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YOUNG PEOPLE ASK

How Can I Learn to Focus?

 Why can’t I focus?

“I don’t read books like I used to. I don’t even like to read long paragraphs anymore.”—Elaine.

“I will speed up a video if I feel that it isn’t moving quickly enough.”—Miranda.

“When I’m focused on something important and my phone goes off, all I can think about is, ‘Who’s texting me?’”—Jane.

Can technology make it hard to focus? Some say yes. “The more we use the Web, the more we train our brain to be distracted—to process information very quickly and very efficiently but without sustained attention,” writes author and management consultant Nicholas Carr. *

Consider three settings where technology might interfere with your concentration.

  • When talking. “Even during a face-to-face conversation,” observes a young woman named Maria, “people are texting or playing games or checking social media on their phone—not giving their full attention to the person they are talking to.”

  • When in class. “The majority of students say they use their electronic devices during class to text, browse, or consume media,” says the book Digital Kids, and they are using these devices “for non-educational activities.”

  • When studying. “The biggest thing for me is not looking at my phone every time it buzzes,” says 22-year-old Chris. If you are a school student, an hour of homework can turn into three hours or more if you’re distracted by your devices.

The bottom line: You’ll find it difficult to focus if you let technology distract and control you.

An unfocused mind is like a wild horse—it controls you

 How to improve focus

  • When conversing. The Bible says: “Look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) Show consideration by listening attentively. Maintain eye contact, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by your devices.

    “When in a conversation, resist the urge to check your phone. Show respect to the person you are talking with by giving him or her your full attention.”—Thomas.

    TIP: When in conversation, consider keeping your phone out of sight. Researchers say that the mere presence of a phone can alter your focus, as it implies that an interruption is imminent.

  • When in class. The Bible says: “Pay attention to how you listen.” (Luke 8:18) With that principle in mind, if your school allows Internet access in the classroom, don’t check messages, play games, or chat online when you should be focused on learning.

    “Try to be more attentive in class. Take notes. If possible, sit near the front of the classroom so as to avoid distractions.”—Karen.

    TIP: Take notes by hand rather than on a computer. Research indicates that you’ll be less distracted and better able to remember what you learned.

  • When studying. The Bible says: “Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5) That involves deeper thinking than breezing through material just to pass a test.

    “When I study, I put my tablet on airplane mode and just focus on what I’m doing. I don’t look at notifications. If I think of something I need to remember, I write it down.”—Chris.

    TIP: Make sure your study environment allows you to focus. Keep it clean and uncluttered.

^ par. 4 From the book The Shallows​—⁠What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.