When your mind is careening from one thought to the next, it can be incredibly difficult to focus, meditate or even simply keep your mind on the road while driving! Especially as working parents, those of trying to keep our work and businesses flowing while raising children, we can feel pulled in a multitude of different directions, and be left wondering if we’re actually getting anything fully done in any department.
In order to streamline focus, and bring some peace to our daily activities and motivations, there are some mindfulness methods we can work with. Try these strategies for preventing distractions or working with them so you can improve your concentration.
Minimizing Inner Distractions
Do your best to get more sleep
Eight hours of sleep is a good rule to follow for most, but there are of course individual differences. If your thinking gets dreamy and you fall asleep whenever you sit down, or if you generally find it difficult to get your day off to a non-grumpy start, it may be a sign that you need more sweet slumber.
Make the time to exercise and eat well
Your mind works better when you keep your body fit. I’m sure that at this stage, most people are aware of the great benefits held with mind/body fitness practices in particular. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily and eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and some healthy fats.
Focus on how you sit up
Just sitting up straight can help keep your mind from sinking. Tighten those abdominal muscles to support a straight back. Relax your shoulders and draw them back so your neck and head fall into alignment.
Make yourself comfortable
Good posture feels good when you get used to it. Pay attention to your body. Shift positions if your foot is starting to fall asleep or if your legs need more room, and use cushions wherever you feel you could use them in order to increase your comfort levels.
Take deep breaths
Breathing fully from your diaphragm helps carry more oxygen to your brain and makes it easier to manage your thoughts. It’s one reason why meditation sessions often start with breathing exercises.
Minimizing Outer Distractions
Watch less TV
If TV is consuming too much of your time, keep the set turned off unless there’s something special you want to watch. You’ll avoid the temptation to channel surf. I find I work best with some gentle, uplifting music playing in the background.
Turn off your phone
Try turning your phone off when urgent calls are unlikely. You can check your voice mail later for any calls you need to return. I find it has really worked well for me to keep my phone in another room of the house, with the intention to check it or reply to any texts once my work for the day is done.
Limit your time online
Studies show that checking email, along with an over indulgence in social media, is one of the biggest ways we waste our time these days. One thing you can do is to resolve to finish writing that report before you log onto Facebook or play any online games if that is something you take part in. Alternatively, you can prescribe to the notion of allowing yourself 30 – 60 minutes or so of social media indulgence before shutting them down, and then getting to work on your projects.
Let people know when you need to avoid interruptions
Try to develop systems for letting kids and co-workers know when you need to avoid non-emergency interruptions. You might designate some regular hours if you work at home or let colleagues know you’ll be tied up until later in the morning. We have implemented a routine here, in which we have our breakfast, run any errands or do any tidying that needs to be done around the house, and then we have play time and games together. After that, it is mommy’s time to do some work while the children have play time and games together before we have lunch. (Whether or not any work gets done after lunch, well, that is where I leave it up to chance!)
Create a peaceful atmosphere
Clearing away clutter can help you settle down to work is very helpful for setting your space and getting yourself into a relaxed work mode. Put next week’s agenda out of sight if it’s drawing your attention away from this morning’s projects. I tend to put some drops of essential oil into a diffuser, or light some incense, before I sit down to work. It is important for me to have the stage set and the atmosphere conducive to a calm work environment, otherwise I can be all over the place in my mind about all of the other things I could, or ‘should’, be doing.
Working With Distractions
Bring your mind back to your task
Distractions will still arise, but you can make them less lengthy. Monitor your thoughts so you can promptly return your focus to your tasks and your work.
Put aside judgmental thoughts. Instead of feeling guilty about getting off track sometimes, take notice of your progress and reward yourself. Really take the time to celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem to you at the time. Every single step towards our goals in work, parenting, and creativity are getting us closer. There is no small step, because every step is essentially shifting our position along our journey.
Even Zen masters remain aware of their surroundings while meditating. If you’re contending with leaf blowers and car alarms, do your best to be patient and wait them out. Take deep breaths, and try to let go of any anxiety that pops up along with noises and distractions. Are you familiar at all with the work of Thich Nhat Hanh? He is a Zen master who has created some brilliant works that help one to experience mindfulness and concentration in order to generate happiness and joy, learn meditation as an antidote to agitation and anxiety, release concepts that lead to suffering, and learn the art of compassionate, deep listening and loving speech. In the most simple of terms, the entire world profits with each person who grows in happiness.
Examine recurring thoughts
A nagging thought could indicate an issue that’s important to address. Maybe you need to talk with your aging mother to ensure she’s getting proper medical care or maybe you just need to get your oil checked. Something else I find helpful is to keep a notebook nearby while I am working, so I can quickly jot down any recurring thoughts and know to come back to them once I am finished my tasks at hand. I am much more likely to remember something once I have physically written it down as well.
Daily life is full of distractions, but you can often prevent them or find ways to manage their impact on your ability to concentrate. Working to still your mind, you’ll feel more relaxed and adept at everything you need to do. To take this concept even a step further, it can be said that the cultivation of joy, love, and compassion comes with daily practice of mindfulness and meditation. Working in mindfulness enhances our happiness.
Now, I invite you to please enjoy this sweet Being Present Awakening Meditation from Wild Divine. Blessings on your journey!