Marketing & Biz

Three Steps To Clearing Your Mind (So You Can Reach Your Goals) In 2022

By Libby Rothschild, CEO of Dietitian Boss; follow on LinkedIn.

When you’re trying to get things done, one of the worst feelings in the world is not being able to focus.

You know the drill: You’ve set up your workstation, poured yourself a coffee and are all ready to start systematically moving through your to-do list, and your brain just won’t cooperate. Instead of thinking about work, your mind flies off in a seemingly random direction. 

We tend to get angry at ourselves in these moments. We tend to feel that we’re standing in our own way. This is completely understandable. However, self-flagellation might not be the best way to handle this situation.

What if, instead, you take that opportunity to wonder why your brain is seemingly uncooperative? If you consider these teachable moments and work with (instead of against) yourself to figure out a way forward, wouldn’t that be more pleasant and productive? 

Seems dreamy to me. However, it’s not out of reach. You just need to be systematic yet empathetic as you figure out what you need in order to move on.

Let’s dig into that. 

1. Figure out the why of so-called ‘distractions.’

Here’s the thing: Our brains are really, really smart. Chances are if our attention keeps veering off toward a specific direction, no matter how pointless it may seem, there’s a reason for that. 

Take a minute to brainstorm: Is there a pattern to the places your mind goes when you’re trying to focus? Is there a rhyme or reason to when or where you are when you can’t seem to keep yourself on track? 

Before we get into why this might be happening, let me present you with a challenge: Get a notebook (or start a log on your phone). Over the next two weeks, whenever you find yourself at odds with your brain, take a beat. Write down what you’re trying to get done, how you’re feeling and what your attention’s being drawn to. 

Doing this will accomplish two things: First, it’ll give you a little space in the situation. You’ll be more able to assess yourself and your brain’s activity objectively, which will make it less likely that you’ll just get overwhelmed and frustrated. And second, you’ll end up with an invaluable road map for how to make peace with your wandering attention span. 

Now, let’s talk about the why of our common lapses in focus.  

Sometimes, when our mind wanders, it subconsciously points us toward key information that we need to think more deeply about. If you have recurring thoughts or emotions about doing something, or about a specific subject, that may be a sign worth paying attention to. Maybe that’s the way you need to go.

Other times, this wandering is a sign that you’re at capacity, and before you get to work, you need to tune into yourself. David Allen, a productivity consultant, sums this idea up nicely with the following: “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” If your brain is consistently on the fritz, you may be trying to hold too many ideas. It could be time to put some down for a minute, so your brain can relax, reorient and refocus. 

Either way, it’s something to pay attention to, not ignore.

2. Glean answers and action items from your (in)ability to focus.

Whether your attention is directing you toward critical information or your brain is on overload, getting some clarity is key. Here are some concrete actions you can perform to start paying attention to your attention: 

• Therapy: Talking to someone objective and trained can provide an invaluable outside perspective, making your hang-ups much easier to spot. A therapist can help you identify your problems and work through issues you may be experiencing. 

• Root cause analysis: This can sound technical, so stay with me. With a root cause analysis, your goal is to draw a consistent, logical connection between what you’re experiencing and the root cause of those feelings. Grab a journal and write down what you’re ruminating about right now. Allow yourself to sit with that. 

• Personal Q&As: If a root cause analysis doesn’t sound freeing to you, don’t do one (at least not initially). Instead, it may be helpful to take your journal and write down some more general questions: Why am I feeling this way? What was I doing right before I felt this way? Get all of these questions out of your head and onto some paper, and then, one by one, sift through them to see if they nudge any thoughts out of your head as well. 

3. Have a ‘mind like water.’

Once again, David Allen coined this term. When you’ve got a “mind like water,” you’re in a receptive, ready state. You react appropriately to stimuli. You’re better able to notice when your thoughts are trending toward rumination. You’re better able to understand that there’s probably a message in your mind’s patterns. (We’re thinking still waters, here, not churning rapids, for the record.) 

With minds like water, we’re better equipped to bring awareness to any difficulties our brains may experience. We’ll have the emptiness that’s necessary to work through our emotions and examine where our attention goes. We’ll have the bandwidth we need to process tough stuff gently, to learn from info our subconscious brains are trying to present to us and get where we need to be with less suffering.

It isn’t easy, but it’ll pay off. Getting there starts by paying kind attention to what happens when our mind wanders and having the compassionate curiosity necessary to learn what our mind needs to settle and be still.

Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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