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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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How Your Psychological Blind Spots Keep You Stuck in Life

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Sometimes, life doesn’t seem to make any sense. Albert Einstein once said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Here’s the funny thing. We will say that line about someone else, have a good chuckle, and then DO THE SAME THING OURSELVES! This time, it’s not that funny, is it? I know. I’ve done it myself. (more…)

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3 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself and Live an Optimized Life

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The secret to happiness lies in the way you live your life. People think of happiness as some destination they’ll reach when they’ve accomplished the hundred things on their life to-do list. Happiness is often associated with money, material possessions, or even great relationships. (more…)

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These 7 Daily Resolutions Can Change Your Life

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We all strive to be better every day. Most of us want a new day to bring something new, and we plan for it as well. Of course, the execution is debatable as procrastination is real and it becomes an overwhelming feeling at times. Also, not to forget the customary practice of making resolutions on new year’s eve!  All of us are fascinated by the thought of preparing long lists of resolves to mark the beginning of a new year. Not sure how many people are able to translate these resolutions into functional realities. (more…)

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4 Reasons Why Content Is Pivotal For Mental Health Healing

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One of the most important things for an entrepreneur’s mental health is expressing their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. This is where content creation and writing becomes pivotal. Whether you read something that resonates with you or you write a compelling blog post, the act of expressing yourself through content can help to put a smile on your face and make you feel better about things.

Most entrepreneurs don’t spend as much time taking care of their mental health as they should. Over the course of your career, you will experience a lot of ups and downs; these emotions have the potential to take a toll on your mind and body if you don’t learn to manage them properly.

Here are four reasons why expression through content is pivotal for healing, slowing yourself down, and giving yourself grace when the going gets tough.

1. Content can be a form of self-expression

When you are an entrepreneur, you frequently face feelings of insecurity, doubt, fear, apathy, and exhaustion, just to name a few. Some days it feels like no one is on your business’s side and everyone else has it all figured out. On those days some of us try to look at our website’s analytics to cheer up. 

But an even more freeing task is creating content. You create content to improve your business and reach more people’s lives. But, there is something special that happens when you write with the intention of expressing your thoughts and feelings — you open a door to yourself. 

Content is inherently personal, which means content creators open themselves up when they share their thoughts on a platform. Everything from the title of the post, the keywords they choose to include, and even the content itself helps you to understand who the author of that post truly is. And as an entrepreneur, this can be an important experience because it allows others to empathize with you.

2. Self-reflection will lift you up

As you think through what to write about and how to express yourself, the process of self reflection is a valuable step you need to go through. You’re able to reflect on the blessings you have, assess what you learned from the negative experiences, and create a plan on how to maintain the positive experiences you’ve had. 

There are a few ways that self reflection can help you with mental health healing. The act of reflecting on your experiences helps to create clarity in feelings, thoughts and emotions which will eventually lead into acceptance for what has happened or is happening currently without feeling overwhelmed by it all. This process also leads people towards finding new things they enjoy doing. Self reflection is therapeutic and can be implemented anytime you feel the need to overcome overwhelm.

“Writing in a journal each day allows you to direct your focus to what you accomplished, what you’re grateful for and what you’re committed to doing better tomorrow. Thus, you more deeply enjoy your journey each day.” – Hal Elrod

3. A sense of belonging and camaraderie

It is important to have a support network of people who will listen and understand what you are going through. When you post a blog or upload a video on YouTube, there are others who feel the same way and experience a sense of connection with you.

When you put time, attention and thoughtfulness into your writing, it is amazing when someone reads what you’ve written and comments on it thanking you or expressing how they resonate with what you’re going through. It’s hard to put into words how powerful it feels when someone who has gone through the same experience and reads your words then reaches out.  There is power in expression but miracles happen when people bond over a similar experience.

4. Library of content to share with more people

It can be very difficult to know what content to share with people as the symptoms of mental health disorders (anxiety, depression, etc.) vary from person to person. But as you accumulate more and more content, this will increase the number of articles or videos available for readers to choose from depending on their specific purpose. It also builds your personal library of resources you’re able to share to different people you encounter or engage directly with.

As chaotic and distracting social media can be, it can also be a beacon of hope with the right content. Many people share viral posts, or content that interest them. Since your content is valuable and personal, the more you share it, the more likely it is to be shared with the right audience.

You never know who is watching (reading)

Your content is speaking to someone and even though they may not be actively engaged, their experiences with your work are impacting them. Think about the last time you watched TV: did everyone in the room have something entertaining to say? 

You never know who’s watching because there’s always somebody reading your posts or viewing your videos-even if they just skim through it briefly. This is why creating content worth consuming is critical, not only to get you out of your funk, but also to serve your audience.  Be authentic and stay true to yourself; make every post count as an opportunity for connection with your best self and for potential readers to bond with you.

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