When I was in high school I had a really hard time absorbing information. Yes, there were plenty of distractions literally screaming for my attention, like my high school basketball coach. But it was more than that, I just hadn’t learned how that big squishy thing between my ears worked.
I remember spending hours at home studying and trying earnestly to do well. And then test day came… and I didn’t do well. But why? WHY? I knew that I had put the time in. How could my brain just forget all the stuff I needed when I needed it most? Stupid brain always ruins everything *sniffle* *whimper*.
Well, to be honest, I was wasting my time with my studying because I didn’t FEEL like studying. So I had to learn to focus.
The Focus Mood Ring
I came to realize after my first year of college that first, I was not accomplishing anything at all with my study time. And secondly, the process was broken. I struggled with some learning disabilities growing up and I knew my mind absorbed information differently. So took a step back and reevaluated way I fed myself information.
I just wasn’t in the mood to study. An article on lifehacker.com explains it perfectly, “You see an object or idea that reminds you of an action and then you take that action. Your actions can be positive, negative, or neutral. The triggers aren’t inherently good or bad, they just exist, but you can manipulate your triggers so you’re weighted toward a more positive outcome.”
Ok, so what?
Well, I found out that by changing my environment I could change my mood, and thus create a mindset that I could study in. And it worked, I became more effective by simply creating triggers that MADE me want to study.
Along with discarding some of the obvious negative factors, such as TV, and my phone, I found that by simply adding positive triggers helped me focus tremendously and retain information.
Study On Time, and On Purpose
So, what I learned is that our minds are driven by positive triggers and that you could use them to an advantage. I began to find what methods worked best and created a study guideline that I knew lined up with the way my brain worked. I preferred to study at night, 7 to 11pm, listen to music with no words, have a glass of water, and be in a certain type of place, like an internet cafe… these were all effective stimuli that set my mind on studding.
But more importantly, I recorded what methods were effective, and established a habit, to always have my study time within the bounds of what triggers I needed to set the mood. After I flipped that study switch on, I WANTED to study. No joke, I wanted to get my work done and I did it faster than ever.
Just Stop… You’re Not Helping
Then it happened. I had reached the point of diminishing returns and my mental capacity was reduced to the intelligence of a cube of green Jell-O from the school cafeteria. It was like my mind was so full of information that it quit.
But I have to read pages 1- 4,600 of my history book…I …HAVE to…keep…going…
And so I kept reading, and reading, and then, nothing. I could not remember anything I read. So I read all that for no reason at all?
Yep, I may as well have played leapfrog with Santa clause because I read all that for no reason. My mind did not absorb any information. I put the time in but not in the right way.
It’s like spending time with my wife… on my PlayStation… for three hours, and saying we spent three hours together (bad idea by the way.) It’s all about the quality of the time, not quantity.
I found that I needed to let my mind stop and process the information I had just given it. When I felt myself going downhill, I quit. Yep I just stopped working and did something else, often a short nap or a walk. This let my mind relax, take information in, process, and file needed information.
This was actually allowing time for meditation or to engage in contemplation and reflection. Then after 20 minutes I’d resume. Why 20 minutes? Because that was long enough to let me focus again and not too long where I’d forget or find something else to do entirely. I had unlocked the powers of the entire universe! Well, not really, but I did find an effective way to control my mind and use it the way it is designed to be used.
Whether at work, at school, or at home – remember to stay focused, take breaks, and stay on task!
Just like any tool you must know how to use your mind, and learn the way it works. So go find your triggers, find that happy place that you need to go to that makes you comfy and motivated enough to get your work done. Then make it a habit to always have those properties involved with your work time. Oh, and of course don’t forget to take a break.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/scubasteveo/