concentration techniques 10
Alternative textbooks. The writing in some textbooks is more difficult to grasp than in others. Often it is the style of the author that causes the difficulty, not the abstruseness of the topic itself. In the library you will find many other books in which other authors discuss the very same topics. From personal experience, I know how helpful an alternative textbook can be. After reading the alternative textbook, however, it is important to go back to your regular
textbook to read the assigned chapters. You will understand them now.
Workbooks and programmed instructional materials. There are many supplementary materials on which to practice and to learn. These materials force you to take action. In the programmed materials, especially, each step is a small problem that has to be solved on the basis of information presented in the previous steps. The on-going sequence of problem solving, continually putting you on the spot, forces you to concentrate and hold in mind the previous steps in order to find solutions. Your solutions are immediately compared with the correct answers. In this way, wrong solutions are straightened out in your mind before they become embedded, and correct solutions are reinforced. These learning-by-doing programmed materials virtually ensure understanding; once you grasp the basics of your subject through such materials you will understand your “boring” subject much better.
THE SECRET TECHNIQUE: THE PENCIL
A technique that has never failed any student over the past twenty years is the simple, humble pencil technique. The technique is this: Whenever working to learn, always study with a pencil in hand. For example, if you are taking notes on a textbook chapter, stop after reading several paragraphs and very briefly, in your own words, write the key points made by the author. If, after reading several paragraphs, no words come to you, then you have no other recourse than to go back and read the passage again. This time, read with determination and concentration, to make sure that you learn the key points. The secret: activity promotes, almost ensures, concentration. The pencil provides the activity!
After reading this chapter, you can appreciate the immensity and complexity of the job of concentration. Our objective, based on the evidence, should be: don’t waste your energies trying to achieve continuous concentration. Rather, stay in good physical condition, and then use techniques to bring your attention back to the job in hand quickly every time your thoughts wander.