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3 Ways To Focus Your Wandering Mind And Fuel Productivity

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Do you have trouble staying focused? For several years I knew I wanted to start writing again and to build up a thriving side-hustle as a freelance writer. I would schedule my day so that I had time to write after work. Then I would get home from work, and start to write, only to find that my mind would quickly wander off.

Typically I would be either ruminating about something that happened in the past, or planning and worrying about the future. I know I am not alone in this struggle to focus. If you are like me, you probably experience the ‘monkey mind’ – a wandering and scattered mind that just can’t stay focused.

Not only does mind-wandering make us less productive, it can make us less happy. Indeed, a Harvard study found that when people’s minds were wandering, they tended to be less happy, because during mind-wandering our thoughts often tend towards negative rumination such as our worries and our regrets. .

I wasted a full year letting my mind-wandering get the best of me. I decided to get serious about learning to focus and to stop wasting time.

Here are three ways I have learned to focus the wandering mind:

1. Know your why

Remember your motivation for doing the task in the first place. This will greatly enhance your ability to focus and get things done. Make sure you know why you need the focus, and get clear on what will happen if you don’t focus.

Even if this particular task feels like is more something you must do than something you are motivated to do, think about the bigger picture. How does this task relate to a larger project or career goal that is highly motivating for you? For example, will this task help strengthen a particular skill you need to get a promotion or transfer into a new role?

If you can’t find one single motivating reason to be doing this task, consider not doing it at all. Move onto something else.

“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.” – William Barclay

2. Structure your workflow

We all have a finite attentional window. Structure your workflow to be in line with that capacity. Work can be seen as a series of sprints  – and to be our most productive and most creative, we need to unplug throughout our workdays.

This can be accomplished in two ways. The first is to schedule your most important work during the time you are typically most awake, energetic and focused.

Get to know your energy cycles, and when you are at your best. Schedule your workflow to be aligned with your best energy capacity. For example I always schedule creative or strategic projects for first thing in the morning, my most focused time of the day.

The second way is break tasks down into smaller tasks and schedule them in short spirits. Work for about an hour straight with no distractions, no multitasking or checking email. Then, take a short break and walk around the office or go get some fresh air. This will enable you to be more productive throughout the full day.

 

3. Monitor your mind

The most important way to stop the wandering mind, is to monitor it. Daniel Goleman, author of Focus, recommends periodic mind monitoring throughout the day. Noticing where your mind has gone – such as checking Facebook instead of working on that report – gives you the chance for an important check in: “my mind has wandered off again.”

That very thought disengages your brain from where it has wandered and activates brain circuits that can help your attention get unstuck and return to the work at hand. So each time you notice your mind has wandered away from the task at hand, name it by saying ‘wandering’ and then bring your mind back to the task you are working on.

If you notice that your mind always wanders to the same place, to social media or checking email for example, this might be a good indicator that you need to limit these distractions. Try working with your phone in another room or a few hours, or disconnect from the wifi in your office so it takes an extra step to get back online. That extra step should be enough to stop you from going online.

Practice makes perfect 

Time is our most precious resource, once it is spent we can never get it back. By continuing to be unfocused time slips by, and we may find that we are no closer to our goals than we were a year ago.

The good news is that we can change our ways and overcome the habitual thoughts patterns of the mind. Building our ‘focus muscle’ is like going to the gym. Willpower is like a muscle… over time with training, we can strengthen our attention.

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” – Mary Tyler Moore

The reward for all this practice? By training our minds to be more focused, we will take action towards our goals, and be more productive and happier at work and in our daily lives.

How do you focus your wandering mind? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Heidi Hill is a writer and mindfulness educator intent on helping everyone reach their full potential. Heidi shares research-backed mindfulness tools to help people change their relationship to stress and reclaim their joy. Grab her free guide: 5 Simple Mindfulness Practices to Help You Focus and Instantly Increase Your Energy. You can also check out her website here: http://www.lifeinfullbloom.com.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Camilla Hallstrom

    Feb 22, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Wonderful post, Heidi! I’ve recently realized how much more I got done by disconnecting my WiFi or by using a program like FocusWriter 🙂

  2. Robert Bowley

    Feb 20, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Heidi
    I loved reading your article. Three really useful tips to remember. I couldn’t agree more, that practice is the key to them all.
    Looking forward to your next blog!

