Focus. The word focus is more than a five-letters just written on a page. It carries so much meaning that can be empowering and daunting all at the same time. Many times, we use the word when telling others how well we did, “I was so focused today during my class!”, bring feelings of joy, and fulfillment. Then there is the other side of the word, that often causes the feeling of frustration, anger, and disappointment direct often at ourselves. On days we struggle to focus we spend our time thinking of what we should be doing, and everything that will help to “focus”, but in truth we’re avoiding what we think we should be doing, I like to call this the “what if I just…” mindset. We place a large amount of energy thinking that well maybe we could focus if our desk was neater, or if we had the right planner/organizer we could manage our time better, or if we just take a short break, we could then just focus.
We all want to be able to focus better, more often, or on the right things. We want to present in all our relationships, in school or work, during vacation, and many other things that we value, but the truth is that we often struggle with it all at some point and then we feel guilty. The negative feelings associated with not focusing are hard to avoid and hard to move past once they have set in and caused us to begin thinking about what we can do differently to keep from feeling them again. There are many ways to adjust where we place our energy, and down below I have listed a few things that keep me out of the loop of “what if I just…” and put me on the track I wish to be on.
Turn it off
If you can’t leave them off all day, then just for 20 minutes. I find that when I’m struggling to focus on something that I gravitate to whatever electronic device I am closest to, and it adds to my ability to stay off task. So, turn them off for at least 20 minutes if not all day. If turning off your devices is not something you can do then leave as many as you can put up, in your desk, purse, on the floor across the room, or in a different room.
Drink water and have a snack
Feelings of thirst and hunger can be very distracting, so drink some water and eat something small. I say drink water because it’s good for you and your body craves it (we are made of mostly water), and eat something small. Having a large meal can cause you to feel tired, sluggish, and just a bit too relaxed; so, go for a light meal or small snack to get through whatever you need to do.
Go for a walk
Walking away from the task at hand can be very helpful. Stepping away gives your brain a short break, even if it’s just to go to the bathroom. Allowing yourself to not think or temporality change what you’re thinking about can help you focus more once you return what you were doing.
These are my top three things to do when I need to focus, but if you try them or some of your own and still can’t then maybe you should do something else. If your best efforts to focus don’t seem to be enough then, just maybe, your brain and body are trying to tell you something and that is okay. It is okay to spend your time doing other things that may not be as pressing but still important. Taking your dog for a walk, relaxing in the bath or shower, writing in a journal, coloring, painting, reading, exercising, or even laying on your bed counting bumps on your ceiling, are important things that you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing instead of beating yourself up trying to focus on something that you just can’t today. There is always tomorrow or even later in the day to try and focus on that big assignment, or class, or whatever is important to you. So, just breath, try the few tips I gave and be kind to yourself.