How to Retrieve Your Focus When Life is Tough

Have you ever had days, weeks, months – or possibly years, when life seems too overwhelming to focus on the things we need to do? I know I sure have.

Sometimes serious health, money or relationship issues just won’t seem to give us (and our mind) a break.

No matter how much we may love our work, it’s hard enough to deal with normal distractions some days, never mind being bogged down with serious personal problems.

How can we get back into a state of flow where it’s easy to concentrate on ongoing work projects when these things happen?

After experimenting with various approaches, the following ideas have helped me. Hopefully you’ll find one or more of these to be valuable as well.

Remember to breathe properly.

This in itself can be a calming balm.

When we are upset, our breathing can become very shallow. This in turn makes us feel more unrest. Make sure you are taking your breath in all the way down to the diaphragm and letting the air out relatively slowly.

It may help to meditate on something positive for a few minutes while breathing deeply before you begin work.

Set a time to reflect on the issue through journaling.

Reminding yourself that you have a record of your thoughts regarding the problem may put your mind at ease when you need to focus on work. Having a set time to journal may also help you to work out a solution to the issue.

Imagine your mind has different rooms (or pockets – whatever works for you) for each ” department” in your life.

When you sit down to work, imagine closing (and locking if necessary) the door to the room that contains the distracting problem. The only door that you will open will be the “work” door.

This may seem childish or elementary, but it has been very powerful for me. The concept could also be used to separate various work projects to make it easier to focus on only one at a time.

Take frequent breaks.

Set a timer to laser focus on your project for 45 to 60 minutes. Make sure you take a five to ten minute break after that time period to get up and move around or go outside for a couple of minutes.

If you must pay attention to your personal problem, then do it during the break and resolve to put it away before the end of your break.

Play soft background music as you are working.

I find that soft, calming classical music with no words works best for me. Sometimes I switch to upbeat (classical) music if I need energy to keep the work momentum going. You will find what works best for you after trying different genres of music.

Consistent use of rituals.

It is much easier to focus on work during a season of overwhelming personal problems if you already have a set routine or ritual in place.

This could be as simple as always closing your office door and moving your vision board or goal sheet to a certain spot when you sit down to work. Turning on the background music, lighting a candle, getting a glass of water, putting on headphones or anything you have set as routines are cues to turn your mind off to everything else but the project at hand.

Take one day at a time, then one task at a time.

Don’t overwhelm yourself thinking about everything that needs to be done. It’s okay to be short-sited right now.

Concentrate on that one task that would be the most valuable use of your time right now and do it. Seeing one small task through to the end is better then starting various things and getting nothing completed.

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Christopher Robin to Pooh from Pooh’s Grand Adventure

This is a reminder that we all have the strength and courage within us to get through tough times.

If you have strategies that have helped to clear your focus when the going gets tough, please feel free to share it in the comments below.



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