How to Stay Focused While Studying | Medical School Secrets

This video is kindly sponsored by The Great
Courses Plus There don’t seem to be enough hours in a
day. While time management and efficiency are core
components in getting more done with less time, learning how to sustain intense focus
for prolonged periods is equally important. If you ever have difficulty staying focused
to study or do work, I’ve got the remedy for you. Dr. Jubbal, While modern technologies like smartphones
and computers can be used for great good, they’ve also taken a tremendous toll on
our ability to focus. And as Cal Newport describes, Time x Intensity
=Quality of Work Produced. We all are limited by the same 24 hours in a day. To get a leg up, then, one must work on the
intensity piece of the equation, and to do that we must cure your inability to stay focused
for prolonged periods. How to battle this fragmentation of attention
is a common concern I help students overcome during our sessions together. I have distilled what is most beneficial to
students into 7 steps to reclaim your focus. The first step is admitting you have a problem. It’s ok, we all do. But the next step is applying the Pareto Principle,
also known as the 80/20 Rule, to the factors that are most distracting in your life and
detrimental to your ability to focus. We want to find the 20% of elements in your
life that are leading to 80% of the distractions. If you’re anything like me, chances are
your smartphone is one of the biggest culprits. The constant notifications, updates from social
media, and checking emails for those small dopamine snacks are all too alluring. As important as self-discipline is, it’s
important to craft the systems in place that reduce temptation and the energy required
to resist it. We’ll get back to that shortly. Other common sources of distraction include
Netflix, or the TV in general, rambunctious roommates, or video games. After watching this video, take 5 minutes
to sit with a journal and jot down anything that you would consider a distraction from
you getting work done. You should be able to come up with a list
of at least 20 items. Rate each factor from 1 to 10 in terms of
how powerful that distraction is. We’ll be applying the following steps to
this list. From your list of 20, take the top 5. We’ll be focusing our energy there in systematically
reducing temptation and the risk of distraction. Chances are your smartphone and social media
is high on the list. For this reason, I’ve disabled notifications
on my phone except for phone calls and text messages. I don’t have badges anywhere on my phone. My wallpaper is straight black and boring. I’ve done these and several other tweaks
to reduce the temptation of using my phone. If you want me to create a comprehensive video
on how to set up your smartphone for use as a tool, rather than as a distraction, let me
know with a thumbs up on this video and a comment down below. When I need to get prolonged focused work
done, like writing the script for this video, I work on my laptop or iPad. If I’m on my laptop, I’ll go into fullscreen mode using Bear, my writing app of choice, and enable Do Not Disturb mode to block notifications. The iPad is similar, as I’ve disabled notifications
and apps run full screen by default. If you need additional help in maintaining
focus and not getting off track, there are apps that block other websites and forcibly
limit your ability to waste time. My personal favorite is Focus, but other apps
like SelfControl or Freedom are other solid options. Links down in the description below. But let’s say you’re struggling with Netflix
or those rambunctious roommates. In that case, environmental interventions
may be more effective. The optimal work or study environment will differ from person to person. Some people enjoy the background noise of
a busy coffee shop, others prefer the library, and some would rather stay at home with their
dual 4K monitor standing desk setup, like me. It’s been noted that extroverts tend to
enjoy busy areas to study, whereas introverts prefer silence and solitude. That isn’t a hard rule, and there are plenty
of exceptions, so be sure to experiment for yourself. Regardless of what level of noise and activity
you prefer, there are three shared fundamentals that a good study environment should have. First, Limited Distractions.
Situate yourself in a position such that in your immediate periphery, there are few, if
any, distractions. Don’t sit right in front of a TV. Don’t sit in front of a door that has people
walking in and out constantly. Don’t have your phone on the table in front
of you or even in your pocket. Put it in your bag or in another room. I was shocked how effective this simple trick was in getting
me to stop checking my phone. Number two, it should be Conducive to Extended Periods of Work. To get meaningful work done, you’ll need a certain amount of time. Make sure you can sit there for long enough
without running into issues of the shop closing or being kicked out. This also means having outlets to keep your
laptop charged. You should have a flat and clean desk to work
on. Trust me, despite the name laptop, you won’t
want to work from your lap for extended periods. And lastly, make sure you are comfortable. For some people that means supportive chairs,
for others stools, and some even prefer standing, like yours truly. Number three, People Should Respect That You’re Working.
It’s critical that you limit distractions, including those from others. If you find yourself being interrupted frequently
by friends at a certain location, it’s likely not a good environment to study. You can ask them politely to let you work,
but this is a point of friction and a temptation you have to resist, rather than allowing the
