The Fit Student

Mitigate Distractions and Stay Focused

Student fitness requires learning at optimal physical and mental performance. Studying requires enormous energy?energy that we can’t afford to deplete by spending time on distractions. Our bodies burn so much energy throughout the day that any redirection of that vitality on something irrelevant or superfluous exhausts our supply. With studying, every ounce of energy we can muster for the tasks at hand remains essential to our success as students.

And have you ever spent the day multitasking in such a frenzy that your ability to concentrate reduces to nil? Have you ever had that sensation that anything you read, or more accurately reread, seems incomprehensible due to the amount of stress and burden you experience?

Well, Peter Bregman in his book 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distractions, and Get the Right Things Done provides savvy tips and tricks for ensuring your study sessions start and finish with a clear mind.

Accomplish Tasks without Struggling
Bregman suggests crafting a list of activities that you are either passionate about or long to try. Once the list finalizes, consider the activities you would normally perform alone and consider how to perform these activities with other people. For me, I love everything from media and public relations to graphic design to reading, often engaging in reading sessions alongside my true love. The togetherness of the activity makes for wonderful hours spent doing what I love in the companionship of a loved one. I also make book covers for people I love, collaborating with them to bring a product to fruition. These moments far exceed my need for belonging than a mere social gathering could possibly offer. The working together for a common goal or the sharing of time in common interests makes life fun and intriguing. Once you decide what your favourite task or bucket list activities consist of, go ahead, try them out with someone other than yourself. Other people?especially sharing with other people?make the world meaningful and worthwhile. Just choose your companions wisely.

Select Five Big Activities that You Wish to Achieve
Bregman says to fill out a table with five major accomplishments you’d like to achieve within the next year. These headings should be general enough for you to fill in related sub-activities under each heading. Your sixth table heading should involve superfluous activities that should take up less than 5% of your time. Once you fill out your chart, ensure that your activities consist mainly of these five key objectives. In doing this, you will produce a chart that guides your choices of activities day by day. The chart focuses your activities on key goals, ensuring your productivity meets your long-term objectives. My five goals consists of writing articles, ebooks, and books; fostering my relationship with my loved one through shared activities and service; spending time daily with God, whether I study God from my Christian identity repository or expand into Hinduism, or Sikhism, or Buddhism, or the Koran, or some other moral delight for curiosity’s sake; creating and publishing media; and learning. Anything that falls outside of this rubric is secondary, filtered into my 5% activity slot. Already, this year I’ve achieved four of my New Year’s Resolutions by slotting out my core activities and adhering to top priorities most days.

Aim So That Failure Seems More Probable
Bregman posits to make our goals so lofty that the probability of success is only 50 to 70%. With such a likelihood of failure, we must learn to embrace failure as part of thinking big. In other words, if you plan big goals, expecting to fail nearly half the time, then you planned wisely. When you do fail, analyze the reason for your failure, and then try again with a new action plan. One time, I looked through job postings during a graduate program, finding a position I felt completely unqualified for during a downturn in the market economy. My true love encouraged me to go ahead and apply, assuring me that I was overqualified, and sure enough, the company eagerly hired me, offering me a wage well above my highest expectations, and I went on to outperform all of my predecessors in the position. Had I listened to my gut, I would have sidestepped the application process in favour of something I felt more consistent with my meagre qualifications, thereby losing out on the spectacular opportunity that came to fruition.

Make Your Work Enjoyable
Bregman fantasizes a number of ways to make work fun. For instance, he suggests collaborating with others on a common goal is the key to enjoyment in the working environment. You could even set up prizes for activities to motivate people, such as an IPod or a Nintendo. I believe that academic book clubs, school newspaper journalism, school debate club participation–and, most ideally, school journal publishing are prime means for collaborating with others on meaningful, academic-related projects. A lot of local organizations willingly donate prizes for recognition. Once, I accumulated rows and rows of prizes for a charity that prior to me had a meagre silent auction. The charity made a killing through me sending out a prize request letter to big companies listed on a single database. So, it is easy to gather prizes. When you decide on group activity that will further your interest, certainly equip the gatherings with prizes for performance. Everyone loves prizes.

There you have it: ways to make you a mentally fit learner. The leaner your body and the thicker your brain, the better results you will produce.

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