I am not a machine. I can’t devote my brain to one stream of consciousness for more than about two or three hours without a major break. And that’s if everything is going swimmingly well. Here’s what I do to keep the fire burning:
- Classical music. I listen to music obsessively. Can’t stop myself, really. Somewhat of a sickness. But anything with vocals is very distracting to my study. I’ve found that classical music, (baroque and classical period pieces in particular) really help with focus. The music drowns out other background noise and helps make my study cone, without distracting my brain from the task at hand. I’ve also heard that classical music makes your brain work better. So hooray for that if it’s true. I need every neuron firing, that’s for sure.
- Breaks. I have to get up every 15 to 30 minutes just to stretch a bit. Hit the head, grab some coffee, peer into the fridge at the food I’m not supposed to eat, then head back down into the study cone.
- Disable e-mail & IM. I’m reading the OECG in PDF format on my 24″ wide screen display. When I do the write-ups, I have the screen split with one page of the book on one side, and my browser window on the other side so that I can feed WordPress. So, the computer itself can be a distraction. I have to shut down Thunderbird, or I’m in trouble. No sooner do I get knee-deep into some concept I’m trying to wrap my brain around, then I get a message from who knows where. I can’t stop myself from reading the incoming message. I just can’t. I’m compelled by some inexplicable force to read that new message. And IM? Forget about it…I’ve been using it less and less anyway, just BECAUSE it’s so distracting. IM is a curse to anyone trying to get something accomplished in their lives. It’s almost as bad as TV for sucking the ambition right out of a person (at least, for me).
- Sleep. I’m trying to sleep 8 hours a night, and it’s helping. Now that I’m getting into the habit of every night, weekends included, sleeping for 8 solid hours, I’m finding that it’s easier to read AND comprehend all at the same time.
- Decaf. I was a caffeine addict. Love my coffee, caffeinated mints, caffeinated soda, etc. But I had to break that addiction so that I could sleep. Caffeine works for a lot of people, but I didn’t like the side effects. Now that I’ve dropped it completely from my diet, I’m a happier guy.
- Determination. Sometimes it’s just sheer force of will that gets me back in the study mode. I’ll admit to just not wanting to look at the text and read or write. But I want to do this, and I’m almost to the good stuff – routing! Some days, the motivation’s a bit lacking, and just have to do it.