We live in an age of distraction, and it's keeping people who could change the world from making a more significant impact. Multi-tasking is one of the most prominent manifestations of our distracted age. While most of us think we get more done multitasking, it's the opposite. It makes us far less efficient. So how do you reclaim your focus and learn to live productively in a distracted world? We show you how below.
Living in a Distracted World
Much of modern society tempts us into distraction. All our devices, entertainment, notifications, and substances are designed to pull us away from our true life's purpose.
You've probably heard the saying, "Where attention goes, energy flows," and it's so true. What you may be less familiar with is that research shows that your attention is the medium through which information appears in your consciousness. The greater the awareness, the more information appears in your consciousness.
Why is this important? For years, neuroscientists have maintained that we're only using about 5-10% of our minds. This means that the secret to using the other 90-95% of your mind is to increase your capacity for greater attention. The problem is, this is becoming increasingly more difficult these days.
Do you struggle, like so many others, to focus in this world full of distraction and overwhelm?
Social media is one prime example. The early days felt exhilarating with the constant stream of notifications and messages from "friends." However, lately, it's one of the most significant sources of distraction. Scrolling through the endless timeline and updates keeps you from essential things leading to missed deadlines, procrastination, and agitation.
All these distractions are draining us. They steal your focus and destroy your productivity. They cost you, and many others, time, energy, and to a greater extent, hinders the whole of human consciousness from evolving.
Focus: The Most Important Skill to Learn in the 21st Century
FOCUS is the most critical skill you can learn in the 21st Century. It's the differentiator between people making serious breakthroughs in life and the rest.
Successful people live in the same distracted world. Yet, they still manage to consistently take the daily actions they need to take and somehow always have fun, flow, and ease. Why? Because the world's most successful people know how to manage their focus and eliminate distractions. This isn't a skill that comes intuitively. It requires practice and application, which means you, too, can master it.
Attention and laser-sharp focus are the magic keys that unlock peak performance because:
- Focus is the enemy of mediocrity. When you increase your capacity to focus, you create a powerful force of directed energy.
- Focus allows you to tap into present moment awareness where you walk the middle path, as Buddhists say. This means that you can learn from failure and mistakes while celebrating and immersing yourself in the gratitude of success before getting back to the middle path. It's the ultimate state of detachment and neutrality from which true creativity can flourish.
- Focusing on a goal becomes a magnet that pulls resources towards you. The more you can focus your energies, the more power you will generate.
- Developing sustained attention improves everything—your awareness increases in terms of noticing details and perspectives that others don't see.
- Focus increases your ability to come up with ingenious solutions to old problems.
- You achieve more in less time and with far less effort, thereby enhancing your health, business, and productivity.
- Focus also helps improve your decision-making and critical thinking skills, which naturally builds your confidence and belief levels as you maximize success in every area of your life.
Focus and Social Media
Most people are so easily distracted that they never reach their full potential. Social media is one worst attention sink-holes.
Social media is fantastic for promoting a business if used properly, but it is also a thief of time if you allow it to distract you.
You can improve your ability to start a task and see it through to completion by eliminating social media distractions. By being mindful, you can maintain total focus and not be lured away by the latest Facebook post from a 'friend.'
Social media isn't inherently bad, but you must learn how to use it wisely; otherwise, it'll use you.
How to Get Your Focus Back
1) Switch on Your "Focus Brain"
There are three main brain capacities:
- Centering: The ability to coordinate the top and bottom parts of the brain. This capacity is related to organization, grounding, feeling safe, and non-reactive. Easily reactive people are unbalanced in this capacity.
- Laterality: The ability to coordinate the two sides of the brain. This capacity is fundamental for reading, writing, communicating, and fluid body movements. People who have trouble thinking and moving simultaneously, like during sports, are unbalanced in this capacity.
- Focus: The ability to coordinate the back and front parts of the brain. This capacity is the ability to be detailed and big picture focused at the same time. People who either 'sweat the small stuff,' or who can't stay focused on the task are unbalanced in this capacity.