    Rob

  3. Yash Chauhan

    Feb 18, 2016 at 4:35 am

    Very good Article, Heidi !

  4. Christie

    Feb 17, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    Good post! I think we are all forgetting how to focus and concentrate. I blame it on all the beeping media we have surrounded ourselves with. We need to choose when we have media usage and then turn it off.

  5. Corinne Kerston

    Feb 17, 2016 at 4:00 am

    Hi Heidi,
    I have a huge problem with focus and lack of attention. I appreciate these wonderful tips.

    Corinne

  6. April

    Feb 17, 2016 at 3:53 am

    Great article Heidi! I really like your tips and will try to put them into practice. I think they’d be especially helpful when you are not super motivated to get to the tasks at hand.

  7. Charlene Rhinehart

    Feb 17, 2016 at 2:29 am

    Thanks for sharing, Heidi! Your first point about remembering your WHY is crucial. It’s easy to lose focus if you have lost your why. Keeping your why at the center of your ambitions will help you gain the strength needed to continue on your journey.

    • Heidi Hill

      Feb 17, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      Hi Charlene, thanks so much for your comment. I am glad you found the post helpful!

  8. Quinn Eurich

    Feb 16, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Hi Heidi,

    I’m really big on your #1 tip! Not only does it help you focus, but when you think of the type of mindset you need in order to accomplish the task, it helps even more.

    That comes in very handy for me when doing those tasks I don’t particularly care to do, or when a piece of writing needs a specific tone.

    Good advice!

    Thanks very much for sharing!

    Qyubb

    • Heidi Hill

      Feb 17, 2016 at 7:07 pm

      Hi Quinn, thanks for your comment. I am so glad you liked these tips! – Heidi

  9. Sue Anne Dunlevie

    Feb 16, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Hi, Heidi,

    Loved this article! Very interesting that an unfocused mind makes you less happy. Good reason to follow your steps.

    Thanks for the great info.
    Sue

  10. Dinesh N Sathe

    Feb 16, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Great notes .
    Liked the ” Disconnect Wi-fi” point .
    Power of Focus is awesome .

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Life

How to Harness the Power of Your Personal Narrative

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Are you “living up” or “living down” to your personal narrative? When you set out to achieve an important goal, you’ll come face-to-face with many obstacles, such as starting a new business and not having your prospects reply to your prospecting emails. Perhaps you’ve had an interview for a new job and learned you didn’t make the final round of applicants. 

In those difficult moments, you have to have an internal conversation with yourself, known as self-talk. What do you say? How do you feel? You may find yourself succumbing to negativity or failing to believe in your own self-worth. If so, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re all easily overwhelmed by our doubts and fears, because it’s what makes us human.

However, these feelings can not only shape a sense of identity, but also allow our doubt and fear to determine the outcome. When this happens, it’s vital to understand how to have the courage and conviction to move forward despite the obstacles. This includes moving forward in the midst of struggling, even when success seems lightyears away. This may seem daunting, but the answer is right in front of us. It lies in our personal narrative.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

What is a personal narrative?

A personal narrative is a life-script that is often followed without question or protest. The conversations you have internally, known as self-talk, make up the core component to our personal narrative. Your self talk represents a powerful belief system that’s baked into our day-to-day existence.

Each of us possess a personal narrative that encompasses a belief system that shapes us and what we see as possible in our lives. As a result, we either ​live up or ​live down to that personal narrative.

While a personal narrative is the starting place, it’s a powerful one. On one hand, when a negative narrative becomes suffocating, it can be hard to escape. This will lead you to foster the belief that you’re incapable of accomplishing something, ensuring that you’ll be less likely to continue to take the necessary steps in the direction of a dream

Your narrative may be so powerful that you may just assume the worst, ending any possibility for you to put in the necessary time, effort and perseverance required to achieve a different outcome.

“The inner speech, your thoughts, can cause you to be rich or poor, loved or unloved, happy or unhappy, attractive or unattractive, powerful or weak.” – Ralph Charell

Cultivating positive narratives

On the other hand, what if we possessed personal narratives that were more positive? This  is not just positive thinking, because it is the practice of consciously cultivating a narrative that you could live up to instead​. Imagine how a more positive narrative could support more preferable outcomes.