environment and system facilitate the outcome you want. Which brings us to the next point, working alone. I’ve spoken about the importance of small
groups in discussing the Feynman Technique. When you do work in groups, groups should
be kept small, no more than 1 or 2 other people. But equally important, you should keep group study sessions to a minimum. Use group study when you need to work through difficult concepts or problems together. Beyond those instances, solo work is a better
fit for the majority of students, as the temptation for conversing with your friends is eliminated. The Pomodoro Technique is my favorite productivity hack for three reasons. Almost every student I have recommended this
to has seen drastic improvements in their effectiveness while studying. First, it Acutely Forces Focus.
When using the Pomodoro Technique, you choose 1 task for 25 minutes and focus on that task alone. Having these parameters is insanely effective
at maintaining focus in the overwhelming majority of students that I tutor. Number two, Pacing for Extended Work.
In the traditional Pomodoro Technique, you work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break,
and repeat for 4 cycles, after which you take a longer 20 minute break. This is a great pace to marathon study for
an entire day while reducing the risk of burning out. Number three, it Builds Your Focus “Muscle”.
We tend to get better at the things we practice. After regularly using the Pomodoro Technique
for a weeks, you should see improvement in your ability to maintain sustained focus. As your focus “muscle” grows, experiment
with extending the cycles. From 25 minutes, increase to 35 or even 40. I personally either alternated between the 25 min on, 5 min
break, or 50 minutes on, and 10 min off. Experiment to find intervals that work best
for you. After extended use of the Pomodoro Technique, you may also notice that getting into the
groove of studying is also becoming easier. While your ability to focus has certainly
developed, there’s also an element of classical conditioning, also known as Pavlovian conditioning. By having a routine you repeat, such as setting
a 25 minute timer, putting on your headphones, grabbing your notebook, and sitting at your
desk, you’re training your subconscious to more quickly get into “work mode”. Take this a step further and create a study
playlist for yourself. As we’ve gone over in a previous video,
not all music is created equal when studying or getting work done. By repeatedly listening to the same songs
exclusively for studying, I find myself snapping into work mode as soon as I hear HR 8938 by
deadmau5. You can find my own personal study playlist
in the description, and be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you want occasional study
music recommendations. When we’re crunched for time, our healthy habits are the first that we compromise on. No more exercise, our diet goes to garbage,
and we stop meditating. The truth is, no matter how hard you want
to work and study for that upcoming final that you procrastinated for, your ability
to study is not limitless. You can’t study for 24 hours straight. Breaks are necessary, and how you use those
breaks is just as important as taking them in the first place. So rather than turning to social media or TV,
focus on delayed-benefit activities. These delayed benefit activities include those healthy habits that you
are willing to give up when you’re stressed. But understand that these healthy habits have
incredibly powerful compounding effect benefits. While you may think you’re too busy to exercise
today, there’s actually several reasons you should. First, you cannot study nonstop all day, and
you need to take a break. Second, Parkinson’s law states that time
expands to fill the time allotted to it, meaning if you provide yourself healthy time constraints,
you’ll actually get more work done. And third, regular exercise will improve your
sleep, your ability to concentrate, and your mood. And better sleep means your memory consolidation
is more effective, meaning what you studied is more likely to stick. And better concentration means more effective
use of your study sessions. And a better mood is hard to argue with. Now you’re the sum of your habits, and prioritizing
these healthy habits, that we all know we should do, but are too willing to give up,
can lead to drastic beneficial effects over months and years. One of the key compounding habits I practice
is spending my spare time wisely. That means rather than jumping to social media,
I use my down time to learn something interesting and useful, like something from The Great
Courses Plus. The Great Courses Plus is a subscription on-demand
video learning service with top-quality lectures and courses from excellent professors at top
universities and experts from places like National Geographic, The Smithsonian, and
the Culinary Institute of America. You get unlimited access to a huge library
of over 11,000 video lectures from science, to math, to history, to how to cook, or even
how to study more effectively. I’ve personally been using the Masters of
Mindfulness course. As I’ve mentioned before, mindfulness and
meditation practice have multiple benefits that students should take advantage of, and
this course provides another avenue to further develop and strengthen this practice. The Great Courses Plus is offering a free
trial to viewers of Med School Insiders. Simply visit
to sign up. Click on the link in the description below
to start your free trial today. Alright, thank you all so much for watching. If you guys enjoyed this video you’re definitely going to enjoy my other studying and productivity and efficiency related videos. I’ve created a playlist of all these videos, so click on that middle button on the screen or visit the link in the description below. Much love to you all, and I will see you guys in that next one.


