If you’re reading this article it probably means you are struggling to focus and you just want to actually get some work done, no matter what.
I developed a simple 3 step strategy myself over many years of experimentation to find what worked best. I will warn you though, this isn’t a fun way to study.
Because it works.
The strategy is simple. You just make studying the most entertaining thing available to you. Think about it, if you only could study, and nothing else, would you?
Not many people would literally rather stare at a blank wall than do their homework (of course, this isn’t the actual strategy). But by using some simple techniques we can make studying the only thing we can do to entertain ourselves.
Let’s get into the specifics of this strategy.
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1. Use Blocking Apps
The main strategy here is to block out all of the things that grab your attention. You need to block everything that could be more entertaining than studying. Here’s a starting list of what you should remove access to.
- The Internet (Social media, Youtube, etc.)
- Streaming services
- Video games
I use a free program called Cold Turkey to block everything that could possibly distract me on my computer. This includes both websites and applications.
You can either block entire domains or specific sites, but if you want to take the most extreme option (which is what this article is all about) there is a more effective way.
You can block the entire internet by adding a *.* to your block list and then using exceptions for only the sites you need to study (like google drive, online university system, etc.)
Be careful with how long you implement a block like this. Cold Turkey is not an easy software to get around. If you set a block for too long you might have to find a way around it.
I recommend just using the timed block in the free version of Cold Turkey. Set the block for like 2-3 hours, just so you can study but still use your computer after. However, if you have the paid version (only a one-time purchase) you can have a schedule that starts blocking automatically (this is what I use on a daily basis).
However, there is a caveat here. Some sites (like Youtube) are both distracting and useful for studying. What do we do in these cases?
How to use Youtube to study without getting distracted
You may be reading what I wrote above and thinking, “but what about using Youtube to study?”. Yes, it’s true, there is a lot of high-quality educational content on Youtube.
If you really can’t do without Youtube, there is a way to use it effectively without getting distracted at the same time. You can use extensions that remove recommended videos and clear the homepage so there is just a search bar.
This does take a little bit more responsibility to use effectively than flat-out blocking the site though.
2. Lock Your Phone Away
You need to make your phone hard to access. Truly the best way to do this is to actually lock it in a timed box. These are fairly cheap on Amazon (click here to check the price) and they are truly amazing for reducing your phone usage while trying to study.
All you do is open the box and set the amount of time you want it to be locked. The product I’m linking also still allows you to make emergency calls etc. If you really need your phone you can still use it (but it is much harder to access than before).
Alternatives to locking your phone away
However, if you are looking for a solution right now, just give your phone to a friend or family member and tell them to give it back to you in a couple of hours.
You can also use blocking techniques on your phone. But the reason I’m not recommending this upfront is that this still leaves a lot of the web accessible to you. This article is about extreme solutions to get yourself focused.
If you want to learn more about how to block distractions on your phone, check out the distraction-free iPhone by Jake Knapp. This is essentially how I set up my phone on a daily basis.
3. Take Caffeine
Finally, after you have completed the previous steps, a great way to increase your focus is to take some sort of caffeine.
The benefits of caffeine are relatively clear in the research.
Caffeine won’t directly help you when it comes to learning and memory tasks. But caffeine does help when it comes to enhancing attention and arousal.1 This makes caffeine a great way to boost your focus.
In my opinion, the best way to study using caffeine is in a coffee shop. The benefit of this is twofold. You get your caffeine but you also get a change of scenery and a new place to study which can help with motivation. I wrote a helpful guide on studying in a coffee shop if you are interested in getting the most out of this experience.
If you don’t like coffee you can also order caffeine capsules. Just be careful that you don’t take too much caffeine because this can be dangerous. Read more about safe caffeine pill usage on WebMD.
- McLellan, T. M., Caldwell, J. A., & Lieberman, H. R. (2016). A review of caffeine’s effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 71(C), 294–312. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.09.001
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