Concentrate, but How?


Hi everyone,

I want to talk about study/work habits today because I just came out of a heavy study period as of yesterday and I noticed certain things that changed.

We all strive for efficiency at work. The goal is to maximize the outcome and minimize the effort without cutting down on the results. If we can achieve the same result with less effort, why make more? We can use that saved energy for something else.

That is the ideal but not always the real. Many times, we make much more effort than we should and still not get the intended outcome. There are many reasons for this. I will talk about two and mention how I am at a better place with respect to those.

The first one is that we are occupied with many things at the same time, which makes it harder to concentrate on the immediate work. I used to think about how my day was likely to go, what would person X say about a given situation etc. when I was also trying to study. Thus, we distract ourselves and this is the opposite of what we are trying to do. Well, I was just like that too. I always had too many things on my mind. How did I make it better? By calming my mind via meditation. It really did help because with meditation, I realized that it was ok for my mind to be silent at times. Initially, this silence happened only during meditation but then it extended to other aspect of my life including my study times. Now, when I am studying, my mind is much less noisy. There are not many thoughts other than what I am studying and this helps my concentration.

The second reason is that we force ourselves to work/study even when our body and mind reject it. Our mind and body are powerful and persistent. They go a long way. But they have limits. They might be able to put up with a long period of study or work but at times they just can’t. I realized that I was still forcing myself to study even at those times and this was making it difficult for my mind to concentrate. It just did not want to. So, I used to spend half of my study time to trying to convince my mind to study. But then I started realizing that I was just wasting my energy by doing this and started adapting to my mind’s needs. I am still working on this, as I still tend to force myself into work. But this change started helping me concentrate better. That is because if the mind does not want to study/work, it means it is tired. When it gets some rest, it becomes much more energetic and does a better job at concentrating.

With these little changes, I went from being a person who would sit in front of the computer all day, with most of this time spent on random stuff, to a person who studies for a portion of the day but in a much more concentrated way. I still fall back on my old habits but in general, I think I made some progress.

Now, let’s talk about you. Can you concentrate easily? If not, are you trying to solve the issue? If so, how? If you can, how do you do it? What are your tricks?



39 thoughts on “Concentrate, but How?

    1. I know someone who turned out to be a ranked scholarship student, has the same practice, but I still wonder how it works instead of splitting concentration into music and studies.

      1. I found the music drowned out background noise allowing me to better concentrate.

      2. Interesting, because I think it is the background noise that keeps me concentrated. Total silence is more distracting to me for some reason.

  1. I work much, much better in the morning so I try and get the hard stuff then. Easier stuff and stuff that doesn’t require too much thinking like housework can wait.
    I also find if I am stuck on something, if I just leave it and have a rest or do something less difficult, the next time I look at it the answer is staring at me!

  2. (1) Perfection. To achieve this objective, the mind automatically focusses on the concerned subject alone.
    (2) If physically tired, one may still concentrate with mental optimism, but something in the thought process while comprehending the subject will be missing. A fresh brain can focus better.

  3. Well… Yeah. I have had difficulty in concentrating as well. And it’s the same thing as yours… Many thoughts clouding my subconscious at once.

    What do I do?… Try giving it a shot for a while. Bcz often as it turns out that gradually my mind starts taking an interest in work. And when it does, I usually don’t break pace. If that doesn’t help and I have a dead line, then I go for a snack or a small distraction. Like checking out Insta or something. And if I am not shy of time then… I chill for a longer time😅 But that often gets me carried away..

  4. I use the Pomodoro technique (tuner set for 25 minutes then break for 5 minutes). You only commit to that short window and you know the noise can return after that. I joined a virtual co-working group too – so you sit there online, connected to other people who are doing what you’re doing. You work for the 25 minutes in silence and then come together to chat for 5 minutes afterwards. We normally do 3-4 rounds. It’s a really great way to keep focused and get a lot done in a short time.
    The other thing I did when I was studying is that I wrote myself some questions and the. As tabpit finding the answers so it added an element of genuine curiosity to my study practice.
    (Though it’s still rarely fun! 😄)

  5. I need quiet to study/concentrate. Noises from outside, other conversations, etc – they make it really difficult for me to process and retain information. Noise cancelling headphones to the rescue! My husband is 100% the other way, he functions best when he’s got ambient sound.
    When it comes to problem solving, taking a break, making dinner, checking in on a friend for a short chat – those all help. Most of the time, that “Ah ha, if I come at the problem from THIS side” moment pops up. I’m also really not shy about asking for help.

    1. I work better in environments where there is some continuous but low noise going on, like a study cafe. Studying in an office, nope to that for me. I agree that taking a break is magical.

