Our minds are constantly buzzing with activity, which stops us from being fully present and able to focus on what is going on right now. So what can you do to declutter your mind so you can focus?
Staying present is one way to find a sense of calm, but that can be tricky. Here are five practical ways to clear your overly busy mind.
1. Say no to notifications.
Turn off the alerts on your phone. All of them. Only keep what you need (such as texts and phone calls). Each interruption is a distraction which drains your energy and adds clutter to your overloaded system. Turning off your notifications means you'll quickly free up some brain capacity and become more focused. Then, when you've finished what you needed to do, you can reward yourself with say, 10 minutes of tweeting if you feel so inclined.
2. Prioritize your to-do list.
You secretly already know that you’re never going to get everything done on your to-do list. That’s because while you're getting things done, you’re also adding new things. No wonder your thoughts are all over the place. My list is probably just like yours, however, I don’t let it drown me. I get organized so that I can flow through as much as I can, without trying to do too many things at once (see #3 below).
When you create a shorter version from the main to-do list, you'll notice you're a lot calmer and really start to get things done. Choose from what is top priority for the next day, and decide what is realistic in terms of getting it done. As you slowly chisel away day-by-day, you'll receive an enormous sense of satisfaction. How would you feel if you could say, "I did everything on my to-do list today?"
3. Stop trying to do too many things at once.
I suggest that you start practicing the seemingly lost art of focusing on one thing at a time. Think of your ability to focus like a muscle. It could be a bit out of shape, but strengthened with some encouragement. A huge benefit of focusing (aka flowing) will be that not only will you get things done (and finished!) but also that you start to feel calmer and more able to cope with whatever life throws at you.
Think back to a time when you were really focused and got lost for a few moments — or even an entire afternoon! Was it spontaneously playing with the kids, dancing to your favorite song while cooking a meal, or preparing something you were excited about for work and easily met the deadline? That’s flowing and it brings up such joyful feelings.
Consider that maybe you could consciously cultivate more of that state of flow in your life.
If you catch yourself the next time that happens, notice and be with the feelings. When you exercise the "focus muscles," you're bringing more flow to your life. You can start to focus right now by taking a breath as you read this, feel yourself sitting in your seat, pay attention to the sounds and smells around you. Cultivate a new habit.
4. Schedule time to breathe.
I used to book meetings back-to-back, trying to make the most of my time. But I was constantly tired and rushed. I understand that it's tempting to try maximize time and try to cram as many appointments into one day as possible, but this is not serving you if it leaves you feeling frazzled.
Nothing leads to mental overload more than over-scheduling yourself. So if you can, take some time for yourself to breathe, stretch, drink some water, move about. Focus on your breath to reset yourself and clear your mind, so you can focus on the next task.
5. Connect with your body.
One way is to connect with your body is to feel your body with your mind. When you do, you will discover that it is just not possible to think about all the things you have to do today at the same time. Try it. Feel your fingers, your arms, now your shoulders. Now do that again and try to run through your to-do list at the same time. Chances are, you can't!
Being present with your feelings brings an immediate sense of calm and peace. Take a moment now to scan your fingers, arms and shoulders just like before, and notice if you can now sense the life force running through your body. You'll likely find instantaneous relief.
Modern life might seem stressful and overwhelming, but it doesn’t always have to be like that. Try these tips and practice exercising your calming muscles!