The unorthodox concentration techniques of the most gifted people

The unorthodox concentration techniques of the most gifted people

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The unorthodox concentration techniques of the most gifted people

The unorthodox concentration techniques of the most gifted people

Some of the most gifted people to ever walk the earth had unorthodox concentration techniques:

  • Leonardo Da Vinci used to sleep in polyphasic cycles. Instead of sleeping 6–8 hours at night, he took random short naps throughout the day.
  • Pythagoras went on hunger strikes to boost mental capacity.
  • Einstein didn’t wear socks.

I get it—it’s not likely any of us are going to start sleeping in polyphasic cycles like Da Vinci or go on hunger strikes like Pythagoras to get that ‘extra edge’ while studying (I do, however, invite everyone to go sock-less like Einstein).

In the Digital Age, we simply don’t have time for these unorthodox approaches.

Assuming we sleep 6 hours per night, we have 18 hours every day to max-out studying. Obviously you can’t dedicate every minute of those 18 hours to studying, though. You need time to eat, time to relax, time to go to the bathroom, time to exercise, yada yada yada. You have obligations like school or work (or in some cases, both) that take up even more of your time.

Thankfully, effective studying has little to do with the amount of time you spend reading, note-taking and memorizing.


If you want to maximize concentration, you need to focus on the quality of your concentration.

Telling yourself, “I’m going to study for the next 5 hours,” is virtually meaningless. Why dedicate such an arbitrary amount of time to studying? Just so you can say that you studied for 5 hours straight? Of course, in the long-term the more time you spend “studying” or “concentrating” on something, the more you’ll improve. BUT, sitting at your desk skimming through your textbook and highlighting random words for 5 hours does not equate to 5 hours of quality studying. The old cliché, “It takes 10,000 hours to master something,” is true, but, those 10,000 hours have to be fully-focused, undistracted, quality hours. You can’t go to the basketball court everyday and just sit on the floor for 10,000 hours and expect to make buckets like Michael Jordan. Those hours need to be full of undivided, quality concentration. Same goes for studying. The time spent studying—or doing anything for that matter—needs to be concentrated, quality and fully focused. Simply studying for 5 hours because 5 hours seems like a lot of time will get you nowhere fast. Without further ado, here are my 3 best tips to stay fully concentrated while studying:

1. Turn your freaking phone off.

My boss/friend/mentor Nicolas Cole stresses this more than anyone. We live in the age of consumption. Whether it’s a text, email, snapchat, social notification—whatever—those notifications are literally killing your concentration. Every second you take to stop and look at your phone isn’t just lost time—it’s lost train-of-thought.

2. Breaks are vital to your study success.

Trying to power through an obvious lull hurts more than it helps. No one can sit and study for 10 hours straight. To be honest, it’s hard for most people to spend a full 60 minutes fully concentrated. What you need to do, is take calculated breaks. Study for 10 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Even if that break is just getting up to stretch or drink a glass of water, it will help you to relax and recharge. It’s much more beneficial to spend short bursts of time fully concentrated than hours on end of half-concentrated, half-distracted studying.

3. Listen to your body.

This is the most important tip I can give you. If you’re sick, be sick—don’t study. If you’re hungry, eat something (healthy, to avoid lethargy later on)—then, study after you eat. If you’re truly exhausted, nap—study later. And if you feel great, well, study! This point relates to point #2 in a lot of ways. If you’re really feeling unmotivated or can’t seem to concentrate, don’t force yourself to keep on pushing. If you try pushing though exhaustion or an illness, you’re likely going to forget what you’re trying to focus on anyway. Plus, you’ll be even more exhausted or feel even more under the weather. It’s a lose/lose. Let me be clear: this is NOT an excuse to be lazy or procrastinate. There is a fine line between ‘not feelin’ it’ and true exhaustion. If you choose not to study because you’re not in the mood—tough shit. No one ‘likes’ studying. But if you’re really truly exhausted and can’t concentrate, don’t force feed your brain information—it’s not going to retain any of it.

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