  6. I have a clear to-do list. I am sure that our brain is a serial computer and isn’t made for multitasking. With a to-do list I have always one thing at a time.

    Another trick is always “eating the biggest frog”=doing the most annoying and unpleasant task first in the morning.

  7. When I first started blogging for Pointless Overthinking, I wrote two blogs on multitasking and how detrimental it is to our ability to concentrate and focus. (I find it interesting that lapka lapkova has also commented about the dangers of multitasking.) Those blogs were these:
    So, yes, multitasking will certain diminish both our short-term and long-term abilities to concentrate.
    As I’ve gotten older, I find that we have to listen very carefully to what our intuitive inner selves are telling us. Sometimes, we similar need to “waste time” or do something other than work. When our bodies and minds rebel against some activity that requires concentration, we have to pay attention to those rebellious feelings.
    Also, in many parts of the West, we have this idea that it is important to work hard. One way to foster concentration is to work smarter, not harder.

  8. I barely can concentrate because my mind is always busy, thinking, dreaming, mostly dreaming! So to focus I need to be forced to, like having a deadline and being afraid to fail, then I focus, otherwise I’m distracted! I work better under pressure because I don’t have time to think and get drifted away in thoughts…Sometimes I prefer hearing noise in the background because like this I focus instead of dreaming 🙂 I never tried meditation and don’t know if I will ever do it, I feel that sitting silent for some time is nearly impossible unless I create the right atmosphere and place and everything
    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. It is the opposite for me. I generally cannot function with deadlines. I feel like I lose my creativity if that happens. But I know friends who are just like you. I also had concentration problems for the same reasons as you. Meditation helped me greatly. But meditation requires a lot of change in one’s system. Thanks for the comment!

      1. Yes each person functions differently that’s for sure 🙂
        Meditation as you said requires lot of change in one’s system and guess I’m not ready
        My pleasure 🙂

  9. HI

    This is very interesting subject and it is one that people who give advice about it need to practice what they preach!

    I read from many books that to concentrate and to focus means to say no. You cannot hold in your mind two or too many competing and conflicting ideas and function normally. One needs to ditch tasks in order to do just one. Equally the idea of multitasking is myth as one cannot produce quality work by multitasking. This is because to produce quality work you need to build good thoughts based on the project you are working on. However, by switching constantly you compromise gathering the perfect thought for one project.

    Another point when we can no longer concentrate, it is better to do exercise to the point of making your body tired. When the body is tired, the mind is at rest position. And it is during this time that our mind can analyse, plan, absorbe information and concentrate better.

    In nutshell, say no to many things to concentrate on onething and exercise often to calm your mind.

    Thank you for reading


    1. These are really interesting points! Especially the one about workout. I did not know that! We humans are not programmed to multi-task, really. So, the first point is very valid as well! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Whoever think otherwise and still think that multitasking is not myth ask them to brush their teeth, ask them to comb their hair, ask them have a shower, and ask them to eat their breakfast all at the same time.

    They will say it is impossible, if they have a sound mind.

    We do our best when we do one task at a time.

    Multitasking is corporate world thinking like many other things e.g. be competitive or show competitive spirit.

    Showing competitive spirit in everything we do, psychologically means having to low self-esteem under a mask.

    When we are under competitive spirit mood, we are doing things for others and not for ourselves. This means that we are extrinsically motivated and our efforts are driven by external factors like praises, rewards etc. However our effort stopes when we do not receive praises, not given the attention or reward etc.

    The real competition, however, is one that is intrinsically motivated which does not depend on outside factors. Unlike competitive spirit, the real competition happens when we compete against ourself e.g. doing better than our performance of yesterday, instead of compering ourself against other people or doing things for others.


    1. Very well-said! I think our ‘achievements’ are measured by quantity. so we want to accomplish many things at the same time. But this is not in line with human nature. Thanks for this contribution.

  11. Thank you for two wise pieces of advice. It reminds me of when I studied for my PhD and at the same time was a single parent. Each day I had to leave to pick up my son at the daycare centre at 3 pm, while my fellow students often stayed until late at night, hacking away at their dissertations to be. Giving my full attention to my son in the afternoon provided me with a complete daily break from the dissertation work, which in function, I believe, was similar to that of meditation. After a few years, while my fellow students still every morning bragged about how many hours they had put down the day before, I graduated.

    1. I also notice that people with some family members that they interact regularly usually have better times during PhD than people who are alone. By better, I mean being productive and finishing things earlier. Contrary to how it looks, having people to spend time with is actually a good thing.

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