Are you feeling overwhelmed or bombarded by too many phone calls, e-mails and/or mini crises? Is it that time again? Time to post a message or send a text, while you are trying to concentrate at meeting? Are ads being thrown at you faster than you can delete them? Finding ways to build more quiet time into your daily routine may help to promote better focus in the midst of everyday mental clutter that we face in the form of e-mails, text messages and random interruptions. Check out the following suggestions for creating more quiet time and improve your focus.
• Reduce multi-tasking where possible. For example, don’t work on that project or paper while talking on the phone or check e-mail while listening to a lecture. Do one task at a time wherever you can so that you can just focus on that one task for the moment while decreasing mental clutter and promoting sharper focus with which to achieve the task thoroughly.
• Turn off your cell phone ringer to avoid unnecessary interruptions when you are trying to focus and carve out some quiet down time for yourself. A ringing cell phone can lead to knee jerk reactions that can interfere with concentration.
• Decrease the amount of errands you run after school or at the end of the day. Keep a list nearby, but be aware that you don’t have to do all of your errands in one day.
• Reduce the amount of time you spend surfing the Internet. Keep your Internet research limited to specific pieces of information as opposed to random browsing. That way you don't lose sight of your main purpose for your Internet search (i. e., background information on that topic for your research paper) by reaching the point of burnout first.
• These days, it is so natural to check e-mail on a frequent basis with the automatic availability of e-mail via iphones or ipads. However, disciplining yourself to turn off e-mail is a great way to reduce that feeling of being on “autopilot” and racing thoughts. (If the power goes out, take advantage of it!). If you absolutely can't tear yourself away from the computer or blackberry, go camping for a weekend and get in touch with the experience of having no computerized communication for awhile. Better yet, unplug all of the appliances in your house to create a similar effect if you can't schedule camping time!
• Take numbers out of your day where you can. When possible, on a weekend, for example, take a day where you avoid looking at the clock or your watch; do not look at bathroom scales. Let the other side of your brain show dominance for a change and relieve the feeling of being at the mercy of numerically driven objects.
• Carve out time for exercise. Giving yourself enough time for exercise can help to alleviate jumpiness and stress while releasing endorphins that can produce a calm state of mind. Shortly after exercising, challenge yourself to put first things first without looking at your day planner. Let the thoughts of the day's tasks peacefully enter your mind as you relax from an invigorating workout.
• For important tasks, reduce distractions as much as possible. If you need to work on something that requires a lot of focused attention such as a major project, research paper or paying bills with upcoming deadlines, eliminate visual and auditory distractions where possible if you choose to work out of your home. If necessary, flee the situation and find a quiet location such as a library or a computer lab that promotes improved concentration and reflection on your most pressing tasks.
If all else fails, remind yourself of a calm quiet state either on a bookmark, your day planner or on a note card that you can readily access by writing the words, “quiet mind.” Putting the idea in your thoughts will help you to reinforce the importance of maintaining quiet focus so that your day will seem less stressful. If it is too difficult to practice these strategies during the week when your inbox is flooded with important e-mails that need immediate tending to, practice them on the weekend and gradually, you will ease into a routine important e-mails and text messages can wait until you are settled and at peace for the morning.
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