Do you ever have those times when you can’t concentrate. No matter how hard you try, you just brain just isn’t cooperating. Like all your energy is being used to try and concentrate yet you can’t seem to get anything done. This is where I’ve been at the last month or so. Today we talk about strategies for staying focused when your brain goes on vacation without you.
I’m having trouble focusing lately. My mind is all over the place. It hasn’t been this bad since when I was on Topamax for my migraines. I would go to work at Target in the computer lab and get nothing done. I couldn’t figure why it took me so long to get things accomplished. It was super frustrating and a little discouraging. When I told my neurologist about how spacey I thought Topamax was making me, he promptly switched meds.
I had a similar bout of spacey-ness (how is spaceyness not a word?!) when I was prescribed prednisone for allergies and laryngitis earlier this year. Most of the time I get a taper pack but this time my doc gave me a three day high dose. The taper pack seems to give me tons of energy and the inability to sleep, which I don’t mind because I get stuff done. The huge dose just makes me feel like a bumbling idiot.
But right now I’m not on any concentration zapping drugs. So I definitely need to find some strategies to improve my concentration.
Lack of focus can be unproductive. You feel like you’re just spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere. It’s so frustrating!
What do I mean by lack of focus? Maybe it’s best to talk about what I mean by lack of focus since I’m sure it can vary from person to person.
I think social media can make it hard to focus. When I check out Facebook, Twitter or Instagram because I’m looking for a specific answer to something, I usually get distracted and end up wasting a lot of time. I start liking and commenting on stuff. I go down the rabbit hole. And before I know it, I’ve not only forgotten why I went on social media in the first place, but I’ve lost an hour or more of my day that I won’t be getting a refund on. I think this is true for many people. And that’s not what I mean by lack of focus. Although social media attention deficit is a real thing.
I’m talking about when you have so many things going on and you can’t focus your attention long enough to get one task done, let alone all of the things on your to do list.
I’ve been trying to write a speech for a contest for a month now. I have tons of ideas and anecdotes. But I can’t for the life of me focus enough to come up with what I want my main message to be. It’s a five to seven minute speech so it’s not like I’m presenting a keynote address. Still, I can’t rein in my thoughts enough to narrow my speech down. I somehow advanced in the speech contest so now I really need to buckle down and figure out what I’m going to talk about. I need to get my brain on board fast!
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to start a non-profit. I have a ton of different ideas but it’s just been this last year where I think I’ve finally gotten a solid idea of what I want to do and how I want to do it. I’ve run it by my husband and he loves the idea. I have so many things in my head that I need to get out and onto paper. I have so many things I need to research. I need my brain to be able to focus so I can get things done.
I’m also working on an online class. Again, I’ve had the idea for a while but I’m really starting to make progress on it and get my ideas written down. I’ve put a lot of ideas on paper but it’s still very discombobulated. I need to be able to concentrate to make more progress.
Part of it could be that we had a week of 60ish degree days which is unheard of in Minnesota in February. I got to wear shorts in February! So my mind kind of sprang ahead to May and has been daydreaming about spring ever since. The temp is now back in the 20’s and we’ve had some snow, so that should snap me back into reality.
I’m trying to find ways to improve my focus and concentration, especially in times like this where I really can’t get anything done and I can’t blame it on medication. Here’s what has been working for me.
The single best thing for me is to take Caesar to the dog park. We both benefit from it. Being outside in the fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine does wonders for my concentration. The change of scenery alone makes me feel much better. Exercise is great for improving focus. Plus, walking around is good for thinking and concentration. This is something I learned back in high school. It’s also the basis for the phrase thinking on your feet. Although I tried to find evidence to back that up and I wasn’t able to. Maybe my high school calculus teacher was lying to us!
Keeping a running list of everything that pops into my head is another way to improve focus. Many years ago a therapist suggested that I keep a notebook by my nightstand. Anything that popped into my head before bed should be written on it. This was supposed to help me sleep. By making a list of all the things clogging my mind and affecting my ability to sleep peacefully, it was supposed to free up my mind and allow it to completely relax. It also helps when I think of amazing jokes in my sleep and I need to get them written down before I forget.
It also works for non-sleeping hours. By keeping a list, I avoid my desire to take on that task right away by opening up another browser window. Because lets face it, if I open another browser tab, I’m guaranteed to get distracted and forget what I set out to do. If I have a list, I don’t lose the idea and I don’t take myself off track. Win win.
Avoid distractions. Easier said than done. I need some distractions to keep me company. I always have a tv on. And because I’m always on the computer, that is a built in distraction. I can limit distractions by only opening emails at certain times, not every time I get an email. I turn off notifications because noises drive me bonkers and it helps eliminate being sidetracked by new email and texts when they come in.
I don’t love watching online videos like YouTube so they don’t pose a huge distraction. But I know some people (my husband) can really let YouTube take them off track. If you’re like this, put restrictions around your video viewing. You it as a reward rather than a distraction.
Give yourself a pep talk. My friend Raleigh has a great joke about being a mirror talker. It’s such a well written joke. If you’re not familiar a mirror talker is someone who gives themselves pep talks in the mirror.
You don’t have to be looking in a mirror to motivate yourself. Talking out loud may seem strange, if you’re not used to it. I talk to myself all the time, but I’m sure lots of peeps do, especially if they work from home.
Sometimes the act of talking out loud what you need to do rather than just reading it from a list, gives you more focus. I know when I’m reading stuff, especially if I’ve read it several times before, my mind skips over it rather than reads it to take in and process the information. Tell yourself “I’ve got this”, “You’re completed more complicated tasks than this so this is nothing” or simply tell yourself out loud what steps you need to complete the task. All should provide the motivation you need to get things done.
Focus and concentration and important aspects to getting things done. When they’re lacking it not only makes it harder to accomplish things, it can also be frustrating. These are just some of the things that have been working for me lately. Hopefully you’ll find value in them.
This post doesn’t seem like my most cohesive, further evidence of my inability to concentrate. I’m still going to consider it a victory since I’ve been trying to get a blog post done for two weeks now.
What tactics or strategies do you use to stay focused and on point?