How’s your to-do list looking? How high is your laundry pile? Does the idea of staying focused long enough to plan anything, a party, a meal, a day with friends make you want to collapse into a nap? Are your eyebrows squinched together in annoyance, just reading this? Yeah, I know how you feel.
I’m good at making the lists, but with all that’s going on in my life, it’s harder to focus on the growing lists instead of the anxiety from not knocking out enough of the items on those dang-blasted lists.
So, why not stop making lists? BRILLIANT! Wait. If I stop making lists, then I’ll stop doing most of the stuff that needs to get done. I mean the my-butt’s-on-fire lists would get done, but the lists of minutia-that-needs-attention-before-it-slips-over-to-the-my-butt’s-on-fire list needs attention, too.
Since I’m a writer, I spent most of my hours alone, writing. Some days, I do nothing but win. Other days, I do nothing but flitter from task to task to task, with little to show for it by the end of the day. Those days make me craz
iery. I have the best intentions to make the most of my hours. I have well-thought out plans (sometimes). I have the tools at my disposal to allow me to be the best that I can be (ice cream counts, right?). Yet, something is lacking on the days that I fall short. While I’d love to blame the crashing fatigue of perimenopause, that’s such an easy out…and I won’t accept it!
Finding focus is what I need. Finding focus is what’s gonna get me out of this sour dill pickle. Is this a dill pickle?
So how does one find this elusive focus? How do I find focus?
Well, that’s simple. It’s what we do all day. In and out. In and out. All done!
Not really. What I’m talking about here is taking deep belly-breath inhalations, down to your core, then holding for a few seconds before expelling. It’s a technique athletes use to maximize oxygen, which in turn helps with focus. It’s one of the easiest, yet most overlooked methods to sharpening one’s focus.
How does one belly breathe? Breathe in deeply (some do this through their mouth, yet I prefer through the nose), while at the same time, pushing out your stomach, which will push down your diaphragm. This action allows your lungs the maximum amount of space to expand with oxygen. When you do this, your belly should rise, not your chest. I tell first-timers to lay on the floor and put their hands on their belly as they breathe. That way you can tell by feel when your stomach expands. This may take some practice.
#2: Pick one thing from your list.
Another method that sounds easy. How does one pick ONE THING?! Sheer will, that’s how.
I have giant to-do lists for my site/house/personal life that I keep on my desk. Simply looking at them annoys the hell out of me. As a whole, the lists are overwhelming. GO AWAY!
I look again. Nope. Still there.
Fine, be that way.
Because the whole can cause you to tuck tail and run, take a closer look and pick one thing that is not only doable, but one that won’t take too much time. This way you’ll feel like you’re finally moving in the right direction upon completion of that one thing and it will cause your anxiety level to diminish, thereby priming you for the next one thing.
Pick one thing, baby!
#3: Turn away/off distractions.
Hello open tabs to Facebook/Pinterest/G-Chat/Twitter/et al.!
Honesty Disclosure of the Moment: tabs I have open while writing this piece: PicMonkey, three tabs in my browser, and OMT! (for reference posts). I instituted a new rule a few months back that if I’m writing, all the fun stuff gets closed. PLUS (this next one is tough), I don’t root through the news sites until all my work is done at the end of the day. OMT! used to write a political blog and for three years I did nothing but scour news sites. I is a news junkie!
I have also been known to turn off the sounds to my phone. This one is getting less and less so, because I need to be available for family. When I do turn it off, I find myself checking it about once every thirty minutes, which is still better than being distracted by the email notification (for three email accounts…eep!).
Doing both of these things helps me to stay focused. When I look at the top of my screen and see what I have open, not one of them is unrelated to the task at hand. I found when I kept the unrelated sites open, they became a time suck of epic proportions. No more. It’s a stab in the funs to miss out during the day, but necessary.
Turn away/off distractions, baby!
#4: Sit outside in the sun.
Sans umbrelly drank, y’all! I know, ultimate buzz kill. Take some sweet tea with you instead or even better a cool glass of water.
Sitting in the sun and not marking things off your list? Have I lost my mind? Of course I have, but that has nothing to do with this.
Sitting in the sun means you have to go outside. Going outside means you leave your unfocused environment or state of mind for a few minutes. This simple step is the antidote for the blahs, the ehs, the whatevers.
Caveat: While getting some sun is tremendously beneficial, you must be smart about your exposure. As a melanoma survivor, I do get sun, even on unprotected skin, but those unprotected times are limited to early/late hours. If I’m in the sun during peak hours, I am wearing sunscreen.
Getting 10-15 minutes of pure sunshine every day has known health benefits.
When you’re in a slump or you can’t find focus, grab some sun. Allowing yourself the gift of getting outside and soaking up the rays is a positive step. When I’ve stepped outside for a few minutes, I return to my work happier and relaxed…ready to focus.
Sit in the sun, baby!
#5: Stop trash-talking yourself.
So you didn’t get many things accomplished from your list. Maybe you only got one thing done…maybe none. Does that mean you need to say the things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else because you had a bad day? Are you are horrible, no good, despicable human being based on your bad day? Not rhetorical. Go ahead, answer the question: are you?
Of course not!
So stop acting like you suck when you obviously don’t.
We all have days when focus lags. It’s OK; it happens. Hell, I’m probably older than you, so I’ve had waaaay more days like that than you can count, and I’m still here fighting for focus.
The point is this: each day do what you can. Try. Focus, even if it’s for one tiny task. Do.
And if you fail, you get a brand new day tomorrow (God-willing), so stop with the mouthiness.
Stop trash-talking yourself, baby!
Now, enough reading, get to doing.