concentration techniques 4
To minimize internal distractions, the following suggestions have worked for many, many students.
1. Indecision. Indecision about when to study and about which subject to study first is not only a great time-waster but also a sure way to create a negative attitude toward studying. You can hurdle this psychological barrier by planning ahead. This is such an important part of good study habits that an entire chapter has been devoted to it.
2. Daydreaming. One of the worst time-wasters is daydreaming. Daydreaming is a way of escaping from hard work. Pleasant as it is, it can become a vicious habit since daydreaming can use up precious time in which you could be working toward the goals you really want to achieve. It is far better to get back to the job and establish the positive habit of plunging directly and efficiently into your work. This is a habit that will stand you in good stead all your life.
3. Personal problems. Each person must develop ways of dealing with personal problems that distract him from his work. If you cannot study because your mind is clogged with personal worries, positive action must be taken. For example, if a problem intrudes on your thoughts while you are studying, make it a firm habit to write it out on a sheet of paper to deal with after you have completed your work. If you begin entertaining problems while studying, you may get in the habit of solving personal problems as a device for escaping the hard work of studying, just as one uses daydreams.
After you have completed your work, attack the problems directly. If you cannot solve them yourself, get the help of friends or counselors. Decide on a plan of action, and follow it.
4. Bothered by a course. It is not unusual to have one course almost every semester that bothers you for one reason or another. It is surprising how quickly an initial feeling of discontent spreads into a general anxiety that interferes with all your studies. One way to dispel anxiety in this situation is to talk the matter over with the instructor. There is a good chance that he will be able to help you.
For example, one student who came to me first reported that she liked the instructor and the course. About four weeks later, she said, “The instructor is too brusque; and, in his lectures, he doesn’t stick to the topic.” About five minutes later, almost as if it were an after-thought, the real reason for discontent surfaced. “And he is requiring everyone to lead a class discussion.” Then she added, “I’ll be home for the holidays, but I won’t enjoy a minute of it thinking about having to get up in front of the class as soon as I get back.” Almost to herself, she trailed off saying, “Maybe I’ll drop the course!”
Realizing that for some students who haven’t had some formal training in speaking such a venture could be traumatic, I suggested, “Go to the instructor, and sincerely put the cards on the table.” By the time the student left my office, no decision or promise of action had been made; but, at least, an alternative had been presented to her to think about.
5. Set realistic goals. Set up realistic goals for study. If a student has hardly been studying at all, it is not realistic for him to announce suddenly: “Tonight I plan to study for six hours.” The chances are that so much sustained effort will be too much for him, and he will only experience another discouraging failure. To succeed, the change in habits must be gradual. If that same student were to study for only two hours on that first evening, he would have a far better chance of achieving his goal.
6. A reminder list. To avoid worrying about the possibility of missing personal appointments, write them down on your daily 3×5 reminder card. If an appointment is several days away, write it on a desk calendar which is ideal for this purpose. Having made a written reminder, you no longer need to clutter your mind with these details.