Issues of Attention

I’m a morning person; that has always been the case. 

Even now, I can vividly recall the many mornings throughout middle school and high school in which I scrambled to complete any leftover homework assignments or quizlet studies. 

Throughout the years, I have become more and more cognizant of the pattern that this behavior has created, primarily in regards to my attention throughout the day. This pattern manifested in a similar way throughout high school—wake up, go to school, grind out work from zero period to third period then flame out after lunch. 

Unfortunately, I had to figure out the hard way that this strategy wouldn’t translate successfully to college. 

With fewer classes per day and plenty of free time in the morning, you would think my strategy would work just fine but the reality was far different. Especially on days with classes at 2:00 pm or later, I would find it nearly impossible to fully concentrate on the classwork, which was particularly bad because my classes contained a lot of in-class work. 

My first reaction to this was to save my work until after class. Although this was immensely helpful for my participation and work quality in class, I found it much more difficult to focus on the subsequent homework once class was over and hence did not see much change in terms of grades.

How My Understanding Changed

I realized pretty quickly that this new approach was flawed in a way similar to the first one and that I needed a new angle from which to approach the issue. 

The source of this new approach was an amazing article titled The Seven Laws of Attention. This article, written by Marc Green, contained a lot of helpful information regarding attention and the nature of how it is used and split, but more importantly for me, how it should be treated as a limited resource. 

Although there is a lot of mystery as to what specific neural networks and modulators/transmitters are directly responsible for attention and changes in it, we do have a pretty solid understanding as to what results in it being harder to focus upon and do well on certain tasks. 

As outlined in the article, our minds automatically filter out certain stimuli that are not being directly processed or focused on, due to our propensity for selective attention. This system faces issues when we are presented with a large amount of important stimuli, such as schoolwork from different classes, as in my case. 

Particular Application

The way I incorporated this learning was really just better time management.

Looking back, I realized how overstimulating my previous method of studying had been and how that must have been the biggest contributing factor to my quick burnouts. 

In order to prevent this from recurring, there were a few steps I made sure to implement.

1. Set a specific amount of time to take between studies of different subjects.

2. Have a way to clear your mind or reset your thinking between these sessions.

3. Set goals as to how much time for studying/work you would like to spend on each subject and plan for that time beforehand.

These strategies all had a similar end goal of making sure each study session had the least amount of unnecessary thinking required, and that a more solid goal for each session was set. 

Hopefully for anyone reading this, these methods will help the efficiency of your studies going forwards and the cluttering of your thoughts will be minimized.

Thank you for reading.

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