Focus: Online Study Timer using Habit Zap
If you are a student of any kind-- formally, or informally-- FOCUS is your superpower. But it can also be one of the most difficult things to find in today's world of technology and information overwhelm. While the online world offers unprecedented access to knowledge, tools, and incredible learning aids-- as we all know, it is also filled with seemingly endless distractions and temptations.

Social media is often one of the most obvious and pernicious distractions, and has rightfully received quite a bit of attention for this recently. As a result of this growing awareness, many have come up with ad hoc approaches to "managing" or "limiting" their time on social media via willpower-- i.e., simply exercising their best effort to check their feeds less frequently. That might work for some people, some of the time, but willpower alone is a risky bet over the long term.

Yet even if this sort of willpower did work to reduce distraction time by a significant amount, it's still unlikely to be the most efficient approach. Why is that? Because there are costs to distractions beyond the actual distractions themselves-- most notoriously: context-switching.

Consider the following hypothetical approaches, each taking place over the course of an hour:
  • 1) You check in with "distractions", such as social media, for only 5 minutes at time, but do so every 20 minutes, while spending the rest of the time (between distractions) studying.

  • 2) You study for 45 minutes straight, then spend 15 minutes catching up on your "distractions."
Both appear to spend the same amount of time on studying (45 minutes) vs distraction (15 minutes), but which do you think would actually be more productive?

As you might have guessed, it is quite likely that the 2nd option will be far more effective for studying. One of the main reasons is that switching back and forth between tasks is not "free" for our brains-- it takes a toll. There is a growing body of research supporting this general conclusion. For instance, according to this research, experts suggest that "even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone's productive time."

By now you probably see where this is going! In order to optimize your study time, we suggest breaking your productive time up into periods of intense focus. You can think of it as being either "on" or "off", not waffling in between.

There are many ways to practice this, but one of the most effective is to use an approach like the Pomodoro Technique, along with an online study timer. And if you are looking to turn this approach into a powerful "system" that you can use to build productivity habits while also holding yourself accountable, we encourage you to give Habit Zap a try (it is free!) The app was built for this very purpose, and we hope it helps you take your productivity to the next level. It uses principles similar to the Pomodoro Technique, allowing you to essentially build up "productivity playlists" that you can organize and reuse to build strong, focused habits over time. Happy studies!
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