Sep 8, 2009

I Want to be in the Zone. Where is my Zone!?

When it comes to homework -- be it reading some delicious text or working on Hebrew homework -- I am so susceptible to my environment. I have to find and stay in the zone. What is the zone you ask? It's that place free of distractions, free of the wrong kind of noise, free of all the things that make me stop and fixate on something other than my homework.

You see, I have absolutely no will power.

I know, that's a huge fault. A horrible fault. It's why I dedicated myself to Weight Watchers last year and tried not to have a TV in my dorm room (but that girl last year was just giving it away!).

I'm attempting to read Chaereas and Callirhoe by Chariton for my Ancient (Jewish) Fictions course. (Note: I dropped my Sexual Politics/Women in Tanakh course, but that's for another post at another time.) I'm sitting here, with the book sitting next to me, and for some reason I can't pull myself away from trashy VH1 "reality" shows filled with potential murderers and definite narcissists. Their ridiculousness has captured me, more than a classic ancient fiction can. Why is that? Why is it that the horrible reality of being a tool is more riveting than a story of love, lies, and Aphrodite? Is it me? Am I weak!?

At any rate, the point is that a learning environment is important. For me, this means no television, no computer, no distracting noises (but definitely some type of music, probably Itzhak Perlman or something similar), no noisy people, no distracting items on the walls, or places with a lot going on all at once. Interestingly, I could blog in a hurricane or wind storm or with hail beating down on my face and fingers.

What's YOUR zone? How do you focus? Can you make homework and important things happen with kids running around, things flying across the room, the TV blaring, and noise elevating every second? How do you make yourself walk away from distracting things? What's your secret?



Jem said...

I am in the same boat. It sucks. But I learned a new little gimmick to help me stay focused: an egg timer.

If I tell myself "Just work for 45 minutes" and then set the egg timer I'm golden. It doesn't work the same for me with setting an alarm on my phone. The alarm is quiet. An egg timer has that little tick to remind me I'm supposed to be doing something specific.

I'm so easily distracted so I started that using it for everything. Yesterday I set it for 5 minutes of cleaning the bathroom and then I found myself sorting through stationery. Then I heard the ticking and was like "Oh! Bathroom!"

I think part of the trick is to set it for a relatively short amount of time. 30-45 minutes is generally enough to get me on a roll.

Hope it works for you too!

Anonymous said...

This is not going to help you one bit... but with two little kids, a terminally ill mother, doing a part-time apprenticeship, and trying to start my own little business... not to mention cooking, cleaning, running a local babywearing parents' group, etc - I find that I can concentrate really well when I get some time to do something for me, like reading! I think its because after 3 years of all of the above, I've FINALLY learned how to value my time.

Now, I never could have been that way as a student. I just didn't have certain bits of myself developed yet, until 2 kids later, etc, etc.

And all that being said... I left sewing (my business) to come to the computer and write a budget for my ailing mother... and somehow ended up here, reading your post. So obviously, I don't have it down pat quite yet!

I really enjoy reading your blog. You are a great writer, and I enjoy hearing about your journey into Judaism.

Anonymous said...

How do I make myself walk away from distracting things? By waiting 'till the last minute, of course! Necessity is the mother of putting your ass in gear. ;)

M said...

I'll second lewdmillas comment, depending on the course, sometimes you really do need a fire under your ass to get work done.

On a more reasonable note, frequently I just surround myself with other hardworking people (thought the law library is extremely tense, so not there). I find with others around me working hard, I can't daydream for long without being pulled back to reality. I also promise myself breaks, and say things like "ok, just finish these 100 pages and you get to have a bath or watch ANTM". OH, plus, my teachers actually yell at me if I don't do my readings (Socratic method), so that also keeps me on track.

Also, I think doing volunteer work in my area of schooling helps to keep me focused on the end goal- though I guess law lends itself easily to volunteering, so perhaps that's not the most useful tip.

I also find looking at my massive tuition bill a great reminder that I'm paying a crapload of money to be here, so I had better make something of myself in the process.

Anonymous said...

I threw out the TV! If it's there you will watch it. Then I removed anything else that was not necessary and then enhanced everything else so it was an area I really want to be in. photos of tzadikim, lots of sefarim etc.

Chaviva said...

@Jem I like this idea of setting a loud, ticking timer. Luckily, my watch ticks pretty loudly to keep me in check. I've realized that I can't work for three hours straight like I used to. I think I'm getting ADHD as I get older, lol.

@Anon Firstly, thank you for your kind words. Secondly, I have such admiration for you, in that you seem to have a firm grasp on all of the things going on. I can only hope that when my life is REALLY multi-tasked, I have the strength of so many strong people (women, specifically) that I know. I've realized that being shomer Shabbos has helped me learn to value time so much more than I used to. I hope THAT realization never changes.

@M I loved when I was an undergrad going to the local Coffee House. Most hours of any day you could nab a seat surrounded by dozens of other people working feverishly on something while downing jugs of coffee. Unfortunately we don't have anything like that here. I'm such a coffee-house-productive worker. I think my undergrad years ruined me in that respect. Now, I struggle to even study at length in my office :(

@Anon I have the LOTS of books thing down. I don't know if I could get rid of the TV. I tend to do Hebrew homework while watching TV because it comes easily to me now. It's my brain-drain time.

As you all can tell -- no will power. I can rationalize anything :)

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