Settle Your Mind
Focus: a complex concept wrapped in the unassuming package of a five-letter word. Hopefully some of the following techniques will help you navigate the common struggle of maintaining your focus.
Write a To-Do List
It’s extremely hard to maintain focus when you’re trying to hold all of your many tasks in your head. In an effort to prevent anything being left behind, your brain juggles the tasks, cycling them in and out of your consciousness, sometimes even dropping one or two in the chaos. Your mental state is anything but calm as you are interrupted every time your thoughts shift to something else you need to do later. The solution? Write it all down. Once you make a list of all your errands, tasks, and everything in between, you can let your brain off the hook a little, and finally devote your full focus to the task at hand.
Break Tasks into Manageable Steps
It can be hard to focus on tasks that seem overwhelmingly large or complicated. You can get distracted thinking about how far you still are from the end and worrying about how you will ever manage to get there. Breaking overwhelming tasks down into smaller, more manageable pieces can help make them seem less daunting. Once you have outlined manageable steps, a path to completion becomes clearer and getting started and staying the course will start to feel easier.
Only Perform Intentional Multi-Tasking
Multi-tasking can be useful, but it can also be detrimental. Thus, it is important to be mindful and intentional when you begin multi-tasking. For some, having a task that engages the hands or the touch sense can, in some way, improve the ability to listen or think. So, in that case, multi-tasking can be a helpful way to improve focus; however, you want to be careful that you aren’t multi-tasking as a shortcut to get more things done in a shorter amount of time, resulting in your focus getting split and a lower quality outcome. When you find yourself multi-tasking, check in and make sure that it is, in fact, strengthening your focus. If it’s not, you’ll probably find that engaging in one task at a time helps you sharpen your focus and increase the quality of the end result.
Declutter Your Space
You know what doesn’t lend itself to concentration? That empty coffee cup sitting on your desk. Neither do the three pens, two pairs of sunglasses, pile of unopened mail, or the ticket stubs from the event you went to a few weeks ago. When you’re trying to maintain a clear, uninterrupted focus, it helps to be working in a space that is also clear and uninterrupted. It reduces distractions and aids you in streamlining your thought process.
Starting off with a few minutes of meditation or turning to guided meditation to regroup after getting distracted can act as a form of mental decluttering. Meditation encourages you to set everything else aside for the moment and just breathe. This quieting of the mind can serve to remind you that everything else can wait for you to finish the task at hand, making it easier to tune out distractions and stay focused.
Now that you’ve decluttered your space and your mind, it’s time to embody that decluttering. Whether you follow a guided stretching sequence or you lead yourself through some of your favorite stretches, taking a few minutes to breathe and stretch before getting to work can help you scratch that itch of restlessness or disembodiment that can accompany sitting down in your work space for a few hours. And luckily, there’s no wrong way to stretch. You can stretch from your chair, you can stretch standing up, and you can stretch lying down. Get in touch with your breathing and thank your body for all that it does before you get down to business.
Be Gentle with Yourself
This will help your general approach to focus, over time. It is important to recognize that you are not a machine. You have ups and downs, you feel things, and you get tired. You will likely not always be able to focus and get things done at the exact time that you would like to. Allow space for your humanity. If you have tried multiple techniques and you just can’t seem to harness your concentration, consider that maybe it’s just not going to happen right now, and that’s okay. Accepting that sometimes you just can’t focus and making peace with that maintains focus as an available (though not always attainable) possibility. Whereas if you try to force yourself to focus at times when it just isn’t feasible, you will build up an aversion to focus that will potentially cause you to balk at the mere thought of attempting it, no matter what headspace you are in.
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