The time has come. After much mental preparation and perhaps procrastination, you’ve decided to hunker down with a pot of coffee and all the material you need for the patent bar exam. However, you find that no matter what you do, you can’t seem to focus on the material at hand. Your hands migrate to your phone or you can’t keep yourself from switching tabs every five minutes. Distractions are hard to overcome but the exam date looms ever closer.
Your issues with studying don’t come from the distractions themselves, but your brain’s ability to fight them off. There must have been times when, no matter what was happening around you, you were utterly glued to your study materials. Your brain fought off the distractions for you, just like a good immune system fights off pathogens. But, just like a weakened immune system, a depleted mental state will have a harder time fighting off invaders.
Everyone is different so to help you combat your distractions, we’ve put together a few tips for helping you maintain a strong mental immune system, which will help you keep distractions at bay.
Considering your study space, putting away your cell phone to avoid texting and surfing, writing down a to-do list and sticking it to the wall in front of you, reducing study session times, and organizing a million other tasks beforehand, are just a few ways in which you can improve on your studies and become a straight-A student.
Read on for more tips on maximizing your study session times:
1. Know yourself
You can’t brute force studying. The mind is a finite resource and must be used sustainably. Think of it like a forest: If you pull all-nighters and spend hours upon hours reviewing your material, this would be like clear-cutting a forest to get a lot of rewards in a little amount of time. The result is a depleted and empty forest, which represents the depleted and lethargic feeling you get after hours of studying. Don’t do this to yourself, because distractions will become ever more enticing since you don’t have the mental energy to fight them off.
Above all else, make sure that once you begin studying you are energized and ready to go. Only you know what your body responds to best, so take the necessary steps to improve your vigor.
2. Study in the morning
Objectively, studying at night seems like the ideal time to hit the books. Your day is over and you have minimal distractions left to keep you from that blissful state of deep focus. However, as with tip #1, you’ve depleted your mental stores for the day by simply going through it.
Hours of work, school, or talking to employers takes mental energy, leaving you without enough to successfully study and have enough brain power to fight off distractions.
You need the evening to recuperate and gather your strength by either reading a book, watching a movie or TV show, or chatting with friends. Don’t leech into that time with intense mental exercises. If it is a possibility for you—even if you have to shift your schedule around—study in the morning and save your evenings for mental recuperation.
3. Turn off wifi
Once you’re bursting with mental energy and you’re ready to go, turn off wifi on your computer and put your phone in airplane mode. If you carry around any other electronic devices, do all that you can to make them bricks while you study. You don’t need an email notification catapulting you out of deep focus.
If you’re able to, print out all electronic pages so you have physical copies with you. The more you unplug yourself, the better, since modern technology is notoriously adept at fragmenting your attention. Don’t make it a temptation.
4. Change up study locations
Changing study locations helps with retention and keep you from being desensitized to a single place. In short, it keeps your brain from being bored, which keeps your brain from being distracted. Perhaps switch up coffee shops or alternate between studying at your home, a local library, and your office. Either way, changing up your study location will help you retain enough mental energy to stave off distractions.
5. Don’t just study one thing at once
This is somewhat related to the changing locations idea. By bouncing around from idea to idea, your brain gains an engaging sense of novelty while it still keeps you in the state of deep focus. You retain information better while still hitting all the things you need to hit.
Thus, if you imagine studying as eating food from a plate, load up on little bits of diverse information and avoid piling on only one type of food. The brain is attuned to diversity and your study habits should reflect that.
6. Invest in noise-cancelling headphones
If you live in a noisy place or prefer to study in coffee shops, noise-cancelling headphones will allow you to tune out the cacophony of audible distractions and let you focus on your study material. And if your headphones are also able to play music, make a nice playlist with no lyrics to boost your memory.
7. Use the Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro Method primes you for entering a state of deep focus. In the original version, a student took a small timer shaped like a tomato and set it for twenty-five minutes. During that time, the student could not do anything besides focus on the material at hand.
No social media or emails, just intense focus. Once the time was done, they could take a quick five-minute break to stretch, use the bathroom or, walk around and then come back for another twenty-five minutes, and so on.
The system is very effective at sustainably using mental resources since you’re not fatiguing yourself by studying for too long. The breaks also give you a little reset and pause which can even be a reward to look forward to and give you a little boost in motivation. Overall, top university students use the Pomodoro Method to get straight A’s and you can use the same method and see the same results too.
There you have it, the seven best tips that get to the root of why you get distracted. Don’t just try to treat the symptoms. Know yourself and how you best operate when it comes to studying and retaining information and you will soon pass the patent bar exam and move forward with your new career.