Minding My Focus

Photo: Seville, Spain
Photo: Seville, Spain

This year’s grind has begun.

For the first time since college, my days are filled to the brim with stuff I want to accomplish. Among my many to-dos’s are English lessons to prepare, videos to film and edit, blog posts to write, and plenty of books to read. In addition to all of that, I decided to join a gym here in Seville, adding three workouts and tracking my diet to my weekly schedule. Oh, and I want to maintain an active social life as well.

I can already hear that little voice in my head saying, “you’re biting off way more than you can chew.” That voice may have a point. But I figure it’s better to aim too high than too low. Whether I manage it all or end up burning out before the year is up, I’ll be happy knowing I pushed myself harder than any year prior.

The Problem

As I hustle to get things done, I’ve started to notice a habit that really inhibits my productivity: I’m always focusing on too many things at once.

It’s not so much that I physically do multiple things at the same time; I long ago accepted that multitasking is not something I excel at. The real problem is my mind. Whenever I’m working on a specific task, my mind is constantly fixated on the future. It’s planning out the day and then re-planning it based on imaginary scenarios. It’s worrying about the result of my current actions and all the things I’ll need to work on when I finish.

I end up focusing on everything except what I’m working on at that moment.

But here’s the worst part:  the constant worrying and mental back-and-forth causes my stress levels to skyrocket. Even when my to-do list is manageable, my neck and shoulders end up tighter than vice grips, and I barely make it half-way through the day before feeling worn out.

If the sustainability of this year’s workload is a concern for me then something needs to change.

The Solution: Mindfulness

Though my interest in things like mindfulness and meditation continues to grow, I still sometimes question their practical value when it comes to achieving material success. Sure, it’s nice to have inner peace and live in the present moment, but getting shit done just seems more valuable a lot of the time.

However, I think my current struggle with focus is a testament to the value of mindfulness and meditation when it comes to achievement. Getting absorbed by thoughts and anxieties while working is just another form of unconsciousness. Instead of using my mind to enhance my life, I’m getting lost in it.

Fittingly enough, mindfulness is what brought me to this realization in the first place.

My struggle with focus isn’t some new development in my life. I’ve always had a problem in this area, but it was only through practicing mindfulness that I became aware of it. Now I want to use mindfulness and meditation to not only be aware of the problem but actually fix it.

Moving forward, I want to cultivate a laser-like focus when it comes to work. This means fully engaging with every task I work on, no matter how small.

I think my focus on abdominal breathing this month is a great way to start doing this. Whenever I notice my mind jumping towards past and future while working, I want to bring my attention back to my breath. From there I can refocus on the task at hand.

To end this post here’s a quote by Eckhart Tolle that really captures the mindset I’m trying to develop.

“Your outer journey may contain a million steps; you inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now.

– Eckhart Tolle





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