“I just can’t focus on my EPPP studies!”
“I’ve been trying to prepare for the EPPP, but every time I start I become distracted.”
Perhaps the above statements describe exactly how you’ve been feeling as you struggle to achieve focus in your studies. If so, you are not alone.
Among average would-be psychologists, the common experience is that when you sit down to focus on your EPPP studies, the last thing that actually occurs is focus. Instead, the mind is constantly bombarded with numerous distractions. By contrast, only a minority of successful students are able to achieve focus.
What is the secret that separates the average student from the successful student? That is a question that TSM researchers have devoted themselves to answering. What they have discovered has ramifications beyond EPPP preparation, involving skills that can be applied in almost every area of life, from office work to the acquisition of new skills.
The good thing is that the 5 secrets that separate merely average students from the successful students, are things we can all learn and apply. Here they are:
- Offload onto paper. The working memory is only able to hold onto about seven things at any one time, plus or minus two. Consequently, if a student has too many things buzzing around her brain at once, her ability to remember what she’s learning is impaired. Successful students protect their executive memory by offloading important thoughts onto paper, thus freeing their executive memory to focus entirely on studying. (For more about the value of offloading onto paper, see our post ‘How to Develop an EPPP Study Schedule (and other advice after a two-time fail).’)
- Turn off distractions. Successful students make sure that all audio, visual and vibrating notifications are turned off on their devices during times of study. If they are studying on the computer, they make sure that tabs are not open for email, Facebook and other social media services. (To learn more about this, see skill #1 in our article ‘Three Skills for Online Learning that no one is Teaching.’)
- Take breaks. Successful students take regular structured breaks from their study. When the brain is tired, it is more susceptible to distractions and to the neurotransmitter depletion effect. (For more about the importance of regular breaks, see our post ‘The Archimedes Principle: Leveraging the Power of Rest.’)
- Have a plan. Successful students achieve focus by having a clear plan for their studies, which includes (a) short-term goals, (b) long-term goals, (c) a study schedule. (For more about the importance of having a plan, see our post ‘Learning from the Habits of Bad Students.’)
- Practice mindfulness. By practicing mindfulness, successful students achieve moment-by-moment awareness of their thoughts and feelings. This helps them to tune out distractions and identify obstacles to success. (For more about applying mindfulness to your studies, watch the video ‘Meng on Mindfulness.’)