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Archive for June, 2010

How to reduce distractions and stay focused

Thursday, June 24th, 2010


How often do you get distracted during the day? With so many things going on in your mind, a myriad of tasks to do and devices continually alerting you of incoming emails, tweets, calls, texts or friend posts, how can you stay focused?

When your attention is divided between different things at the same time it can easily throw you off-course and can get overwhelming at times. Look at design or photography. The aim is to create one focal point to direct the viewer’s attention to it. As Garr Reynolds points out: “conflicting focal points would be a distraction” as it would introduce confusion and obscure clarity.

The attention we have for something diminishes with every distraction we follow, because attention is limited. The more you switch activities the more you divide and use your attention for those distractions and transitions. How much, do you think, is left to focus on something that is important to you.

Distractions also have a rewarding side. They can relieve worries or frustrations. Though this often only lasts for a short time and worries are back again. Anything that give us some relief from uncomfortable feelings or thoughts or anything that is just in front of us seems too attractive to ignore. We tend to easily get distracted. So, what can you do to stay focused and reduce distractions.

1. Switch off any communication devices & clean your desk
This is the easiest and most effective step you can take when you want to focus on a specific project. Our brain has the tendency to focus on what is right in front of us. So switching off your devices or removing any paper or notepads from your sight, will help you to reduce distraction. Make the project your focal point. Or make dinner with your family your focal point. Just switch off your mobile or remove anything that might remind you of the tasks you still have to do.

2. Take a break
Regularly take a break from what you are doing. The key is that you do that consciously. Get up every 30 minutes, have a stretch, a small walk or learn to juggle balls.

3. Write things down
Every time you have an idea, or remember a task you need to do write it down. That way it can’t distract you anymore, as you don’t need to use any brain power to remember. When you have finished your project, you can go back to your notes and then decide if there is anything on there you need to do right now. If not, just leave it there.

4. Become aware of your internal distractions
One of the most effective ways to reduce distraction is to get to know your internal thoughts. This is a more difficult step but the most rewarding. The more you know your thoughts or your feelings in any given situation the better you can stop yourself following any urge (“I need to get that cup of coffee”). The point is that you need to inhibit the actions fast, in under half a second, which in some studies is the time between noticing an urge and the urge taking over.

So, how can you become more aware what is going on inside you:

    - Become a curious observer.
    - Stop what you are doing and take a few breaths.
    - Notice your thoughts, feelings or bodily sensations that are coming up for you right now. Say them out loud or write them down. This is helpful especially when you just start out doing this.

Do this a few times a day over the next two weeks. It seems difficult in the beginning but the more you practice the easier it gets. Observing what is coming up for you will become an automatic behaviour and it will help you to identify distractions and stay focused.

10 important questions to ask yourself

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010


  • What direction am I heading?
  • What do I want my life to stand for?
  • What do I value in my relationship with others?
  • What sort of relationships do I want to develop?
  • What is most important to me in relation to work/home/family/friends/myself?
  • What is guiding my decisions?
  • What actions can I take that reflect my values?
  • When was the last time I made a decision based on what I believe in?
  • How do I want to act towards myself?
  • What am I doing right now?

You might also want to read:
What are you doing, right now?
What motivates you
Do you know your why?
Do you know where you are going?

Image: takomabibelot

Conversations with my pink elephant

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Recently, I had a good conversation with my pink elephant. Sounds strange to you? My pink elephant comes in the form of fear, anxiety or self-doubt. It had started to push me around a bit and wanted to make decisions for me I would regret.

The more you ignore…
I have started to make a habit out of having a conversation with the things I don’t like. Why? The more I tried to ignore those thoughts or feelings the more powerful they became. They worked hard to get all my attention, while I really tried not give them any platform. You can imagine that I didn’t have much attention left for anything else.

Try it, right now: “At all cost, don’t think of the pink elephant. It’s right here in the corner, in front of you or standing behind you. Remember, don’t think of the pink elephant”

Why a conversation?
Isn’t it enough to allow it to be here in the room with you? Well, in my experience it is a vital part in making fear less powerful over my behaviour, decisions and the direction I want to go.
However, I also realised the better I got to know it through conversations the quicker I was able put my attention toward what I want to focus on.

Over time my conversations have become shorter as I got to know my pink elephant better in all those different situations it would come up. In those conversations it can have it’s voice, just like you would your aspirations, your values or goals want to have and find a voice. They are all part of you.

The most important question I ask my pink elephant:
What do you want me to know about you?

Other questions you might want to ask:
What is your purpose?
What makes you more/less present?
Who are your allies?

Have you ever wondered what your pink elephant would like to tell you?

Image: poplinre

Ride that bike

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010


What do you do about your fear of presenting? How can you learn to become aware where you are stuck and how to take action.

Do you remember when you learned how to ride a pushbike? You probably had help from your parents or maybe an older sibling. Falling off the bike, getting hurt and being frightened did not held you back in mastering the bike. You chose to learn to ride that bike no matter what.

When we grow into adults we sometimes loose that ability because there seems to be so much at stake – status, reputation, financial success, your place in the community, your public image,… – everything you work hard to achieve and maintain.

How can you re-discover this ability of choice? Practice is key to improving your presentation skills and developing confidence. So, think of those situations where you have to prepare for a presentation, but you procrastinate and wait until the last moment. Or, you do prepare in a certain way but it doesn’t seem to help you develop confidence. In both situations you are stuck and worries, fear or unhelpful thoughts seem to have the power to keep you there.

They literally narrow your ability to see and discover other ways to practice.

You can make those unwanted thoughts and feelings less powerful. Start today, and become curious about them. When you do that on a regularly it will open up the narrow view into a vista of possibilities. Here is where you can choose to prepare for presentations differently.

Learn to become aware of what is coming up for you, also notice all your reasons why you might not be able to do things differently. They are all part of your unhelpful thoughts that keep you stuck. Write them down and just let them be as they are. Don’t try to change them, push them away or turn them into a positive. Simply notice them. It might seem counter-intuitive to you, but over time you will realise that their power becomes weaker.

Also, ask yourself the following question:
If I would not struggle with worries or fear, what kind of presenter would I want to be?

“Start wherever you are and start small” – Rita Bailey

The art of saying no

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Say NO

Do you find yourself saying yes to all sorts of requests, only to regret it afterwards? Here are a few questions that help you say no.

Learning to say no will give you more control and freedom over who you want to assist and it will reduce your daily stress. So, start to practice today. The more you practice the easier it will get to say no in the situations you said yes out of habit.

Ask yourself these questions before you respond to a request:

Do I have the time?
What do I have to give up to do this?
Will I feel pressured?
Will I be upset with myself or resent the person asking?
Will I feel duped or manipulated?

These questions are from Sue Newman’s book “The Book of NO”

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