The ability to focus is absolutely crucial to being able to live Slow. For the last month, myself and a small group lightly held the intent to inquire into the nature and mechanisms of focus. Here is what I discovered to be foundational to my ability to focus:
Crystal clear thinking benefits greatly from the energy flowing through a healthy body, along with escaping the distractions of physical complaints. As we know, physical and mental health go hand in hand and it works both ways. I chose this month as a focus month because of the many challenges life is passing my way at the moment. In the ‘less centred’ moments that come along at such times, my old neck injury flares up, leaving me stiff, in pain and fuzzy-headed. Ah yes, there’s the reminder to dedicate some of your focus to self care and compassion! I did a 1-day juice fast to give me body space to reset and it did wonders.
Routines work wonders for focus because you are not wasting any of your attentional effort on the little things. It works for me to consider appropriate rest cycles; work in rounds of 50 minutes on, 10 minutes rest and have one day a week which is more rest than work. It also helps at the end of each day to think about the 3 most important things to do the next day to help set boundaries by eliminating choice. Take a brief moment to plan how to go about your day ahead before launching into the work.
BUT be prepared to give all the above up and just do. I noticed myself spending so much attention on wondering if I had my schedule right, caught in expectations I had set for myself, that it was better just to release that expectations and just start.
Begin the day with a small ritual to centre on your intent. Meditation plus visualisation is great, although I found a shortcut of simply verbalising my intent was better than nothing!
In the evening reflecting on what you are grateful for is an alchemical powerhouse, helping to melt the internal contractions that would only serve as distractions. A little prayer before bed is a nice implant into the subconscious also.
Connect with what excites you about your work. Amazing how distractions disappear when you play!
Reflect on what you are avoiding by choosing not to focus. That fuzzy abyss between where you think you want to be and where you are is probably due to things you are avoiding.
Consider how you can set up your surroundings to aid focus. Decluttering, having a dedicated work space (in my case as opposed to the kitchen table next to the refrigerator), visual prompts to remind you of your 3 most important ‘to-do’ tasks and turning off email and social media notifications is a good start. Also consider not checking email except at certain times of the day. My rule was no email or Facebook until after midday, leaving more space for my most important work at the most productive time of day.
There is simply no avoiding the fact that if you want your mind to focus better, you MUST train it. Modern life is so full of distracting stimuli that clamber against each other for your precious and limited attention. If we allow the mind to switch-task or engage in continual-partial-attention constantly, it wires itself for distraction. Conversely if we train it through meditation, our attention becomes a tool for us, not the world around. Focus is empowerment.