12 Steps to Cultivate Laser-Like Focus

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 3.02.13 PMMost people attribute living life in distraction to stress and busyness. No matter whose fault, the external or the internal, not being completely present because you are multi-tasking or ruminating about what’s next on the list can lead to critical errors in judgment and careless mistakes. You might even notice that when you are distracted, you are more accident prone. And everything takes longer to do because distraction feeds directly into procrastination.

Distraction usually happens inside out. A daydream or a worry dominates the real, present moment. To stop being absent, begin to cultivate the habit of focused attention during the good times, the lighter days with less to do, because you want this alive and alert mindset to become a reflex action when you are stressed. Stress makes you revert to habituated pathways, so make good focus your go-to mindset. A Zen saying states: Be master of your mind rather than be mastered by it.

12 Steps to Cultivate Laser-Like Focus:

  1. Clean out the clutter both mental and physical. Clutter obscures goals and confuses problem-solving.
  2. Make up your mind to be aware. When you find your mind wandering, observe it and don’t judge. Simply bring yourself back to the moment.
  3. Bring your attention back to your breath when you feel distracted. Relax your breathing into deeper, slower and shallower breaths. Breathing deeper oxygenates your brain to improve focus.
  4. Words are very powerful. They can trigger stress by bringing on a negative mindset, or calm you down and remind you to be present to the task at hand.
  5. Have a phrase prepared in advance which accomplishes this relaxation response for you.
  6. For most people some sort of exercise triggers mindfulness which then transfers to activities of daily living. Exercising is like a moving meditation and promotes focused attention to all other tasks.
  7. When you are involved in conversations, start to really listen. Listening attentively is great training for a sharper focus.
  8. No matter how mundane, reinvent the task at hand with enthusiasm to make it new. Imagine how the task is a step to accomplishing a major goal, can heal a nagging thought, or promote a pathway of discipline.
  9. Cluster all the single tasks that are in proximity of each other – either physically like in the same neighborhood or mentally because they require the same kind of analytics to achieve them. This is the antidote to multi-tasking.
  10. Don’t gobble your food or eat on the run. Practice eating mindfully. Live in greater awareness regarding all things.
  11. Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. Distraction begins in the land of shame and guilt.
  12. If you daydream a lot when you drive, attend class, or do your work, set aside daily time for daydreaming. If your daydreams are distracting you, maybe they are trying to tell you something. Once you identify the message or see a pattern, your focus will quickly improve.
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About Debbie Mandel

I'm an author, stress management specialist, and my latest book is "Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life" (Wiley, Sept. 2008). Also, I host a weekly radio show and run an educational site where you can learn more about building immunity to feeling bad: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com