In life, this may sound like, “I plan to do well in this interview, so I am going to take every action to support that expectation – like working with a career coach.” Or it may sound like, “Because I am someone who tries hard even when I am overwhelmed or uncomfortable, I am going to ask for help if I feel stuck.” That way, when a challenge arises – as they always do, you will grow to trust in your ability to navigate it.

The more you practice this, the more you will come to realize that your personal narrative really represents the essence of who you are. Your self-talk will evolve into someone who plans to do well during an interview, a business meeting, or a workout class because you become someone who invests in their personal well-being as an extension of your self-concept.

Cultivating positive narratives is not a what-if situation. It is an intentional practice that everyone can benefit from. It provides the framework for who you can become. Most importantly, it’s the key to help us transform into the best version of ourselves, while defending our dreams against a spiral of fear or self-doubt.

So, what does your personal narrative sound like? And how can you live up to it? Share with us below!

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Life

5 Reasons It’s Important to Understand What You Want to Do With Your Life

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No matter your age or your place in life, it is perfectly normal to not know exactly what your next steps should be. There are many factors that can contribute to this situation but it is always important to remember that everything happens for a reason and that this will help you build a much happier you.

There are many ways for you to understand what you should be doing with your life and there are just as many reasons why you should work towards getting a better understanding of those reasons.

If you wish to turn any situation around and start working towards finding your purpose, here are some of the most important reasons why:

1. You will be able to set long term goals for the future

Setting long term goals is one of the things that will help you feel more secure and certain about your future. Instead of relying on living day by day and trying to figure out what your next steps will be without having a future ultimate goal, you will now be able to plan accordingly so that your every step will bring you a step closer to making that dream come true.

One of the things many people forget though is that every plan, no matter how well-organized and planned out it is, will need to be adapted to every situation the person is experiencing. Knowing what your ultimate goal is will help you handle every change of plans with more confidence and will allow you to manoeuvre every situation and turn your problems into positive outcomes.

2. You will get rid of a lot of anxiety

One of the best things about finally getting a better understanding of what you wish to do with your life is that you will finally start feeling less anxious and unsure about the future. Having a certain plan you can follow and looking forward to making a big goal come true will help rid yourself of negative thoughts and allow you to be able to focus on achieving your dreams.

Anxiety is a very common problem in the time we live in and it can make a lot of people feel less productive and scared to take risks, especially in a professional manner. As a result, they tend to hold themselves back and do fewer things than they are capable of, simply because they are too scared to dare.

Realizing what you wish to do in your life and working towards achieving your goals will help you feel less stressed and even if you do, this type of anxiety could actually help you be much more productive and eager to do your best in order to make your dreams manifest into reality.

3. You will be much happier

Understanding what you wish to do in your life will truly help you finally figure out what you are meant to do in your life. For some people, it can help them find their purpose and give them a new perspective on everything they do in their everyday life.

This will help you feel a lot happier and will put your mind at ease, as you won’t have to continue wondering if the path you have chosen to follow is the right one for you or not. Feeling more certain of your decisions will help you feel a lot more confident and happier since you will feel strong enough to overcome anything that might come your way from now and on.

4. You won’t lose time or energy on smaller goals

Setting shorter goals without knowing what you are meant to do in the long run will cost you a lot of energy and time. This will happen as you will spend a lot of time planning out your every move and it will cause you to feel stressed and worried about every little thing going wrong.

Smaller goals will still be important but you won’t spend much time planning them as you would if you didn’t know what your end goal would be. Saving energy and preparing both mentally and physically for reaching your goal will help you achieve a much healthier outlook on dealing with everyday situations and it will make you more excited to complete your ambitions.

5. You will become an expert in one field

Last but not least, another important reason why you should try and understand exactly what you are meant to do in your life is that you will be able to focus all of your time and energy on learning as much as possible and growing only in one certain field.

The uncertainty of having a set goal for your future can make you feel like you need to know many different things in different fields in order to be able to succeed in life and make a living. While having knowledge in various fields is something that will prove to be useful, you will never fully be able to become an expert in one field and make a name for yourself in that sector.

A long term goal will allow you to either study or work full time on one subject you truly enjoy and are good at. This will help you build your reputation, make connections and allow yourself to enjoy and love the path you have chosen even more. As a result, you will be much happier and content with the end goal you have chosen and you will be able to work even harder to achieve all of your dreams.

