Usually when I plan to study I’ll say something to myself like: “I have 2 hours to learn about assembly instructions… No Problem! Go!”
Then, inevitably, the 2 hours pass and I’ve learned 30%-50% of what I had intended.
Apparently I still don’t know that I will lose focus and get distracted. Then that leads to getting worried that I haven’t learned it in time, frustration, stress…
Lately I gave up and said Fuck It, if I get distracted then I get distracted. Just build it into the time. So now when I have a study session with dense and difficult material and I feel my mind wandering or needing a break, I don’t fight it. For instance, 3 minutes ago I was studying assembly code to understand base pointers and stack pointers. It was getting foggy and unclear, so I walked around, got some water and let myself play by writing this.
I have been doing this for the past two weeks or so and it’s a significantly better way for me to study. I assumed I would learn more slowly like this, but it really feels like the same pace with much less stress. Instead of beating myself up for getting distracted, trying to force myself to focus and getting distracted anyway, now I just roll with it. Happily, this idea reminded me of Derek’s excellent post about 2 minutes.
I watch my mind begin to get distracted, and if pulling it back to focus seems like it won’t work, I indulge the distraction and follow it for a bit. Then, after 10 or 15 minutes of that, I bring myself back to the work. I have been a meditator in the Shambhala lineage for about 12 years, but somehow this idea of relaxing into my mind during study has only just occurred to me.