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Last Updated on February 17, 2021

How Mindfulness for Productivity Can Improve Your Focus

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How Mindfulness for Productivity Can Improve Your Focus

Mindfulness has become a popular and fashionable activity in recent times. The act of focused awareness on the flow of the present moment brings us into the here and now so that we are conscious of what we are doing. This is why practicing mindfulness for productivity can help us change the way we live and work.

It may seem both simple and obvious, but when we focus our awareness on our thoughts, we will find that we spend most of our day thinking about past and future events, or sitting around day dreaming rather than focusing on what matters.

Most people have a natural time perspective, and their thoughts are dominated by either past, present, or future events. What we don’t want is past or future events dominating our present experiences, or that we live too much in the present that we don’t learn from past experiences nor plan for the future. So, like most things in life, we seek balance.

The practice of mindfulness teaches us to become aware of our thoughts and the present moment. It is a habit we need to nurture because our natural tendency is to stray from the here and how to tomorrow, next week, or next month. When we practice mindfulness for productivity, we keep calling back our wandering mind to rest on the current moment.

The Benefits of Mindfulness for Productivity

Below are some of the many benefits of mindfulness for productivity and how they can improve our focus.

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Greater Focus

One of our biggest challenges to getting things done is the distraction of the mind. While we try to get the task at hand done, our mind reminds us of ten others that still need doing. We quickly check our email because our mind alerts us to the fact there may be unread emails in our inbox, and if they remain unchecked we may be missing the fact that the Earth is shortly to be demolished by an alien construction crew.

As this thought comes into our head, we then remember that our copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was lent to a friend, so maybe we should shoot over to Amazon and buy a fresh copy. Mindfulness training jumps in the way of all these distractions of the mind and says “Come back to the present moment, and get going on what needs to be done.”

More Effective Planning

At the outset, mindfulness may appear to conflict with the concept of planning, but in fact they complement each other greatly. Planning allows us to practice mindfulness for productivity by reducing the burdens that the mind needs to worry about.

If we schedule and plan all our responsibilities and duties, we have less to distract us from our daily tasks. When applying mindfulness techniques, planning can be a much more effective process, as it won’t be delayed by the disruptions of other activities and ideas.

If you already have a busy schedule and don’t know how to make the most of it, check out Lifehack’s Free Guide: 4 Step Guide to Creating More Time Out of a Busy Schedule.

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Less Stress

A lot of stress is brought about by imagining negative future scenarios. If we were to live completely in the present, we would not suffer from this stress, but the human brain has the ability to cast itself into the future, so we have to learn how to manage it in order to improve our mental health

Stressing about future scenarios that haven’t happened is a pointless habit; mindfulness can teach us how to redirect these negative and worrying thoughts back to the present moment and remind us that the future hasn’t happened[1]. Mindfulness can also help with the insomnia that often accompanies stressful situations.

Better Sleep

Whenever we lie awake at night thinking about the poor sales figures or the bills that need to be paid, we need to bring our focus back to our physical body and the fact we are lying comfortable and warm in bed and that the things that are occupying our minds have not happened yet.

When we learn mindfulness for productivity, we will slip more quickly into sleep, which will help us wake up the next morning with more energy and focus to face the day.

How to Practice Mindfulness for Productivity

Mindfulness isn’t a natural skill for many of us. Our minds wander and thoughts take over. In order to practice this, there are a few simple steps you can take.

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1. Start With Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the first natural step toward mindfulness. When you meditate, you will learn to slow your breath, calm your thoughts, and make space for the emotions that arise. It’s not about eliminating thoughts and emotions, but instead noticing them and responding in a way that helps you stay focused and process them. 

After some weeks of practicing meditation, you will find that the present moment becomes a little sharper in your consciousness and that you begin to notice little things throughout the day that help ground you: the sound of birds in the trees outside, the chill of a breeze coming in through the window, or the softness of your socks. 

To get started with meditation, try guided meditation practices, or check out this helpful guide.

2. Tap Into Your Senses

To practice mindfulness for productivity, you should try to find moments when your mind begins to wander. This is likely to happen in the middle of a workday, in the evening after a busy day, or even in the morning when you’re feeling groggy.