Working towards a happier you

You might be at a point in your life where you feel like not a lot of things are truly worth your time but the truth is that every little thing you do will help you find what you are meant to do. This will help you feel happy and content and allow you to tackle every issue you come across with much less anxiety and fear.

You will find a lot of stability and comfort in setting a big and important goal for your future and this will allow you to start being more productive and happy to tackle every problem that might come your way. Your life will always be full of surprises and unplanned events but hard work and dedication on your goals will allow you to become the best version of you and enjoy every step of the way.

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Life

3 Ways to Stay Strong and Push Through When Hardships Arise

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We all have trials and tribulations, and most times they are out of our control. I believe that’s why it can be so frustrating when trouble arises, because we feel powerless. But this isn’t true! How we perceive these times gives us power, and will ultimately dictate the quality of our lives.

Each event can have many interpretations. You can ask two people about a situation they both went through, and sometimes you’ll get two completely different answers! Most times this isn’t because one was being truthful and the other wasn’t, but because of how they perceived the events that took place.

That’s how powerful perceptions are, so why not use this power to our benefit? Instead of thinking on what was lost, think of what there is to gain. When you think positively, it helps you from not feeling stuck, and helps you look towards the future. 

Below are three things to consider whenever a hardship comes your way:

1. This is an opportunity for me to grow

Viewing troubling times as an opportunity to improve and grow will give you a sense of freedom and happiness because you’ve decided to lead your life, as opposed to just accepting your life. Some people just accept the things that happen to them/around them. When you have this mindset, you are telling yourself there is nothing you can do in that situation, and you are giving away your power.

This will affect not only your mood, but also the people around you, especially if you’re a leader. They feed off your energy and body language. When you focus on growth, you can think more clearly on solutions, which is what you want. It’s ok to feel sad, frustrated, or confused. If you want to be successful, you will feel all of these, and quite often. When you do, recognize what your feeling, but don’t feed it. If you do, it will grow.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn

2. Don’t focus on the problem, find the solution

This sounds pretty simple but how many of us focus more energy on the problem and why it happened or who did it, instead of trying to focus immediately on the solution? I learned this in the military. If something goes wrong, my superiors were less concerned with who did it and more concerned with finding a solution to the problem, and as quickly as possible.

But I was once guilty of this thinking, and sometimes I slip back into that mode of thinking when my emotions are strong. Changing your mindset to focus on solutions will give you a sense of power, which will calm you, because you feel in control. This in turn, will help you think clearly and rationally, as opposed to emotionally. Furthermore, being in a more relaxed state of mind will allow you to absorb information more clearly so you can learn from the incident and become a better you.

3. Determine how the hardship improves your character

What was being tested during your hardship? Patience? Empathy? Communication? Understanding? Endurance? I remember working for a boss I did not like. He seemed to pick on me, and I couldn’t understand it. I went above and beyond what was asked of me, but people were still being promoted quicker than I was.

To give a little depth on my perception at the time, I was born and raised in Brooklyn NY. Not poor, but close to it. So respect is something that is valued greatly in neighborhoods I come from, because we don’t have much else. Respect was your money, and could get you things money couldn’t buy.

Now everyone wants respect, but me, I need it that much more. So when I felt he wasn’t giving me respect, I almost convinced myself to handle these matters. Imagine the people you train, passing you by and you know their work ethic doesn’t match yours. It sucked.

I talked to my dad, who always gives great council, and he told me it wouldn’t be wise. He told me to look for ways to grow, and I did. And let me tell you, during that time I learned things that cannot be taught in classrooms because you can only be learned through experience. My endurance was really challenged, but made me wiser and stronger, which made me better equipped to deal with future troubles I’d have. Because of those lessons, I was able to teach others about my experience and give wise counsel.

“Lead a life of your own design, on your own terms. Not one that others or the environment have scripted for you.” – Tony Robbins

When those times come, ask yourself where you’re weak and what you can you do to improve on that weakness. Finding something you’re not good at should make you happy, because it gives you a chance to improve! If you suck at something, do something about it! Don’t wallow in self-pity. It’s not a fruitful exercise.

When hardships come your way, your perception is a powerful weapon that you must manipulate, don’t let it manipulate you. Ask yourself how can this help you grow, what positive opportunity is hidden in the hardship and focus on the solution, not the problem. Doing these things will put the power back in your court. Give it a shot, it changed my life!

How do you keep your head up high when hardships arise? Share your thoughts and advice down below!

