 40 min to an hour. Nobody can work on something continuously for longer than that without some short breaks, and the more you force yourself to sit still and work on something, the more thinking about forcing yourself to sit still becomes your distraction.

    Every half hour or 45 min or so, get up, take a 5 min break, and you'll find you can focus much better.

    It also helps if you're well rested. If you're trying to fight fatigue along with drifting attention, it's going to be an uphill battle. Try not to rely too much on caffeine; it'll keep you awake, but make you more restless.
     
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