In these moments, tap into your senses by noticing details of your environment. What do you hear, see, smell, taste, or feel? For example, if you’re in your office, you may hear your coworkers chatting, see your desk and papers, smell the coffee on your desk, and feel the coolness of the air conditioner. Noticing these simple details will help bring you into the present and refocus your energy.

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3. Sit Quietly

Many people try to avoid sitting in silence as often as possible, as our brains are now so accustomed to noise and other stimuli. This is precisely the reason we should make time to sit in silence. When you do this, you give your thoughts a chance to slow down, which will quiet the thoughts surrounding the past and future.

Find a quiet space where you can be alone, even if it’s only for five minutes. Sit quietly, with your eyes open or close, and just pay attention to your breathing. Let your thoughts come and go, and you’ll likely notice that they naturally get quieter the longer you sit.

The Bottom Line

Take this moment to remember that the future hasn’t happened, the past is gone, and the present is all we have and all that is guaranteed. Make sure you are part of each moment that you live and experience the gift that is the now through mindfulness for productivity.

More on Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Callum Shaw via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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Last Updated on October 20, 2021

How to Deal with Digital Distraction to Improve Your Focus

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How to Deal with Digital Distraction to Improve Your Focus

We live in a time where we have access to nearly anything and everything we could ever ask for. But we need to ask ourselves: Is this a good thing? If you’re planning a honeymoon, looking for ways to build your next business, or searching to improve your physical fitness, having an endless portal of information is worth its weight in gold. But if you’re like most individuals throughout the world, the internet has become a source of ongoing anxiety, stress, and fear-mongering—a digital distraction that can have devastating effects on our mental and emotional well-being.

With social media, we see what people want us to see, not what they truly are at all hours during the day. We see what news outlets want us to see with our newsfeed, especially if it’s skewed to connect with your views through a brilliantly designed algorithm. With our information, we confirm our biases through articles, podcast episodes, and reading forums that perfectly reinforce what we already know. Yet, we have to wonder: is this good for us, for our brains, and our long-term growth?

Even with the recent advancements in technology over the last few decades, our brains haven’t changed much. The latest estimates suggest that our modern-day brains haven’t changed in over 40,000 years, which is a blink of an eye on our trajectory of life on our planet as we know it.[1] As a result of this lack of change, our brains haven’t been able to adapt to digital distractions—this rapidly changing technology and fast-paced lifestyle—which was created to hijack our brain’s neural circuitry by creating continuous stressors that have devastating effects on our overall health.

In his infamous book Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky documents how stress affects both animals and humans, essentially making the analogy that stress isn’t bad in small quantities, but repeated and chronic stressors over days, weeks, months, and even years can have detrimental effects on our health. And these stressors don’t even have to be real!

Perceived stress from anxiety, judgment, fear of missing out, and feelings of being inferior to others based on comparisons and social media profiles can have similar effects on our health because the brain cannot truly tell the difference between a real or perceived threat. Technological advancements rarely come without a hidden cost to the people using them.

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While this talk may all sound grim and pessimistic, it doesn’t have to be. The advent of the internet and social media has allowed individuals to express themselves, find their tribe, and connect with others around the world without having to leave their homes. And companies are being built at the kitchen counter of an apartment because of how impactful the internet has become.

To change our current mental health and addiction trajectory, we must understand how to take back control and use these platforms to our advantage. Here are a few tips on how to deal with digital distractions and improve your focus.

1. Kiss Your Notifications Good-Bye

In his hallmark book, Indistractible, Nir Eyal goes into great detail about how social media companies ingeniously created “alerts” to seduce the mind into spending more time on a platform, thus increasing viewing times, creating greater revenue generation, and creating a dependency on updated information. Much like casinos, these tactics heavily involve similar reward pathways within the brain, causing the user to become a dopamine-addicted fiend by using likes, clicks, and alerts to fuel an archaic positive-feedback system that keeps them coming back for more.[2]

Do you actually need to know when someone liked a friend’s page? In the grand scheme of things, how impactful is it to see that you got 20 likes on your post from yesterday? And is it going to change your career trajectory if your friend posted a cat video on their TikTok page?

Let’s be honest, our lives would be much easier if we weren’t inundated with these quick little digital distractions, which is exactly what they are. They’re designed to keep you as a user, which is why you need to take control of your content and filter your settings for alerts.

