Most people attribute living life in distraction to stress and busyness. No matter whose fault Ė the external or the internal- not being completely present because you are multi-tasking or ruminating about whatís next on the list can lead to critical errors in judgment and careless mistakes. You might even notice that when you are distracted, you are more accident prone. And everything takes longer to do because distraction feeds directly into procrastination.
Distraction usually happens inside out. A daydream or a worry dominate the real, present moment. To stop being absent begin to cultivate the habit of focused attention during the good times, the lighter days with less to do, because you want this alive and alert mindset to become a reflex action when you are stressed. Stress makes you revert to habituated pathways, so make good focus your go-to mindset. A Zen saying clarifies: Be master of your mind rather than be mastered by it.
How to cultivate a laser-like focus
- Clean out the clutter both mental and physical. Clutter obscures goals and confuses problem-solving.
- Make up your mind to be aware. When you find your mind wandering, observe it and donít judge. Simply bring yourself back to the moment.
- Bring your attention back to your breath when you feel distracted. Relax your breathing into deeper, slower and shallower breaths. Breathing deeper oxygenates your brain to improve focus.
- Words are very powerful. They can trigger stress, by bringing on a negative mindset, or calm you down and remind you to be present to the task at hand. Have a phrase prepared in advance which accomplishes this relaxation response for you.
- For most people some sort of exercise triggers mindfulness which then transfers to activities of daily living. Exercising is like a moving meditation and promotes focused attention to all other tasks.
- When you are involved in conversations, start to really listen. Listening attentively is great training for a sharper focus.
- No matter how mundane reinvent the task at hand with enthusiasm to make it new. Imagine how the task is a step to accomplishing a major goal, can heal a nagging thought, or promote a pathway of discipline.
- Cluster all the single tasks that are in proximity of each other Ė either physically like in the same neighborhood or mentally because they require the same kind of analytics to achieve them. This is the antidote to multi-tasking.
- Donít gobble your food or eat on the run. Practice eating mindfully. Live in greater awareness regarding all things.
- Donít let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. Distraction begins in the land of shame and guilt.
- If you daydream a lot when you drive, attend class or do your work, set aside daily time for daydreaming. If your daydreams are distracting you, maybe they are trying to tell you something. Once you identify the message or see a pattern, your focus will quickly improve.
For more information on managing your stress and reclaiming your life read my book, Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show