Focus on what’s important: train your mind – like a puppy!

Is your mind anything like mine?

It feels like a constant battle to focus on what’s important, not get distracted by what’s interesting, and filter out the noise.

How do you hold on to that precious mental focus to create more space in your day for what is important? Your email and news feed will always be crammed with interesting things. Your phone will always be begging for your attention. But, you always have the choice of where to put that attention. Practice exercising that choice, and it will get easier to focus.

It’s not easy, I know! Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Set your priorities and keep them front of mind. Make a small space in your day to decide where you want to focus. I like to set my goals for the day, jot down targets to achieve, and then fill in a daily schedule. I then check back in with that through the day to keep myself on track. The biggest benefit I get from this is reducing decision fatigue. Decide once, then just get on with it.
  2. Catch that wandering mind. As you work through your tasks, notice when your mind drifts off to play with something new and shiny. To stop this throwing you off task, instil a little discipline. Our minds are not great at focus. Imagine your mind is like a puppy wanting to play; gently but firmly return it to the task at hand, and eventually it will learn. Still distracted? Check in with how productive you are being. Do you need a short break, a brain-boosting snack, or a drink of water? Or maybe you’ve been focusing too long and need to switch tasks? Learn what your daily rhythms of focus and distraction are and work to those.
  3. Learn to say no, with grace. And I don’t just mean when someone interrupts us with a new demand (although this is important too). We are constantly making micro-decisions as we navigate our day. How good are you at owning your priorities and saying no to distractions when it’s appropriate? Often, we are swayed off task by feelings and sensations such as boredom, fear of missing out, the excitement of novelty. If we are strong in our purpose, and clear about what it takes to achieve it, it is easier to turn down distractions and keep that puppy focused. If a fear of inconveniencing others leads you to undervalue your own priorities and be easily pulled off task, then check in with your sense of self-worth. Do you truly value yourself enough to feel you are worthy of putting your needs equal with others?

Best of luck out there as you train your attention, reduce stress and create more space in your day for the important things. As you practice this skill you might notice how much time and energy you expend dealing with the frustration caused by distractions. Time and energy much better spent on your priorities!

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