Improve Your Focus Overnight
Haven't you always thought having a disorderly mind meant something was wrong? Well, I did. That was, until...
I read tons of information about the brain, including material produced by the Center for the Study of the Brain.
And guess what? Having a mind that is disorderly is a natural condition. Who would have guessed? Hey, we're normal.
Doesn't just knowing this give you a breath of fresh air? It sure did for me.
After my fresh air experience, I was still faced with the challenge that I needed solutions for what I was experiencing. How can I work it so I have more focus when I want and need it and not necessarily when it swims in at its own leisure?
So, I weeded through a stack of mumbo-jumbo (at least to me) medical journals, talked with some therapists and doctors, and came up with I'm about to share. Then I put them to a test. To my surprise, they worked. And worked darn well.
The four most common blocks to being able to focus are:
1. Being tired.
After learning to be acutely aware of when these block were occurring, I experienced a new euphoria in my life style decision making process. Instead of trying to force myself to focus when I was experiencing one or more of the blocks, I choose to correct my time management instead. I learned to take good care of myself when any of these were occurring and to develop methods to let go of them quickly. This included taking a nap, going to bed early and getting up early, exercising the stress away, and stopping multi-tasking (and be proud of it). Oh heavens, the last one is a whole story by itself.
In the research process, I picked up seven simple tricks that can help increase focus for a few seconds, a few hours, even a day if you take it very very slowly. Over a 30-day trial period I put them all to a test. Many I already did sporadically and just needed to incorporate them in regularly. I set up printed reminders and Outlook pop ups to keep them active.
First, I didn't begin anything without asking what my objective was for doing it. What did I want to accomplish? It didn't matter if I was taking a shower, making dinner, chatting with a friend or client, or writing. Let me tell you, it sure wasn't easy to train my mind to answer these. I had taken them for granted for so long, I just did them without thinking. So many times I wanted to toss the task aside as common sense, and how ridiculously small, so why did I need to know the objective? I soon realized that in order to go big you need to start small. The good part was knowing the small was just there long enough.
The second is visioning -- visioning the payoff. Feeling full from the dinner before I began to eat or seeing my writing being emailed. Any stress caused with too much on my to-do list reduced itself by at least half and productivity increased by that much or more. This transfer of energy felt body sensational and built my positive self-talk.
Third, is setting up the environment up for success. I cleared my desk except for the materials I needed. I practiced mantras before each focus. Played a productivity CD or meditated for a few minutes (using a timer so I didn't get lost in time). Previously when I did this type of exercise, I felt I was wasting my time. Now, I realize it accomplishes the opposite.
The fourth is being in the now. Keeping the mind in the present moment. Not thinking about all the issues that come from whatever you are doing at the time. Allowing the future to be created at the beginning of the focus and then letting go and diving into the focus. During the trial period, I still found my inner chatter jumping into future thoughts. Instead of trying to completely dismiss the distraction, I promised myself to address it in X minutes (the promised focus time period). It seems to satisfy me and helps to let go of the distraction it was sending me. Here is where you will find exactly how much time you spend in other places than the now (past, future or what ifs).
Fifth is learning to let go of everything else except the objective. Except exactly what the step is that you are working on. Letting go of the next step, needed materials, manpower, or anything else. Whenever I'm in this stage of the process I think of a horse drawn carriage -- you know the one. The horse is wearing blinders so their eyes don't stray or they get spooked. This includes letting go of any fears that might be crowding in.
Sixth is taking breaks. It wasn't until my third year at college, my first degree, that I learned that if I took a short break every 30 minutes, for science every 15 minutes, I remembered more. My brain caught up with what I just read and processed it by connecting the dots with what came before. These are short space breaks or long ones depending on the topic and what you want to process. What is your maximum attention span? It averages somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.
Seventh is writing. Writing our what is blocking the focus. Writing releases the "I don't want to forget" factor. It places the information in a trusted place that you know you can return to. Set the timer for five minutes and freewrite whatís going on in your mind. I call this process dumping. Write it in a positive tone to maintain the attraction process.
Focus doesn't need to be fleeting elements in our life. Nor do we need to tolerate the natural disarray condition. With alert awareness and conscious choice -- and solutions on how to focus -- it can be there whenever we want or need it. Just knowing that itís part of your arsenal is powerful in itself. Testing it to find your own personal path in this journal is even more exciting.
This article was posted on January 17, 2006
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