Increase your focus to work better (with fewer distractions).
We all struggle to make good use of our time.
Is it because we’re inherently poor managers of time? Perhaps. Do we benefit when we adopt a system for being more productive? Probably. But even the best time management system in the world will fail if we lack focus.
Without focus, our thoughts stray, emotions creep in, and external distractions consume us. There’s no way to complete quality work when we’re distracted.
Most of us exhibit neurotic behavior throughout the day. For example, we check email and social media notifications obsessively, ruminate about past events, and anticipate the future.
Psychologist Roy Baumeister’s research on self-control shows we have a limited supply of mental energy that gets depleted throughout the day. These neurotic behaviors drain our mental energy reserves.
Although the brain weighs only three pounds, it consumes about 20% of the body’s resources.
All of our neurotic behavior is draining our mental energy.
Focusing is a skill. Like any skill, you can development this ability by practicing with an effective method. The secret to regaining focus isn’t a mental technique; it’s physical. The simple key to reducing neurotic behavior and regaining focus is to get grounded in your body.
A Powerful Two-Step Focusing Technique
Here are two exercises you can use to ground yourself right now:
- First, stand or sit at the edge of your chair with your feet shoulders width apart. Lower your eyelids to avoid distraction. Place your attention at the bottom of your feet, feeling the connection to the ground. Notice any sensations like warmth or tingling. Just 30 seconds of this exercise can relax you. Placing your awareness on your feet helps redistribute the excess energy from your head into your body.
- Second, locate your awareness on your navel as you breathe. Make your breath slow, deep, and steady. Feel your lower abdomen inflate like a balloon as you inhale. As you exhale, allow the balloon to deflate without forcing the air out. Do three to five breath cycles in this manner, maintaining about 50 percent of your attention on your navel region as you breathe.
Now, how do you feel? Most likely, you are more calm and centered than before.
The Effects of Grounding Yourself
Only a brief minute or two of practicing the above techniques create meaningful changes with your body and brain.
Your parasympathetic nervous system is activated instead of your sympathetic nervous system. Your heart rate slows, allowing you to conserve energy. You may feel slight warmth in your body caused by nitric oxide being releasing from your blood cells. By down-regulating your limbic system, you experience less anxiety and stress.
All the above allows more energy to get directed to your executive functioning. Located in your prefrontal cortex, this is the area responsible for cognitive control including self-discipline, attention, reasoning, and planning. Essentially, you are more focused than before.
Experiment with this Exercise
Try this simple exercise the next time you sit down to work on a project. When you notice your focus slipping, try it again.
You will likely experience positive effects on your first try. If not, shake out your body vigorously and then go through the above steps again. Remember, the key to enhancing your focus is to get back into your body. Over time, your ability to enter a focused state will improve.