It seems like everyone I ask these days is having a hard time focusing.
Whether from the stress of continued life in a pandemic, compassion fatigue and burnout, or layers of complex reasons that are all interacting, we’re feeling out of focus. It can be frustrating when you’re just trying to accomplish a task, and you can’t seem to get your mind to stick to one thing.
While not an instant fix, mindfulness is a great tool to help manage this challenge. Mindfulness helps us to stay in the present moment, notice our surroundings, and engage fully in the moment we’re in. It helps to decrease those thought spirals you get stuck in, or that pull your focus all over the place, because mindfulness teaches you to acknowledge thoughts and then release them.
So how can you practice mindfulness throughout your workday?
1). Focus on one moment at a time:
This will take practice. And if it sounds like a big ask, that’s okay. Being grounded in the present moment is essentially the core tenet of mindfulness, so if you struggle with it at first, just remind yourself it’s going to take some practice. To practice this, you could keep a post-it note on your desk with the question “Is this something that needs to be done immediately?”
Our minds often fly off in a hundred different directions when we’re stressed about something. Which means, if you’re working on one thing and get an email that there’s something else you’ll need to do, unrelated to what you’re working on now, it can be tempting to just get it taken care of right away. But this takes away from the focus and momentum you have for what you’re already working on. When something like this comes up, look at your post-it and ask if it needs to be taking up space in this moment, or if it can wait until you’re done.
2). Set boundaries for yourself to help eliminate distractions:
While you practice staying grounded in the present moment, there are little things you can do to help yourself along. What is constantly pulling your attention away from what you’re doing? Do you feel the need to check emails as soon as they come in? Do you feel the need to answer emails as soon as you’ve gotten them? Do you keep your notification sounds on? These are all things you can do something about! Determine times of the day you’ll check your email, and try to stick to those, instead of being pulled away every time a new email dings in your inbox. Turn your phone or other notifications on “do not disturb”, so emergency calls can still get through, but constant noises letting you know there are things to check won’t be there to make you pause what you’re doing every few minutes.
3). Don’t react immediately:
If something is not truly urgent, there is no need to treat it with urgency. And often, reacting immediately leaves solutions or important details overlooked. This can go hand in hand with not responding to emails the second they come in. Give yourself time to process what the situation is and think through what you reasonably can do and when.
4). Establish a grounding practice:
Whether it’s the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise, or a deep breathing exercise, or something else, have a go to grounding method you can use when you need it. This can help you when you need to slow down before responding to something, instead of reacting. When you find your thoughts being constantly pulled in different directions, use your exercise to bring you back to the present moment.