What is the one thing that most students lack? “Focus.” Everyone has ideas and goals of the future that they strive for, but what happens when there is a lack of focus to make those “goals a reality”? Well, those goals become dreams, and in most cases, those dreams do not get fulfilled. What I will attempt with this article is to give you some tools that you can use to get some control back from all the distractions that you face in today’s society that keep you from your final destination. I should preface this with the statement that these tools that follow should be used as steppingstones to get you out of your own way in order to start making things happen, but they are not a long-run solution. Once you get in the groove of doing your work and start to see the results, you will find the need for them less and less, with the exception of a few special occasions.
Let’s start with what I consider to be the most useful app, Cold Turkey. Don’t let the name fool you, this app is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. The main purpose of the app is to block your access to certain sites, the sites that get blocked are up to you, whether that be YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or some other site that causes your attention to fade from the work at hand. One great thing about the app is that you can create site exceptions, so let’s say that you need to watch some course or education video on YouTube, but you know that 30 minutes into it, you will just switch to a different channel, with the app you are able to block all YouTube traffic apart from the specific YouTube URLs that you need. The blocking itself can be done in a few different ways. The classic ones include setting a timer, typing some random text, basing it on a time range, or making the block last until the next computer restart. There is also an option for a password, but this is only available with the pro version of the app. Apart from that, the pro version has the feature to block applications as well. This feature can block applications such as gaming apps or other applications that you usually find yourself opening after a while.
Some people find that a great way to focus is by using study techniques. One technique is the Pomodoro technique. Which focuses on periodic studying. As many students are not able to focus for longer periods of time this technique makes it so that they work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 min break. An app that is a great implementation of this technique is the Tomighty app. The app itself is very simple, you launch it, press a button and the timer begins. When the timer goes down to 0 from 25, you hear a sound signaling that you can start to take the break, the break itself can be a long one (15 minutes) or a short one (5 minutes) depending on you.
We have talked about some desktop apps, but what about mobiles? Well based on some of the suggestions I got for this article as well as an enormous number of downloads a very popular app recommendation is Forest. This app is based on the concept that you work towards something. First, you set a timer, then while the time passes a tree grows on your phone screen, and if you leave the app before the time runs out the tree dies. On the other hand, if you manage to endure the preset time then you can plant that tree and eventually grow your virtual forest. This is one of many options, and what I prefer to do when it comes to my mobile is to just turn off the notifications and flip the phone over so the screen faces the desk and just do it. If you feel that that is not enough then just putting your phone in a different room might work.
Given that most of study/work is done at home these days, it is important that the environment we work in is set up for success. Working at a place in your apartment away from the bedroom is advisable so your brain does not get confused about what it is there to do. Another great thing that you can do is to clean the surrounding area so that once you start you don’t stop and look for reasons to slack off. A weird one but one with results from a few of my friends is to keep your shoes on at your desk, don’t ask me why it works but it does. Some people say that it keeps them alert others that it creates an office-like environment. Try it and see what happens.
Personally, I am not the type of person that gets distracted easily but on rare occasions when this does happen, what I found to work the best for me is to just block off some sites and flip my phone over. I will say that as great as these apps and tips are, they are not miracle workers, and if you are not willing to put efforts into getting the job done then no amount of blocking or tree growing will do it for you. What these apps do is just give you a push in the right direction and leave the rest up to you.
The path to your final destination may be long, full of stumbles along the way, but as the saying goes “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and everyone is capable of that. You would be amazed at what you can accomplish in the long run just by putting one foot after the other.
Links where you can find the apps:
Cold Turkey: https://getcoldturkey.com/
Written by Darko Denkovski
International Student Ambassador from Macedonia
Business Administration BSc
University of Pécs, Faculty of Business and Economics