How to be Mindful While Staying Focused
Staying focused on a task in and of itself can be tricky. This is further complicated when you must maintain active mindfulness during the activity, as your brain could become stretched thin.
Being mindful involves becoming self-aware of our thoughts in the present. Though this sounds easy, research has actually showed that people spend almost half of their time thinking about other things when trying to accomplish a task. Our brains essentially go into auto mode, where it is common to overlook important details or other considerations.
How to Achieve Mindfulness
Mindfulness does not begin simultaneously with the task—you must first put yourself into the right mindset. Try meditating briefly by taking deep breaths and organizing your thoughts before you begin so that you start with a fresh, clear mind. If you notice yourself drifting, repeat the deep breathing process.
Focus and awareness are two key components of mindfulness:
Focus refers to capacity to concentrate only on the task at hand
Awareness refers to ability to filter out unnecessary stimuli (ex. an email) while also being receptive to necessary stimuli (ex. a call to attention from an employer)
At times the thought of taking a break seems unfathomable, but research has shown that taking micro-breaks throughout the day actually increases mindfulness because it lets you reorient yourself to the present task.
Similar to the logic of deep breathing exercises, it can also be helpful to take a moment and get back in touch with your surroundings when you’re feeling distracted. You can do this by tapping into your senses:
Visual environment (sight)
Surrounding/background noise (sound)
Physical sensations (touch)
Lingering flavors (taste)
Physical environment (feel)
Why is This so Hard?
Our minds are constantly processing a million things at once, so it’s easy to become preoccupied. For the most part we are considering the past and future along with the present, which makes it hard to focus on just one. To modify this, try to empty your mind of everything except your current activity and block out other events.
Because we are taught that accomplishing the most amount in the least time is optimal—which technically, it is—this practice also makes it easy to fall prey to multitasking. Multitasking has been proven to diminish efficiency and productivity, often leaving you worse off than you started. Instead, give your full attention to whatever you do to increase both the quality and quantity of your work.
Staying focused while being mindful can seem like a daunting task, but there are ways to set yourself up for success. Being in the present and diligent in your work may require some refocusing, but don’t be discouraged. Getting into the habit of these practices can make you the model of efficiency!
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