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Focus boot camp part 3
Better Focus Boot Camp
The mind, like the body, can get flabby and lazy. And like the body, your mind will strengthen with regular exercise.
Welcome to your mental boot camp.
If you simply plod along and let your mind move in any direction it wants, your brain muscles will weaken and atrophy. You need to take control and whip those muscles into shape so that focused concentration becomes second nature.
- Be a kind drill sergeant. Just as you need to build up your physical stamina gradually, you’ll be building your mental muscles slowly. If you overdo it, you are far more likely to become discouraged and give up.
- Give yourself timed tasks. Start with just five minutes and concentrate totally on what you are doing. Stop and rest. Five minutes of intensive concentration can be labor-intensive. After a break, do another five minutes of concentration. Double the time each day, so that your ability to concentrate grows slowly but surely. At this easy pace, you should be able to single-mindedly concentrate on a task for over an hour in less than two weeks. It will have become a natural habit!
- We discussed the importance of lists. Now that you’re in boot camp, you’ll take it a step further. Make of list of your favorite distraction tactics – social media, talking to friends, cooking, shopping – whatever you know you do when you are in avoidance mode. Keep this list handy. Whenever you find yourself tempted to indulge yourself, make a conscious decision to step back. Don’t turn on any social media, and don’t start any activity that will keep you from your primary task. This will take willpower. However, once you become aware of how you invite distractions into your life, it will be easier to resist temptation.
- Make sure 15 to 30 minutes of mindful meditation becomes a regular part of your day, regardless of how busy you are. The power of meditation to quiet your mind and enhance your ability to concentrate is enormous. A study using 140 volunteers in a 2-month meditation program showed that each participant had measurably enhanced his or her ability to concentrate.
- Mindfulness has a powerful effect on the brain, so practice being mindful every day. It involves slowing down and become totally aware of what you are doing using all your senses. If you are eating, notice the color, aroma, texture and taste of the food instead of simply gulping it down. When walking, take a few minutes to really notice a flower, a rock, or any other object. How does it feel to the touch, how does it smell, how do you feel holding it? These exercises create a heightened awareness that will hone your focus to a razor-sharp edge.
- We’ve discussed the importance of physical activity to help your brain improve its concentration abilities. In boot camp, you’ll be challenging your brain until it has the mental equivalent of 6-pack abs. Read a classic novel that requires you to actually concentrate. Do crossword puzzles regularly. Learn to play chess or a musical instrument. These activities sharpen challenge the mind and sharpen the brain muscles very effectively.
- Develop better listening habits. Just hearing what someone is saying is not the same as listening. Active listening requires concentration and using all your senses and full focus. Don’t just hear the word, but be aware of the tone and body language of the speaker. This is mindful listening, which engages your entire brain.
The choice whether to actively live a focused or unfocused life is yours. One of the problems with focus is that it isn’t really encouraged in today’s world. In many ways, it is discouraged. We are told that we must balance job, relationships and leisure time because each is important in our lives. At work, we are told to take on multiple assignments and complete multiple tasks at the same time. We are also told we should be “networking” with our coworkers instead of concentrating on our work.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to get ahead on the job, while at the same time having a satisfying social life. But there are times we need to become single-minded in order to succeed. That means concentrating on just one thing. In today’s world, that can be challenging.
We can focus all we want, but if we focus on the wrong thing, we don’t accomplish what we set out to do. That is why it is important to prioritize. If we want to succeed, we first need to know on what to focus.
If we are constantly torn between different tasks, we are adding needless stress to our life. We are unable to function optimally when our concentration is being torn in different directions. It’s critical to prioritize your goals in order for each to receive your complete attention. If you don’t, you’ll be spending a lot of time in a mental fog.
In addition to a daily to-do list, have a weekly review list. Things come up, and you need to remain flexible. If you’ve planned on finishing a report, but your daughter’s important recital pops up during that scheduled time, you may need to make changes. By having a weekly schedule, you can shift things around when necessary without stressing out and become unable to concentrate on both important matters.
Create habits that will help you keep your power of concentration at a high level. As discussed, a to-do list is essential. In addition, creating habits at work will help keep you focused. Have a time for checking and answering emails and stick to it. Have another time for taking and returning phone calls.
Know your own body rhythm. Some people function best in the morning. If that is you, prioritize your most challenging task first thing. Allot a certain amount of time to concentrate on that task, then move on to the second item on your list. Prioritizing can reduce a lot of stress and enhance your ability to concentrate when your energy is high.
When you go through life unfocused, you get less done yet work harder, because distractions scatter your energies. It is virtually impossible to be and do your best when you spend much of your time in a mental fog. People will stop relying on you, because you can’t always honor your commitments. You disappoint employees, families and friends alike.
You will never know how much you are capable of if you don’t actively focus your mind on what you are doing. Our time here on earth is finite. Why not use it to the best of our ability by increasing our awareness, focus on what really matters, and enjoy all of life’s abundance rather than settling for scraps.
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