Let’s start right away. I want to eliminate anything that can distract you from finishing this post.
- Do you feel like you want to do a million and one things this instant?
- Do you lack the ability or desire to stay with your task till you complete it, including the simplest of tasks?
- Do you feel unmotivated to start on something that you really want to accomplish?
- Are you easily distracted and everything in the entire world seems more interesting than what you’re doing?
- Are there things you need to do that remain undone because there is no outside pressure/deadline to force completion?
If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions then you are a scattered brainer. Welcome to the club :). There is nothing wrong with being distracted every now and then, or not even getting anything done. But when it becomes a constant in your daily life, you can fall into a stressful trap of avoidance, or worse, trying to catch up and make up for lost time.
I have been implementing the tips below to deal with my scattered brain. I’m slowly regaining my focus and brain power. Hope you find these tips useful. Try to work with as many of them as you can.
1. Know what you want to do and prioritize.
This is the most obvious and probably one that is listed in every productivity book and article out there. The importance of this step cannot be overstated.
If you don’t know what you want and stuff is just floating in your head, you’ll never get the satisfaction of doing anything. So yes make a list of everything that is on your mind. Then Prioritize—with a capital P. This is where you get to tell your brain to stop fretting about the small stuff and focus on what is really important.
2. Break it down and keep it simple.
Once you have your list and you determine your top two or three tasks, choose one to start with and break it down to the simplest form of action. Every step should not take more than 15 to 30 minutes to complete. If it takes longer, break it down further.
The smaller the task, the less time it takes to get done, the more you’re likely to stick with it. This is a good way to tell your brain to just stay with it for 15 minutes.
3. Start and do it slowly—one task at a time.
Don’t try to speed thing up in an effort to save time. This triggers your brain to drift to what you want to do next instead of what you’re doing right now. Your brain can focus on one thought at a time, so make it about what is right in front of you. Do things slowly and deliberately. You will feel much better once you complete your task.
4. Take breaks.
Don’t be tempted to work nonstop for hours on end. This will lead to burn out and you won’t have enough motivation to start again.
After completing a 15-30 minute task, take a break and do something fun. You can stretch, move, read an article or whatever you feel like doing. Just don’t take too long. I would suggest 5-10 minutes.
Once you complete 4 tasks, take a longer break—an hour or so. This is your free time to do whatever you like—guilt free.
5. Learn to focus.
If you want to have laser sharp focus, you need to learn how to meditate and do it.
Meditation is becoming more mainstream now and is really easy to do. You don’t need to spend an hour. Start with a few minutes and move up to 15 – 30 minutes. Do a search and pick a breathing or mantra meditation. The most important thing is to train your brain to relax, and focus on one thing (the mantra or your breath).
6. Ditch your clock/watch. Work in intervals.
Forget about the clock and don’t obsess over time. It doesn’t matter when you start working on something. Use a timer and set it to the estimated time to complete your task (an interval of no more than 30 minutes). Start the timer and go for it. Don’t stop until your time is up. Take a break and repeat.
Focus on working and getting your tasks done, regardless of what time it is. This way you are guaranteed to work instead of finding excuses to postpone things till tomorrow, when you can work on them bright and early.
7. Don’t do anything else until your interval is done.
Don’t do anything else while your timer is running for a specific task. If it is something that requires inspiration (like writing) and you can’t seem to find any, just sit still and think about the task until your time is up.
Don’t be tempted to do something else because you can’t seem to get started on the task at hand. Sooner or later inspiration will come—you’ll be surprised by how effective five minutes of silence can be in sparking your genius.
8. Keep going.
If you fall off the wagon, just pick up and start again. There is no reason for you to give up. Review what you did and what went wrong, learn from it and move on to your next task or interval.
Remember: practice makes improvement.
9. Power down and reboot.
Give yourself free days to enjoy yourself away from tasks and to do’s. Keep it free and don’t commit to anything new. This is a time for you to relax, have fun and spend time with your loved ones.
Use your off days to unwind and empty your mental cache. Don’t try to squeeze in anything else. After a break, you’ll feel energized and motivated to get back to your tasks.
10. Make it fun.
Embrace your playful inner child and use your imagination to make the best out of every task. Even the most mundane thing can be fun and entertaining.
When you are working on a task, imagine that someone is watching you and commenting on how brilliantly you’re working. Or that you are trying to set a world record, or break your own. You can have a conversation with yourself as you work … you get the picture.
Your results depend on where you choose to put your focus and energy. So do what gives you the most effective results in the most enjoyable manner. Once you get going and you keep going, there is no turning back—things get easier and you start harnessing more of your mental power.
Photo courtesy of David Goehring