Defined as “the ability to concentrate without distraction on a demanding task”, deep focus is a state every student hopes to achieve at some point in their academic career. Given the number of assignments, projects and lessons you’ll have to balance, the ability to completely concentrate on your tasks is instrumental to doing well in your studies.
Still, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to achieve this state of mind, and there’s a simple reason behind this: our genetics are programmed to pay attention to our surroundings.
Software developer Mihai Sandu explains this in simple terms: “10,000 years ago, it was critical to pay attention to your environment. A sound from the bushes could mean that a panther was stalking you. Being absorbed by your work could have gotten you killed.”
Given the number of distractions that surround us, however — message notifications, music playing, open working spaces — it’s no wonder that achieving deep focus is an extremely challenging feat.
All the same, this doesn’t mean it isn’t possible — it just might take a little more effort on your part. Twitter user Ben Meer is one of many individuals who have highlighted ways in which you can achieve deep focus and better perform on your work.
How to activate your 5 senses for deep focus (evidence-based):
— Ben Meer (@SystemSunday) August 23, 2022
Meer writes about engaging your five senses — sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste — for bouts of concentration. This can help you maximise your chances to achieve deep focus. Read on to find out how:
5 ways to prime your senses for deep focus
To focus your vision, the very first thing you should do is put your phone away. This is because it can act as a visual trigger, especially when notifications pop up on your screen. In short, you have to be able to focus on your work without interruptions.
Outside of this, Meer recommends that you use smart bulbs like LIFX to increase your blue light intake. Studies show that blue light helps to increase your alertness, as it is commonly abundant in daylight. When you need to wind down, be sure to decrease your blue light smart bulb.
Another tip? Meer says you should design your “laptop periphery” with artwork that motivates you to keep working.
Of course, you should first make sure to turn off any and all notification sounds and desktop pings. Meer says you can take this one step further by blocking out external noise with noise-cancelling headphones.
What should you listen to? Science says that looped playlists that are designed for concentration are best for these moments. What do these look like? Usually, you should aim for songs that have no vocals, no strong melodies, a “dark” spectrum, dense texture, and a steady pulse, among others.
In this, Meer suggests looking at Hans Zimmer or Twitter account @focusatwill.
It’s important to prepare your surroundings for optimal study. In this, you should set a cool room temperature to stay productive and engaged.
This is not only to keep you comfortable, but has been proven by science, too. A study found that temperature affected the test results of three groups of students. Those in the warmest room (around 27 degrees Celsius) scored the poorest, while those in the coolest (16 degrees Celsius) performed only slightly better. Those in the control room with a temperature of 21-22 degrees Celsius, however, scored the highest.
Outside of this, Meer also recommends you add semblances of nature indoors, such as plants and wood-grain desks.
It’s no secret that certain smells can invoke specific moods or reactions in a person. This applies for when you need to study, as well.
Here, you should use an aromatherapy diffuser with essential oils to help stimulate attention. Certain oils, such as peppermint and lemon, are proven to be focus-boosting.
Feeling hungry can be a huge source of distraction — which is why it’s important to make sure you’re well-fed throughout the duration of your study period. This is even more crucial if you are planning to study for long periods at a time.
Make sure to stock your environment with healthy snacks and drinks that can keep you energised. If you’ll be studying during meal times, be sure to plan your meals in advance so that you wouldn’t have to leave your desk to prepare food for yourself.