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Alerts are nothing more than simple distractions to take you away from the task at hand, so why not just get rid of them? Odds are, you are most likely checking your social media page a few times a day anyway. So since you’re already heading to the page, hold off on the distractions while you get your work done.

And this brings us to our next point.

2. Structure Provides Freedom of Choice

Planning your day can be one of the most efficient uses of your time because it sets up the structure needed to accomplish your tasks. This structure inherently allows you greater freedom of choice down the road, as it will allow you to have more free time after you get your work done and finish up deadlines. It will also reinforce that freedom isn’t the lack of boundaries. It is the foundation to allow you to have greater freedom of choice later.

Saving money may not be the most glorious habit. Still, those small habits of saving can compound into significant personal and financial freedoms later in life, essentially allowing you the freedom to retire from work and still have the financial flexibility to continue on with life.

The same is true with using social media and digital platforms for enjoyment. Planning the times and duration for using these platforms can be one of the most efficient uses of your time because it creates boundaries. Influencers on social media platforms don’t have enough time in the day to be scrolling and creating content, but they make you feel like they do. This principle is also true for you, especially those who use digital platforms to promote your brand, business, or company.

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Use your time wisely because we all have a limited and finite amount of it no matter how wealthy you are.

3. Use Digital Platforms to Grow, Not to Show

Who you choose to follow on social media will dictate how productive you are when you’re not actively scrolling. Why? Because your newsfeed will influence the emotions, feelings, and reactions to drive you closer or further away from achieving your goals.

When digital distractions become rampant, they take you away from the tasks at hand and can cause you to feel guilty because of how they make you feel. Just because you aren’t a 27-year-old YouTube channel sensation doesn’t mean you won’t ever achieve the status of being an influential entrepreneur. You can’t compare your chapter 2 to someone else’s chapter 10.

Your choice in following accounts and individuals who will empower you to overcome stressors, hurdles, and personal life choices could give you enough motivation to push through the struggles and face your greatest fears. And if you haven’t taken the time to clean up who you follow on social media, it’s time to make it happen.

Humans are social animals and can be easily influenced by our surroundings. Case in point: Dr. Stanley Milgram performed multiple studies in the 1960s where participants were asked to induce a graded electric shock to an “unknowingly” willing participant in a separate room. Over time, the participants were asked to turn up the intensity of the shocks, reaching a point of lethal shock intensity. Even at lethal shock levels, the participants kept inducing shocks to the individual in the closed room per suggestions from the accompanying individual in the room guiding them through the exercise. Why? Because when people have authority, we inherently obey their orders to feel connected and socially accepted, even if those orders involve drastic actions and near-fatal outcomes.[3]

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Luckily, there were no individuals harmed during these experiments because the participants in the closed room were actors hired to play the part of being shocked. But the information is enough to show just how impactful outside sources of influence—especially authoritative forces like social media influencers and people with high follower counts—can be on changing our behaviors.

Your time spent online should pick you up and help guide you towards your intended goals, not push you down and make you feel inferior to the rest of the world. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we already had a mental health crisis on our hands.[4] Let’s do what we can to reverse it.

4. When You Choose To Focus, Your Life Will Come Into Focus

If you’ve ever been looking for a new car, you know how impactful intentional focus can be on accomplishing a task. It is at this moment when you realize that every other person on the road is driving the same car that you’ve been looking to buy. How is this possible?

The amount of cars on the road hasn’t changed. Your perceptions have. It’s always been that way, but once your brain starts to focus on a specific detail, you start seeing more of it manifest throughout your environment. This happens regardless of whether or not you’re looking for the good, the bad, or the ugly. What you hope to see is what you will eventually get.

When you focus your time and energy on accomplishing your end task, your brain will find things to reinforce this pattern, thus creating an inevitable positive feedback cycle that will take you and your game to the next level. This concept of “The Law of Attraction” can be dated back centuries to many historical figures throughout the world.[5]

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So, the next time you find yourself fazed by digital distractions and lost in the realms of our current digital age, take some time to sit back, lose yourself in your thoughts, and put your phone away. It’s the only way you will make it out alive.

More Tips on Dealing With Distractions

Featured photo credit: Maxim Ilyahov via unsplash.com

Reference

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