How I’m learning to focus

I’m discovering more and more that learning to focus is one of the more important skills I can develop. My default state tends to be one of a mind overwhelmed and jumping between thoughts constantly, and a body carrying some kind of stress pain. I find it difficult to organise myself. Despite trying several organisational systems (to do lists, etc) since forever (right back to my school days), nothing works. At least not long term. Trying new things is exciting at first, then just another item on my overwhelmed mind. At the end of my days, I feel like I’ve been dragged through it. The whole day feels wasted and meaningless and not worthwhile.

Every now and then I realise or remember that when I slow down, everything is better. When I can do one thing everything is better. That’s easy to forget because even when I think I’m doing one thing I find my mind wondering and worrying. I read a lot on focus and often find that people say it’s a skill that needs practice. The thing is, how do I practice.

I’ve found something lately that takes some work (and ironically some focus) but it’s working for me. When I practice it, I feel much less stressed and more in control. Also, I have a much stronger sense of being present. That sense of being present then seems to lessen the sense of the wasted day and being dragged through it.

The skill I’m practising is this: Keep drawing my mind back to my current activity, no matter how simple the activity.

That might seem like it’s oversimplifying, but part of the key is it needs to be simple. So no matter what I’m doing, as soon as I find my mind wandering and my focus leaving, I remind myself what I’m doing.

What I think will happen is this. I’ll practice that so much that eventually, I’ll start doing it without realising it. Then I’ll have the skill of focusing. I’m sure I’ll fall out of practice. Then I’ll have to remind myself to practice again.

While I’m typing this blog post, my mind keeps wandering. As I realise that I mentally say “I’m typing this blog post.”

That seems to be enough. It draws my mind back to the present and relaxes me into what I’m doing. When I don’t do that, here’s what happens to me:

  • I think about other things
  • I think about what I need to be doing
  • I feel like no matter what I’m doing I should be doing something else
  • I feel stressed at that thought
  • I become overwhelmed at not being able to decide on one thing
  • I become frustrated and unable to properly do what I’m trying to do

The technique I described helps me avoid those feelings. I end up being present in what I’m doing. As a result of that, I’m much less stressed. I also enjoy it a lot more. At the end of my day, I have more of a sense of being present in my activities. That makes the day feel better spent and more worthwhile.

As I’ve mentioned above, I’m sure I’ll forget this technique and fall out of practice. I’ve learned that in life that happens. These things don’t magically change you. They only work when you practice them and remember you have them.

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