There’s a lot of power in focus. We remember things better when we’re focused. Truly undivided attention is probably worth 10 times more than partial attention. When you don’t have a lot of time to work out the same problem over and over again, focus can be your best friend.
The word “focus” brings to mind people squinting at books until their heads hurt. Really, staying focused while working or studying makes the job easier. Multitasking creates a lot of mental stress. Isn’t it easier to do one thing than it is to do four things at once? Also, the constant transition from one train of thought to the next makes it very difficult to remember anything that went through your head.
Multitasking saves time when you need to clean up from last night and get ready for class at the same time. It wastes time while your studying. It will often take longer (in addition to being harder) to do four things at once than it will to do them one at a time just because you have to switch between them. Maybe your hands can write while your eyes read (I know mine sometimes can), but your brain is going to be confused.
Taking breaks as a reward for solid effort is a good idea. Breaks relieve stress. But when you don’t realize you’re taking those breaks, you’re just hurting yourself. Also, getting back to work takes extra effort. You have to constantly try to remember what you were thinking when you wrote that last part, or where you were going to go next with that idea.
Focusing isn’t just a problem while working on homework and studying. It’s important to focus in class also. Paying more attention in class and taking decent notes makes it easier to remember the lectures. Active repetition is important for memory. If you are thinking about the lecture as you’re hearing it, and then writing it down the way you best understand it, you’ve already repeated the information twice. That means less studying later on.
Unfortunately, there’s no secret to gaining better focus. There’s no mantra that will free you of the urge for pleasant distraction. The only way to become more focused is to practice giving tasks your full attention. You don’t have to save your focus for really big things, either. Washing the dishes and checking your email are great times to try to avoid distractions. With practice, focusing gets easier. Then life gets a little easier too.