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Life

7 Essential Mindset Shifts From Gary Vaynerchuk That’ll Help You Have an Amazing Life

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Image Credit: Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk is full of little gems to success if you listen with an open mind. His unfiltered way of sharing old school values mixed with modern day approaches is remarkably simple and highly contagious. In this world of instant gratification, everyone is focused on doing things faster in order to produce exponential results.

When our visions don’t become an instant reality, we play the comparison game and judge ourselves. This ultimately leads to a decline in our health and crushes our visions. Many of us want to be an overnight success but need a better psychological framework to endure the ride.

Here are 7 perspectives that Gary Vaynerchuk is currently popularising that can help your mindset game be stronger:

1. Aim for happiness 

Gary Vaynerchuk’s definition of happiness is “being able to do what you want at all times.” This does not mean quit because your work doesn’t make you happy right now, especially if it is the stepping stone for your ideal lifestyle. 

For a period of time you will need to grind and do tasks that are unenjoyable. If happiness is not within your metrics of success, you will eventually suffer from an irregularity in your mental or physical health, which in turn has a downward ripple effect on your valued relationships. 

2. Enjoy paying your dues

Every industry has its own set of rules to work up the chain of command. You need to learn to love each role and responsibility that comes with that. Going in with a curious and enthusiastic energy is bound to shine through and show those around you how serious you are. 

Be present and learn from every experience you encounter. This is a journey for bigger and better things but you need to put in the time, work and sacrifice to be rewarded. Life is all about what you put into it. You don’t know how these earlier stages will serve you in years to come, so take pride in the journey and appreciation for the lessons and people you meet along the way.

3. Obsessively love what you do

You should always be doing what you want, especially if you have a clearly defined purpose. Purpose is such an energizing force, regardless of whether you are earning $40,000 or $4,000,000. If you really love what you’re doing and it’s where you want to be then you’re already winning. 

Always start with what you love because the only way you’re going to hustle hard enough is if you love it. It’s hard to get going around something you’re not passionate about. When you learn to love the game more than the trophy, the game gives you, and you’re on your way up.

“You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don’t do things because I do them or Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.”- Gary Vaynerchuk

4. Don’t be driven by the money

To do extremely well in the game of business without disrupting other pillars in your life, you must wake up each morning pondering what solutions need to be found today. You need to be wildly curious and driven by the game of business on a micro level while seeing the macro outcomes. 

When you’re excited to play the game, you become absorbed in mastery over playing with your phone, gossiping with friends and watching mindless content. You relentlessly invest in yourself and your growth, which in turn is remunerated with wealth.

5. Have gratitude

Have you ever thought about the fact that the odds of being a human being are 400 trillion to one? You must create an unbelievably clear perspective of how lucky we are to be human. This in turn makes it a struggle to dwell on things that don’t matter. 

Focus your attention on the things that you value and appreciate. Appreciate your good health and family, because you’ll value it more. Appreciate your gifts, friends, work and life. By doing this, your perception begins to shift. You see the blessings of your life, versus the broken parts.

6. Adversity is your superpower

Adversity and humble beginnings is an incredible framework to happiness, especially when you layer positivity and optimism around your difficulty. We all have hardships and various scenarios that throw us off balance along the way. 

Our super power is when we use that as fuel to drive us to be less audacious and experience more, instead of being held back. What you think and focus on grows. Shift the perspective in your mind so your adversity doesn’t define you, but instead drives you.

“It’s insane to me to ask anybody to be what they’re not. Know what you know the best, love the most. That’s always going to be the answer to the thing that you have the best shot at winning at.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

7. Be excited everyday because you get to play

Learn how to start your morning well and continue that energy throughout the day. That vigour builds momentum that will allow you to actually make your mark. Be fired up that you have given yourself a clear vision and your making moves to play a strong game. This type of mindset gives you an intrinsic pull to do and be better daily rather than external motivation, which over time dies out.

Mindset is everything and it all falls down to your perspective of things. Don’t judge yourself by what you accomplish daily, instead, judge it yearly. It takes years of great creative work to be recognized. Be patient. In the meantime, look at your daily habits and ask yourself if they are causing you to evolve or revolve. Are you moving forward, or just moving in circles? Take constant action to move forward and be grateful you have the opportunity to play in the game of life. 

What’s your favorite Gary Vaynerchuk mindset from the article? Share your thoughts below!

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