Simple mental strategies can defend against distractions and refine your focus.  4

from book

From constant email notifications on your phone to the temptation to binge the latest Netflix series, modern life is full of distractions. But you don’t have to let these distractions stop you from reaching your ultralearning goals! There are some simple techniques you can use to overcome the challenges of finding your focus. The first challenge to finding your focus? Getting focused in the first place. Trick yourself into getting started by setting a timer for, say, three minutes. Promise yourself that you can stop working when the timer goes off. But at the end of three minutes, you might have found the momentum you need to keep working.  You can build on this strategy with the pomodoro technique: set a timer for 20 minutes and work without stopping during this time. When the timer goes off, take a five-minute break, then get back to work for another 20 minutes. Once you’ve found your focus, the challenge becomes sustaining it. External interruptions can evaporate your concentration. Control your work environment by eliminating them. Put your phone on airplane mode and switch off your Wi-Fi.  The challenges don’t stop when you’ve found your focus, either. Once you’ve started your task, it’s easy to slip into ‘autopilot’ mode. You might feel you’re getting a lot done, but if you’re not fully engaged with your task, you’re less likely to retain new material. Combat autopilot with interleaving: deliberately alternate between materials and modes of learning. Ideally, interleave by tackling your project in short, regularly-spaced sessions. If you have ten hours in your week to devote to Russian, aim for five two-hour sessions rather than one ten-hour session. Focus on a different aspect or skill set, like vocabulary or grammar, in each session. Finally, make the most of your study sessions by paying attention to your mental arousal, or your level of energy and alertness. High arousal generates intense, yet narrow, focus – perfect for repetitive tasks, like practicing musical scales. Low arousal generates a more relaxed and wide-ranging type of focus, best suited to lateral thinking and forming connections, which are necessary for creative tasks such as music composition. Match your arousal level to your task – perform simple tasks when your focus is more aroused and complex tasks when it’s less aroused – for optimal ultralearning results. Honing your focus will ensure you have the mental stamina to complete your ultralearning challenge. In the next readim, we’ll look at how to tackle that challenge as efficiently as possible.