  1. Random questions about the topic , start feeling bore , stress about the things haven't done yet ,talk to myself these are the major things that distracts me in focusing the studies , Right now i am doing my breakfast watching your video its normal and i am enjoying it but as soon as is sit to study e.g math lack of clear concepts take of the road and i end up hours

  2. Bold of you to assume that I have workout daily habbit….

    Coz you're right my man. Nice video definite gonna give pomodore technique a shot

  3. Can anyone help me nowadays whenever i start studing i feel extremely tired and sleepy and i can focus on studies

  4. My problem is not really external
    distractions. I get distracted by myself more than anything or anyone else. I think about really irrelevant things when I have to focus on for example math lesson. It really sucks because those thoughts don't allow me to stay focused for a long time I can focus like 5 minutes but then a thought, not even related to what I am doing just appears in my mind and completely distracts me. It happens to me whenever I walk, run, cook, watch videos, follow the lesson (at least try to), even when listening to music. I really want to stop but I just can't. I have tried to use music since I know some people who can focus with it but it was even worse, it even encouraged those thoughts to come faster. I am in my eighth grade this year and I am really afraid I will mess up because of this. I really need help. Also I have some thoughts that come back very often and I wonder if it is because I always remember the bad events from the past. I am very closed off and also compare myself to people. Please help me, please. I know this is a bit too long but it is my only way to express what I am afraid to tell openly.

  5. Can you please make a video about your undergrad years. I would like to know more about your major in Neuroscience as that's my major as well. Thanks for all your awesome videos!

  6. It's all about reducing distractions, and it is hard to cut all the endless possibilties of what you could do with you time. Sometimes, I want to do too many things at once. Surprisingly, most of the time then I don't get anything done at all. Good Reminder, that I need to focus more!

  7. Hello Dr. Jubbal,

    Great content! Could you potentially make a video discussing effective ways to study for chemistry and rather or not Anki can be utilized for that subject? If so, how?

  8. this made me feel better because I don't use my phone and I don't watch television and I don't have social media

  9. i watch house m.d. during breaks since i can diagnose people like I'm part of house's team and it motivates me at the same time b/c house makes me feel dumb after an episode

  10. Hi! Can you also make a video focusing on learning how to prioritize Delayed-Benefit activities? Iโ€™ve always wanted to be at a more stable weight/have healthier coping mechanisms (especially because I stress eat a lot) but ever since I entered med school, i have felt like everythingโ€™s so overwhelming and I need to sacrifice sleep, exercise and eating healthy to compensate for the stress. After watching this vid, it made me realize that it shouldnโ€™t have to be that way and that studying efficiently + alotting time for exercise and choosing to be healthier can be done. Thank you, Doc!

  11. My mind keeps me distracted, thinking about what I should do, how much I'm procrastinating and so I never do anything. How to deal with this?

  12. The easiest way to concentrate on something is actually important enough to you that you want to work towards at ๐Ÿค 

  13. Hey, when is the vid coming, on how to use ur phone as a tool. I am in a real need for that. Thank you for your amazing videos you have created and that are to come. Xoxo

  14. I used Pomodoro technique for the first time, and to tell you, I got all my assignments done in just one afternoon! Thank you so much for existing.

  15. I procrastinated 3 weeks until I started this video and even then before I actually clicked the Play-Button, I was watching several videos beforehand and listening to new music.

    My thesis: Those, who most urgently have to watch this video will maybe never watch it ๐Ÿ˜€

  16. All those apps to focus needs to be purchased which I can't. Can you recommend me some free good focusing apps ? Also There are times where I need to search about studies & take notes from phone. What to do at that time then?

  17. OKAY! you are right on your own way but about tool as per phone is depend how much you should use it due your satisfaction
    If you continuesly useing than it is your fault

  18. I study for 2 minutes and reward myself with a 6 hour netflix session . I try to study but i just CAN'T. Does anyone else have this problem? I sit down and open my books and then the second i start reading i lose patience and just procrastinate. I LITERALLY START MY HW AT 3AM! THEN I forget i have tests. like literally the other day, i had a history and arabic test. I DIDNT STUDY. and guess what? I got a 65% on my arabic test (actually the highest grade was a 66 so my whole class failed) but i cant afford to fail this year. If i fail 8th grade i cant go to high school (or so says my principal). I dont know how to manage my time, keep on track, and be organized

  19. I study for 2 minutes and reward myself with a 6 hour netflix session . I try to study but i just CAN'T. Does anyone else have this problem? I sit down and open my books and then the second i start reading i lose patience and just procrastinate. I LITERALLY START MY HW AT 3AM! THEN I forget i have tests. like literally the other day, i had a history and arabic test. I DIDNT STUDY. and guess what? I got a 65% on my arabic test (actually the highest grade was a 66 so my whole class failed) but i cant afford to fail this year. If i fail 8th grade i cant go to high school (or so says my principal). I dont know how to manage my time, keep on track, and be organized

  20. I'm always distracted by playing video games watching netflix
    I dont think I'm gonna pass my final
    When I'm bored my brain starts thinking about events and new games coming out

  21. My mind just went out else where at the very moment the video started, and i didn't understand anything in the vid the whole time. I really can't focus on anything while on the internet fml

  22. Watching a video about how to not get distracted, when Iโ€™m supposed to be studying about enzymes xD but in all seriousness, I love how passionate he is about this channel. I mean come on, he put his study playlist in the description, like wow

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