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How to Stop Being Absent Minded and Start to Be More Attentive

How to Stop Being Absent Minded and Start to Be More Attentive

Does any of these sound like you (or someone you know)?

You walk into a room and don’t know why you went in there in the first place. You are always late. You can never find your keys (or purse, etc). You space out in the middle of conversations. You don’t know what you want to do with your future because your thoughts aren’t organized enough to even begin to make any plans. You just feel absent minded all the time. 

So what should you do? There are things you can do to change your absent-mindedness. Even if you’re not absent-minded, you can at least share these tips with people who are.

Here are 11 things you can do to stop being absent minded and start to be attentive.

1. Put everything back in the same place

It sounds simple but it’s easier said than done for some people.

Try to create a new habit of routine. For example, when you walk in the door, put your keys in the same place. When you go to the mall, park in the same general area.

In other words, develop new habits. It will take a while for the new routines to become second nature but it will happen if you keep doing them for a few weeks. Just stay committed and try these tricks to make new habits stick.

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2. Make lists

Sometimes when I have a gazillion things flying around in my head that I need to accomplish, I get overwhelmed. And then nothing gets done. That’s why I immediately start making a list when I start feeling that way.

When I see what I need to get done on paper, it somehow calms me down. And if I need to, I even put them in order of priority. Sometimes I even put a time on each one … like, “At 10:00 I will answer all my emails. At 11:30, I will start a load of laundry.” Sounds cheesy, but it works.

Find out what lists you should keep to stay focus here: The Power of the List: Essential Lists for Productivity

3. Set timers

If you’re always late, learn to set the timer on your oven or your microwave or get an egg timer and set that. (Yes, here’re 7 Reasons to Borrow Grandma’s Egg Timer.)

As obnoxious as it sounds, when the buzzer goes off, it snaps you out of whatever you are consumed with in the moment and re-directs your attention to where you should be going.

The use of timers will get rid of your excuse … “I just lost track of time.” It won’t happen with a timer or at least it shouldn’t.

4. Use a schedule and pay attention to following it

Maybe you love technology and keep your schedule on your phone or perhaps you’re old-fashioned and keep it on paper. Either way, you still need one.

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That might sound obvious given the fact that we live in an over-scheduled world. But trust me, I know many people who don’t have one. If that’s you, get a schedule. And once you have it, pay attention to it and use it! What’s the point of having it if you don’t?

5. Delegate responsibilities.

No one is Superwoman (or Superman). You can’t do everything.

Some people don’t know this; they have perfectionist personalities. But being ‘perfect’ is a myth. It’s an illusion. There is no such thing.

If your over-committed life causes you to be absent-minded, tell other people to pick up the slack for you. Get your kids to do the laundry. Get your spouse to pick up your daughter at her friend’s house. You don’t have do do everything!

Learn about delegation so you can be a more attentive person: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

6. Use sticky notes

I think the person who invented the sticky note is the most brilliant person who ever lived! That’s a slight exaggeration but they work!

If you need to remember to send that email or make that call when you get to work, put a sticky note on your cell phone. Chances are that when you get to the office you will check your phone anyway – and you’ll see your reminder. It’s simple and effective.

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One note of caution though, don’t use too many! If you do, it becomes overwhelming and you get to the point where you don’t even “see” them anymore.

7. Do one thing at a time

Many people think they are great multi-taskers. They can talk on the phone, type emails and put make-up on all at the same time. But when you do too many things at once, none of them are done particularly well.

Do one thing at a time so you can make sure that you complete everything you are doing.

8. Have an “accountability buddy”

If you’re trying to develop any of the new habits that I’ve discussed so far, it helps to have someone hold you accountable.

Grab a friend and schedule quick, regular texts, emails or phone calls. They could either be reminders or they could be check-ins to report progress. Either way, if you know that you are going to have to answer to someone else, you will be more likely to stay committed to change.

9. Schedule regular de-cluttering

Lots of people have junk piles or even entire junk rooms. The problem is that many times they get out of control. Anyone who has watched any of the hoarder TV shows knows that once you let it get that way, it’s difficult to correct it.

Put your de-cluttering sessions on your schedule. Since you are already following your schedule, you will have consistency with throwing out what you don’t need.

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Some decluttering tips to help you:

If that’s a little bit too much for you, try this One Question to Help You Successfully Declutter Anything

10. Try to foresee problems and consequences of your actions

Your absent-mindedness affects other people. If you’re constantly late, your friend is probably sick of waiting an hour for you to show up at the restaurant; or maybe your kid is feeling bad because you are the last parent to pick them up from the slumber party.

Your actions affect others. Once you realize that, it might motivate you to adopt some of these tips.

11. Stop talking and start DOING

You can’t lose weight if you just sit around complaining about how fat you are. You can’t become a better basketball player if you sit on the couch and watch reality TV every night. And you can’t become less absent-minded if you don’t take action.

Talking about it is great but it doesn’t count. What does count is to start doing it! This will all take a little bit of work but if you follow these tops and stay committed, you will eventually become much more organized and on top of your game.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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