Art of Concentration

Ever wondered why you can’t concentrate on anything. Be it your studies or movies or anything going on. You are never ever able to hold your attention. The good thing is; science is justifying your lack of attention and is suggesting that average attention span is 2.5 minutes.

Concentration is not about a book or syllabus or anything. Concentration is a quality which defines your attentiveness and sharpness to grab things. A dull mind will not be interested in anything. A lukewarm mind might be interested in something interesting like a movie or a video game or whatsapp messages. But to grab things which are useful for exams or our life in general we need to sharpen our concentration.

Concentration is a quality we were all born with. Can you recollect how easily your concentration used to flow on a bird sitting on a tree outside the class or something on a wall, etc. It was then that our elders taught us to stop looking at these things and begin to concentrate on our books. And the result was, we lost our quality of concentration. Concentration is knack which we were born with but we have forgotten, thanks to our teachers and society. If you know the knack of concentration, you can concentrate on anything. Again remember, it is not about concentrating on books or syllabus or anything. It is just that you develop your knack of concentration and let it flow wherever it is required.

Few Techniques

Begin with this one minute exercise. While taking shower start looking concentrating on the droplet of water drizzling from the tap. Do it for a minute. Similarly, whenever you are bored while studying, start look at the second hand of your clock for at least 1 minute. Just do this exercise for few months. You will be amazed that your concentration will increase manyfold.

After you do these exercises for a few times in a day for about 3-4 months, you can migrate to a more refined technique. It is defined as Tratak in Hindu texts. The technique is simple. You need a small candle or a small lamp lit with castor oil or Desi Ghee. Lit it and start gazing at the light in a dark room. Do this exercise without blinking. Start with 5 minutes and keep increasing by 1 minute each week till you achieve it for 15 minutes. Your eyes may water but let it be. This will make your brain more stable and you will be able to concentrate.

Remember that don’t force yourself to concentrate on your books. It will never work. Increase your quality of concentration and you will see that it will help you study well and do everything in life in general really really well.

Targeting Mains

Prelims is over and I am sure many of you who are reading this will clear that stage. Don’t be too happy about it. it is just one small step towards a bigger goal. The goal to contribute towards society. The goal to bring positive change in people’s lives (Mind you, your goal is not just to become an IAS). The next stage is more fierce, more competitive and more demanding. It can make you realize your limitations but at the same time, it gives you a chance to learn and know about what is happening about you. It will sanitize you about social milieu you live in and about the ways you can contribute towards the society.

 

Often, prelims and mains are different ball game. While prelims is very diverse and requires certain skill sets, mains is more about focus, analysis and have an in-depth understanding of a subject. Off late,  UPSC is asking questions based not just on the facts but based on your understanding and perspective. There might not be right or wrong answers to many of the questions asked in UPSC.

 

Now the task is not that simple. You can’t just read, memorize and reproduce in the exam. You have to understand the topic which you read, understand multiple perspectives about each topic and come up with your own perspective. In such a scenario, debates and discussions among your peers, with parents, and with mentors would come handy.

 

Writing practice has its own advantages, but you would write only those things which you know. So knowing becomes more paramount. Try to build up a perspective. Try to read multiple resources. Don’t just stick to one paper. Try to include 2 or 3 papers to understand various points of view. Talk to you seniors often about the subjects which are socially relevant. Try to put yourself in that situation (as an administrator) and think about the solution from multiple perspectives.

 

To know the facts is the bare minimum which all the 16000 candidates writing mains will be doing. To crack it with flying colors, you need to walk on extra mile, you need to be original in your thought and should be able to communicate well through your writing. I hope you get an idea of how to proceed with your preparation for mains.

Tips to Make Your Study Sessions Effective

If you are preparing for competitive exams, it is important to know what to study. But sometimes it becomes more important to know how to study. Just keeping yourself immersed in books might not work. You need to follow few good studying ethics to get meaningful results. Small changes in your habits can take you long way:

1. Never study for long stretches: Though you need to cover hell lot of syllabus, it is advisable to take small breaks in-between your study schedules. You should take a 5-10 minutes breather after every hour or so. This would break the monotony and you can concentrate more on studies (No whatsapp, no Fb or internet during the breaks)

2. Shutdown your social media profiles while studying: These things simple distract. Shut them down when you sit for studying

3. Have a study table & chair: While studying, sit on a chair which your back upright. This will keep you away from dozing off and it will also help you concentrate. Have a clean, soundless place for your daily studies.

4. Physical exercise: Include some sort of physical exercise in your schedule. An hour on daily physical exercise will help you concentrate for those 8-10 hours of study.

5. Concentration techniques: Try and learn few meditation techniques which will help increase your concentration (A separate article on this is posted soon)

6. Don’t eat too much: Have limited meals, (3-4 meals) per day. If you stuff yourself, you won’t be able to concentrate

7. Choose limited but good books: Don’t stuff yourself with endless list of books. Talk to your mentors, seniors, etc and choose only good reads. Read them more than ones but don’t but lots of books as they might frighten you and causes unnecessary fear.

You might choose to have a timetable as well but if you feel comfortable without a timetable, let it be. Don’t have very steep targets. Make small but achievable and realistic targets daily and achieve them without fail. This would increase your confidence which is the key to success in these exams.

Everyone has his/her own style of studying. These are few generic studying tips. Experiment with them and see what suits you and what don’t. Make your own path. Don’t blindly follow the toppers or mentors. Take their advice but make your own path. As Buddha said, ‘Be your own light (Aap Deepo bhav)’
Wishing you all the best for your future endeavors.