Posted on November 10, 2014 by Debra Burdick
We live in a very distracting world with so many things vying for our attention all at the same time. We often wear many hats: parent, caregiver for our parent, spouse, employee, entrepreneur and more. Between our many commitments and the demands of our work, home life, and social life we may find it difficult to concentrate on any one thing long enough to get things done. Add to that the constant ping of our smartphone with a voice message, an email, a text message, or a Facebook post and our concentration is taken off line over and over again.
This can lead to what some call ‘the monkey mind’ where your mind is too busy and your thoughts are all over the place. This is often true for those with ADHD but can also occur for anyone with a busy life or who is struggling with depression or anxiety. Having trouble calming down your brain and focusing can feel very stressful.
So how can you focus your concentration and stay on task? Click Here are 4 things you can to do improve your concentration and lower the stress involved in being constantly distracted.
1.) Use the basic skills of mindfulness.
- Set your intention. Decide what you need to pay attention to in this moment. Then set your intention to pay attention to that and that alone.
- Notice when your thoughts have wandered from your chosen target of attention.
- Instead of engaging with the distracting thought dismiss it and bring your attention back to what you decided to pay attention to. Do this over and over again.
This process gets easier with practice and gradually rewires the brain to stay focused more easily. To learn the basics of mindfulness and how to incorporate it into your day check out the resources HERE.
2.) Remove distractions whenever possible. Clear the deck, so to speak when you need to focus on a specific task. Once you have set you intention to focus on something in particular such as a project at work then gather everything you need to do that project in one place and clear off your desk of other projects until this one is done. Close the door to your office if you have one. Put a sign on the door that says when you will be available. If you can’t shut the door, wear headphones with music to block the sounds in your workplace that are distracting to you.
Set aside time periodically throughout the day to check your email, messages, posts etc. and check them only during that time. Let the phone go to voicemail. This will keep you from losing your train of thought and having to waste time getting back into what you were working on.
If someone wants to talk with you let them know when you will be available and set up an appointment on your calendar. Tell them you want to be sure you can give them your full attention.
If you intention is to pay attention to a conversation with your child or other loved one, then put your smartphone on vibrate and set it aside. Focus your full attention on your child. Make eye contact. Listen to what they are saying. Resist the urge to jump in and change the subject or to pay attention to something besides what they are saying. Let your attention stay put. If you notice you are thinking about something that has nothing to do with this person and the conversation you are having, dismiss the thought and bring your attention back to the present moment. Try it with any person you are talking with. You will engage in deeper relationships and feel much less distracted and stressed.
3.) Simplify. Let’s face it, maybe you are trying to do too much. That’s a trap that is easy to fall into. Take some time to write down all the things that demand your attention. Then write down what your priorities are and number them based on what is most important to you. Then focus on those things and let other, less important things go whenever possible.
Remember to ask for help. Focus on those tasks that you alone must do and learn to delegate tasks that others could do for you. This includes tasks at work and at home. Having an assistant gather the data you need for a report or to do your billing will free up time to focus on creating a product or perhaps marketing. Hiring a cleaning person to clean your house every 2 weeks will free you up to spend more time with your kids or to get a massage. You get the idea.
4.) Practice mindful meditation daily to improve your ability to stay focused.
Studies show that practicing a brief (10-15 minute) meditation calms the brain and helps it focus. You can listen to a guided meditation at first and gradually transition to a quiet meditation where you focus your attention on your breath and keep bringing your attention back to your breath over and over. My Mindfulness Toolkit CD has 10 mindfulness skills to help you learn and practice meditation.
I would love to hear your personal experiences with this topic.