Strangely enough, tight muscles in the body make your Focus Capacity unbalanced. These short exercises can boost your focus. Additionally, regular stretching or attending a yoga class can improve your focus while enhancing other brain capabilities. Here are exercises to boost your focus:
- Shoulder stretch – Grasp the muscle of your right shoulder, near the neck with your left hand, and squeeze the muscle firmly. Exhale, and turn your head to look back over your right shoulder. Now, as you inhale, return your head to the center. Then, exhale and rotate your head to the left side, to look back over your left shoulder. Do this a total of three times. Repeat using the right hand on the left shoulder.
- Calf stretch – Lean against a wall and place one foot far behind you. Start with the left foot. Pump the foot up and down to loosen up the calf muscle. Alternatively, you can stand on a stair and stretch out the back of your calf that way.
- Hamstring stretch – Sit on the edge of a comfy chair and stretch your legs out in front of you. Cross your legs at the ankles and then reach towards your toes. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Switch the way you are crossing your ankles and do it again on the other side.
2) Change Your Relationship With Technology
Neuro-therapists have been able to track the effects of digital technology on people's brains. With the help of electro-encephalography, also known as EEG, it is possible to learn more about conditions like depression, addiction, or ADHD.
For example, focus difficulties can be due to three different causes: under-stimulation, over-stimulation, or excessive challenges.
For example, too much TV leads to inertia because of under-stimulation, whereas digital media has the opposite effect, overstimulating the brain.
Pressure from multiple sources such as child care, competing work deadlines, and health challenges all at the same time can also cause you to lose focus.
Excessive use of digital technology weakens your ability to stay focused during challenges, and yet problems often lead to the use of more digital technology. For example, people with low-level depression or anxiety go online instead of turning to friends, family, or normal support networks.
Answer these questions honestly.
- Can you be away from digital technology for 24 hours or more without a sense of withdrawal?
- When you feel anxious or depressed, do you go online or use TV to feel better?
- Do you get distracted easily or agitated if you are under-stimulated, such as doing mundane activities like washing the dishes, walking, waiting in a line, or driving?
- Do you need to have music playing or check your text messages or scroll online?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, here are a few activities to give your brain a break from constant digital technology:
- When you first wake up in the morning, the first hour you are alive, alert, and awake, do not go online. Do not check your email. Do not look at social media or even check your voicemail. Instead, create offline morning rituals, such as meditation, exercise, or journaling.
- Have a mental break during the day by going for a 5-10 minute walk in nature. Use this time to practice being in the now, using all the senses. If you can go to the woods or be outside near the ocean or just in the open air looking at a beautiful vista, do that.
- Don't check your email, voice mail, texts, or social media feeds in the last hour of your day.
3) What Ifs?
Finally, learn to focus on the positives. Most people think they are positive, but upon further investigation, discover they are not. How can you tell? How many negative thoughts do you have in a day versus positive ones? Consider from the moment you wake up, how does your day begin? Many people report these kinds of thoughts:
- It can't be morning already; I'm so tired.
- I have so much work to do today. I'll never get it all done.
- I'm so frustrated that I'm not making enough income.
- It's a miserable day; it's raining again.
- I don't want to go to work today.
- My back still aches.
So how do you change the negatives to positives? By using the 3-to-1 ratio coined by Barbara Fredrickson, the genius of the positive psychology movement.
For each negative thought or feeling, consciously and unconsciously generate at least three positive thoughts and feelings. For example, you can catch yourself and do a turnaround in this way by using "What if" statements to counteract the negative ones.
- It can't be morning already; I'm so tired -> What if I have a high energy day anyway?
- I have so much work to do today. I'll never get it all done. -> What if I get the most important things done anyway, and enjoy my day?
- I'm so frustrated that I'm not making enough income. -> What if I attract good income today?
Just remember, these kinds of thoughts will make or break your day. Do NOT under-estimate them.
It's never about what's outside you; it's always about how you're thinking about it all.
This post is based on Chapter 13 of our new book, MindStory Inner Coach. If you'd like more tools like this, for a limited time we're offering this book for free on our website: MindStoryAcademy.com/
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- How to end self-sabotage.
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