Jul 07 2015
By Judi Sheppard Missett,
Jazzercise Founder and CEO
Feeling distracted? Overwhelmed by the demands on your time and attention? Does your To Do List keep growing instead of shrinking? It’s easier than ever to communicate, stay in touch and get our hands on information. But with all the notifications, distractions and 24/7 accessibility it’s also harder than ever to focus. Here are a few ways I’ve found to help me live in the moment and do what I need to without getting sidetracked.
Stretch your muscles and your mind
Regular exercise will help you focus. Think of exercise as a moving meditation to calm your mind. It’s easy to ditch your workout when projects loom and the day fills up. But we do ourselves a disservice by cutting out exercise. Not only can it ease stress and increase endorphins, it’s a great way to trigger inspiration and creativity. You might just find a solution to a challenging project or situation while walking, running or taking a fitness class. Try these ways to work in a workout.
Do not disturb
When you really want to concentrate, turn off all notifications. Outlook, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, news sites—it can wait. And in many instances your phone can wait too. Try tuning out and unplugging for a couple of hours. You might surprise yourself with how much you can get done in an hour without ping ponging between screens, programs, outlets and conversations.
Set the mood
How do you concentrate best? Some of us need complete quiet while others find an absence of noise distracting. Some can tune out the world and thrive surrounded by the energy of a busy office or coffee shop. Experiment with different settings, devices like ear buds or head phones, lighting and sounds to see what really works best for you. And then be consistent, making it part of your regular routine.
Go for the ambience
Want to block out chatty co-workers but don’t want to rock out, either? Try sites or apps like A Soft Murmur. You can select a mixture of ambient sounds to help you focus while working on projects.
If you have a big task—a major presentation to create, a room to redecorate, a financial project, etc.—break it down into both chunks of time and chunks of tasks. The task can seem completely daunting if you try to tackle it all at once. By separating a project into mini-projects you take some of the pressure off yourself and make it easier to accomplish. Remember that quote about the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time? So separate it into multiple tasks that can build on each other. And give yourself a set time to work on it—for example a maximum of two hours at a time—and then move on to something else. While it does take planning, you’ll find yourself doing a better job and working more efficiently. Plus you’ll build momentum that can carry you to the finish line.
One way to stay on track is to give yourself an incentive. Decide to reward yourself for completing a task (or chunk of tasks) and let that motivate you. It could be a phone call to a friend, a walk with your favorite furry friend, a gift you’ve had your eye on, a cup of tea or simply a nice, satisfying black line through the task on that To Do list.
It’s a challenge. With all the distractions, have-to’s, worries, information overload, etc. confronting us constantly, living in the moment isn’t easy. But next time you find yourself fretting or thinking about your next task, stop and take a deep breath. If you’re doing something you enjoy don’t let anything rob yourself of the beauty of that moment. Chances are it’s that moment and that experience that will last in your memory—not the distractions that demanded your attention at the time. And when it gets to be too much, just stop and feel the sun on your skin, indulge in a belly laugh with a loved one or take a minute to be still in nature. It will refuel your soul and prepare you for the full day to come.