I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to figuring out how to focus on a specific task. I love “progress” and “forward momentum” so I can make a grand list that has lots of moving parts (sometimes, I color code it with different vibrant inks).
And then…I’m derailed and the whole thing tumbles down around me. Nothing gets done and all my best laid plans were for nothing. I will beat myself up like you wouldn’t believe about my failures and inability to finish something I thought was important.
The awesome thing about humans throughout history is that we’ve shown we can quickly adapt to new circumstances. No matter what life throws at us, good or bad, we seem to figure things out and keep right on chugging.
In our modern world of constant noise and input, learning a few skills to keep your mind on task is more important than ever.
1. Reward your mind with creativity first. Instead of jumping into the most unpleasant parts of your day or list first, help your mind wake up and get on board with something it loves to do. Whether this is listening to a few of your favorite songs (and singing along, of course), doing some sketching, or writing down the remnants of an interesting dream, allow your mind to have some creative “stretch” time.
This method helps boost energy and alertness in the mind. I take this tip one step further. For every task I complete on my list, I reward myself with half an hour of creativity before beginning the next task. It works like rewarding a kid with a lollipop.
2. You really need more water. This is the simplest aspect of improving focus. Experts estimate that 70% of the population is chronically dehydrated due to either not drinking enough water at all or drinking beverages that increase dehydration. If you want to keep your mind fluid, you need water.
Experts estimate that 70% of the population is chronically dehydrated!Click To Tweet
Water consumption is a sore point for many (myself included) so consider adding a bit of fresh citrus to a big glass. It changes the taste, boosts electrolytes, and improves the chance you’ll drink more.
3. Sleep is not optional. I tend to be most “alert” late at night. It’s when my mind is most creative and sometimes, I don’t get the sleep I need as a result because I feel guilty about sleeping in the next morning.
No matter when you do your most productive “adulting,” you need to reward your mind with quality sleep. Eight hours a day is what your system requires to recuperate, repair, and recharge your body. Don’t argue, don’t feel guilty. You need it and you need to be serious about taking it. You can’t master how to focus if you don’t rest. It’s a fact.
4. Never underestimate stretching and breathing. If you’re sitting for a long time, your body stagnates. Movement and deep breathing is how your lymph system functions so if you (like me) tend to be very still and focused for hours upon hours, a core process inside you is barely moving. Every hour, do a small series of stretches and deep breathing (you don’t have to get up every time) for three minutes. Every two hours, get up and give yourself five minutes.
You’ll be amazed how this simple trick wakes you up. I check my email three times every day (other than that, it’s shut off) and I stand up while I run through everything. Deep breathing, gentle stretches, and standing during this ten minute task serves a dual purpose. I’m getting something done while taking a break and keeping myself from being sucked into my email tornado for longer than I allow.
5. Know when you need to stop…and STOP. We’re a world of caffeine junkies and workaholics. I’m one of the worst (in both cases). I’ll keep drinking coffee and working right around the clock because something in my own brain says “I have to.” I’m not sure where that voice came from but it will drive me until I literally collapse from exhaustion.
About a year ago, my best friend called me late one afternoon and said, “You sound wrecked.” I told her I was exhausted but had to get “x” things finished by “x” time. She asked, “Or what?” I was stumped because there wasn’t an answer to that question. I was pushing myself because I thought I had to for whatever obscure reason that voice in my head gave me. She suggested I take a nap – no less than two hours. I woke feeling so much better, took a shower, made a lovely dinner, and got back to work feeling as if I’d had a mini-vacation. It’s okay to need to take a time out…your mind and body will thank you for it.
In my business, I’ve learned that my optimal method is to give myself three key things every day that I must finish. Those are the things I can’t procrastinate on because they’re the critical tasks that I need to know have been done by the time I go to bed. That’s it. Three things in the “must do” column of my day.
Naturally, I complete far more than three things in the course of my day – and you will, too – but the exercise ensures I do those crucial tasks first, get them out of the way, so all the other stuff I get done is like a bonus to my mental state.
It isn’t easy to learn how to focus with the distractions of texts, emails, ringing phones, social media alerts, and app notifications. That’s just the virtual world! When you factor in spouses, kids, pets, grocery shopping, and traffic…you’re talking about a lot more real world distractions.
The same methods don’t work for everyone (and that’s okay). Try several styles until you find the rhythm your day likes to run on. Create the best way for you to organize your mind, your body, and your spirit without leaving you exhausted, overwhelmed, and filled with self-doubt.
Check out “Vivid Living” for some great methods to hack life like a champ (and feel great while you’re doing it).