‘What you focus on grows and what you neglect dies.’ - Unknown.
Have you ever found yourself in an important meeting or amid a lecture or a sermon and multiple distracting thoughts enter your mind? Instead of paying close attention to all that is going on around you, your mind allows random thoughts in. Frustration comes in on the heels of that because you do not understand why you would get such thoughts at that moment. You are not alone! We all struggle to pay attention when we need to be doing so.
We do not give permission to distracting thoughts. They just seem to be there in the periphery, waiting for the most inopportune times to come to the fore. Sometimes we think about our future, our plans with friends, a funny video or meme on social media, an impending promotion, and so on. Other times, however, our streams of thoughts are not as pleasant.
There are arguments on the average number of thoughts that enter the human mind daily, but there seems to be agreement on the fact that most of those thoughts stem from a negative mindset. We cannot help the feelings of doubt, worry, and discouragements that seem to mushroom in our minds. This causes distractions, which affect our levels of productivity. We fail to perform as well as we should. Not that we are incapable of handling the tasks at hand, but because we cannot sift through the clutter of our minds for thoughts that boost our morale.
While mental distractions are a common experience, there are many disadvantages to them. It is therefore important to focus on one right thought from an influx of thoughts.
Disadvantages of a wandering mind.
There are no benefits of having split focus, whether in an academic, professional, or any capacity.
When you have to divide your focus, you cannot use the time you have to do the one task that moves you forward.
Instead of focusing your resources on a single endeavor, you use them on doing things that bring you no value in the long run. If you dilute your attention by trying to carry out other tasks before you complete the important one, chances are you will end the day having done little to finish your initial task. You would rather tackle one task to completion than taking on multiple tasks and make no progress with any.
Allowing too many thoughts to rule your mind at the same time will cause you to perform far beneath your potential. As a student, allowing your thoughts to drift affects your grades. Instead of acing your exams, you find yourself with test scores that belie your mental capacity. Some who fail in whatever pursuits they undertake do so because they cannot sort through various thoughts and focus.
How to choose a single thought out of many.
Concentration is the secret to mental strength.
The ability to focus and put your concentration on one thought is critical for learning new things, achieving goals, and great performance for any task.
Relax your mind.
Whenever you experience a flood of thoughts, especially if they are negative, it is important to hit pause and take a mental step back. This exercise could involve taking deep breaths to calm your mind. Retrieve the thought you want to focus on by discarding the rest. Meditation can also help calm a restless mind.
Our minds wander when we are anxious. You could work on a monthly report or training for a marathon and thoughts of panic threaten because your deadline is close or you feel you have not trained hard enough. It is important to shut all anxiety and worry by focusing your mind on the positive. Affirm yourself by reminding yourself of your capabilities and past successes.
Think intensely about what you want.
Before you start a task, focus your thoughts on what you want to do. Do not dive into it without training your mind on the things you need to do. A sure way of doing this is writing a to-do list that you keep close so that when distractions come, you can re-focus. You could write your daily tasks on sticky notes that you put around your work area. Or you could make pop-up reminders on your phone or any device you are using.
While we want to believe that we have the capability of going in on projects for hours on end, our minds need to rest in order for them to function at full capacity. When you set out to do your tasks, ensure that you have breaks in between sessions to keep your mind focused. You can choose how to fill in those breaks so long as what you do brings calm to your mind.
Try the Buffet Way.
One day Warren Buffett asked his pilot, Mike Flint, to go through a three-step exercise to help him narrow his focus down. The first step involved writing his top twenty-five career goals down. Next, he asked him to review his list and circle the top five. Flint thought step three was working on the top five goals first, then follow up on the rest since the five seemed more urgent.
To his surprise, Buffet told him that the third step was giving no attention at all to the twenty goals until he had succeeded with the top five.
You can adopt this method with rampant thoughts.
Do a mental review of the thoughts in your head and focus on the one you label as a priority. Discard the rest or put them on the back burner of your mind until you have recorded success with the important one. This will guarantee that you get the principal thing done so you do not waste energy on what is not important.
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