I just got back from a family trip two weeks ago, and then a conference last week, so my to-do list is bursting at the seams as I try to get caught up. This is the kind of situation where I need to be 100% focused and productive, but my brain is all, “We need to do all the things! No, not that thing, some other thing! I don’t want to do that thing it’s messy and scary…AAARGhhh.”
So, yeah, when I need to be the most productive, my brain has a hard time focusing and wants to clear my inbox instead.
So here are some things I’m doing this week to try to get things done when my brain’s not cooperating. If you can relate, read on.
1. Set a timer
When I want to start something that my mind is avoiding I’ll set a timer for 20 min and say to my brain, “You just have to focus on this for 20 minutes.”
Somehow this puts my brain in turbo mode, and when the timer goes off I might not even stop, if I’m in flow state, I’ll finish it up.
2. Go full Pomodoro
If at the end of the 20-minute timer my brain is still trying to get me off onto some other task (emptying my inbox, checking in on social media, etc.) I’ll reset the timer for 10 min and give my brain that time to do something else, then back to what I need to be working on for 20 minutes. (With a timer again.)
3. Go for a walk
If Pomodoro isn’t working then I need to settle my brain down, there’s something in there that’s trying to get out. Sometimes going for a walk will do it. On my walk I try not to think — I work hard to observe, what do I see, smell, hear, how do my legs feel propelling my body. When I observe, it turns off all that anxiety and stress and helps me to be more present.
After the walk, back to work on my most important thing.
4. Write all my thoughts
If I’m still anxious after my walk, then I need to get stuff out of my head. I grab a pad and write out all the things I’m worried about. What are all those loose ends that are rattling around my brain, keeping me from being able to focus?
Then review the list, are there a few of them that are all the same? Is there one or two things I’m worried about? What can I do to put those fears to rest so I can focus on my work?
5. Phone a friend
This is the big guns. The one thing that can get me focused for sure is to call a friend and tell them about how I need to focus, how I’m struggling with focus, all the things I’m worried about and ask for help.
Now, they can’t help me inside my head, but they can give me perspective. They can tell me it’s going to be alright. They can call me back and hold me accountable.
Sometimes talking is all I need, sometimes I need someone who will cheer when I get my stuff done, and be disappointed if I’m reading about the latest crisis in the news.
So that’s how bad it can get inside my head sometimes. In case you were wondering, I tend to write about the things I’m struggling with! We’re all in this together, right?
So how do you banish the demon of procrastination and get your brain to focus on what’s most important? I’d love to hear what works for you—just hit reply—I read every email and reply to most.