A simple trick to help you stay focused on your PhD work

September 3, 2020

It's hard to stay focused in a world so full of distractions, but there's a simple trick you can use.

Take a sheet of paper. At the top, write down the specific goal or task you want to get done.

Now, any time you feel the urge to do something else, make a note of the time and the temptation. For example;

  • 09:39- tempted to check email

Instead of fighting the urge to check email, we're acknowledging it without getting carried away by it. The act of writing it down also disrupts the automatic behaviour of opening the email, giving you the chance to bring your attention back to the task.

When I do this, I often find that my paper looks something like this...

  • 09:39- tempted to check email
  • 09:40- tempted again
  • 09:40- tempted to search on amazon for something I don't really need...

But then after a minute or two my brain settles down and I can focus for much longer.

Other tools to help

I also use website blocking software to stop me accessing certain sites at certain times. I currently have it set up to block YouTube, Facebook and news websites from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.

You can also combine the technique of listing distractions with the pomodoro technique.

See also

Write, or don't write, but don't do anything else

Just 3 things

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