Dear Uncle [4] – How should I develop focus?

October is a remarkable month for us – It is our 20th anniversary of coming to America. Read about it here.

Continuing on the series of fictional letters between an Uncle and his beloved relative.

Dear Uncle,

Thank you for all your advice so far. I have to say I am so much better off mentally after our correspondences than I was just a month before. I have been able to gain a better perspective of who I am and know what I should do. While I am not totally decided, I think I am gaining more clarity in this regard. I wanted to ask you about one thing – we keep hearing advise from teachers, parents, elders and all that one has to focus. I have a good understanding of what focus mean. In my own words, it means staying bent on getting the job done. I have to admit, I haven’t been able to focus well in the past few years. This has shown definitely in my current state of who I am more than where I am. What are your experiences with developing focus and how did you go about developing this skill?

Love, Vishya.

Dear Vishya,

stece-jobs-focus-1024x675That is an excellent question and I am glad you asked that now. It is better late than never – haven’t you heard the saying? You are exactly right in your definition done ‘staying bent of getting the job done’. You know it is hard to keep on bending down to do something. That is why there are desks at a more suitable height. But think of the poor old farmers from decades ago and even many these days in the under-developed world. They have to bend down a lot of time during the day to sow the seed. That is really hard work! I can’t keep being down in that position for more than 10 minutes and these poor chaps do it for hours in a day. But they have a purpose and that is to sow the seeds. They know once the seeds are sown, they will see the results. And that sums it all – with focus you can get better results. Now-a-days, you might think you have a lot of distractions with the all day TV, video games, malls, social media and more friends. But in our days, it wasn’t easy either. We had TV just popping up and that was enough to get one hooked to it. After all it was something very different and one could watch free movies. Wow! Going back to those days, it surprises me that it was not easy to see movies. It had to be a weekend and we needed to gather money first of all. Well, one could get distracted with reading comics or some romantic novels. There was the free public library and some private ones with better comics. Then there was cricket and matches. Come one of those Rajyotsava or Ganesha festival days, and there used to be celebrations every day and free dramas and movies to see. Added to these, there were always distractions from the opposite sex. In my case, I am talking about all the chatter that used to go on about girls and how one friend talked to a girl and another was going to do the same. All these are and were distractions. Just taking a walk after school to 4th block was a distraction one could get into. When I was studying for my PU II year which was a crucial year to get into Engineering or Medical, these were my distractions. I chose to ignore them all. One thing that helped me was learning from some ¬†friends who were focused on their studies. We would never see them at a game or at a casual talk after a class. We would hear they were at the library reading up on Math or some subject. That was a great clue to me what I should be doing. Thus I spent all my time after college in preparing for that crucial exam. If someone at home was watching TV, I would request that they turn the volume down and close the door to the family room (hall) from where I used to sit and read. I would come back home from college and take a nap and get up around 5 PM. Then I would study till 7:30 and have dinner with family. Again from 9 onwards it would be studying till all my homework and preparation was done. We would study Math and the other key subjects on our own without waiting for the teachers to start on the chapters. There were subjects which had good teachers and that was a big plus. Their class work and assignments got us pretty up-to-speed with what we needed to do. But those subjects that had problems – I am talking Physics, Chemistry and Math – all were known to get problems in tests from unknown sources and thus we would work on problems from parallel text books ourselves. This evening study would go on many times past midnight and sometimes I would go to bed after 2:30 AM only to get up at 5 AM to read with a fresh mind again. I have seen many students do the same these days, but the key difference is that they are constantly distracted from text messages or Facebook chats, etc. The key thing is to eliminate all these distractions until your job is done, whatever the job is. You have to identify what is distracting you and what isn’t adding value towards achieving your goals and eliminate them. They could be some friends themselves. If you aren’t being helped in reaching your goals, these ‘friends’ can wait to get your time. It is more important to be with those who motivate you than distract you. Here is where we get the big question – who is a good friend? That is where you have to decide using your judgement because you know them best. It is a very hard decision as you have to do this deftly without hurting feelings. Talking of hurt feelings, you would be surprised to know that I was one of those friends who got dumped! I would go to visit a friend who was ahead of me in the class and his mother would promptly tell me that he was studying and he can’t come out. That was as point-blank as that! But you can do better than that. You should always have as many good friends as you can and do your best in managing relationships. At the same time, it is important to be with those who share a common goal with you.

What else. You have to learn techniques to manage these distractions like Facebook, cell phone, etc. There are many strategies that you can find on the internet, but the main point I wanted to emphasize is that you should identify what are distractions to you and learn to manage them. That’s it for now; hope you find this advise useful and put it to good use which I am sure a smart person such as you will definitely do. Talk to you soon, Love, Ash Uncle.

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