Do you want to be less distracted by mental clutter? I think mental clutter comes in two forms: the worries we give ourselves and the information overload we receive from outside of ourselves.
In today’s age of instant gratification and touch screens, it can be hard to unplug and unwind. It starts with a beep, a ring, a tweet, or a status. And it spirals from minutes to hours mindlessly lost in a web of technology.
While I am often bombarded with technology pings and pulls for my attention, I find I need just as many reminders to be mindful of how I use and respond to technology. So I’m pulling out my review of Leo Babauta’s book, Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction. Focus offers a wealth of practical information to help you focus in an age of increasing technology and available information.
“The stream of news, information, and messages we get these days is enough to drown us.” Leo Babauta
Leo’s not drowning, he’s choosing a different path. If you don’t know Leo, he is the humbly, wise and prolific writer of Zen Habits. He writes about simplifying life for a more peaceful, productive, and happier you.
When I get bored, lonely, or worried, I can get really distracted. What about you? Yet, if I add focus to any task, I create a peaceful productivity.
To learn the art of focusing, I’m choosing my 5 most favorite, focusing tips from Leo’s book. And, taking steps that I can apply to my everyday life. Will you join me?
Top 5 Focusing Tips:
#5 – Limit Streams of Information
We sit down to read, but what do we pick up? A book, magazine, blog, newsletter, e-book, or professional journal. There is a mega amount of information literally available at our fingertips.
How do you reduce information overload? Here are some steps I’m taking to limit the constant stream of information that I consume: less Facebook, TV shows, blogs, and unsubscribing from newsletters. This is where focusing begins for me.
#4 – Prioritize Less Tasks
I have always prioritized daily tasks, but almost always try to complete more than is realistic in a day. Now, I limit myself to 2-3 important tasks per day. How do you decide what tasks get priority in your day?
I also separate important from routine tasks. I start on the important tasks first, before I start on one of the many mundane tasks, such as errands, chores, filing, copying, etc.
#3 – Take an Information Cleanse
I resist unplugging from the computer, unless I’m on vacation or out of town. Yet, I’m tired of waiting for travel to take me away. What would it take for you to unplug?
Start with a half a day. Move up to a whole day. Unplug from the technology of your choosing, phone, computer, TV. Initially, I was anxious about unplugging, worried about missing out and getting behind. Yet, I’ve found I’m more focused on essentials and the loved ones right in front of me during an info cleanse.
#2 – Practice Single-Tasking
I’d like to think I’m a master, multi-tasker. Opening emails, talking on the phone, and checking my to do list. What’s wrong with this picture? There’s a million things running through my mind, but I’m not fully present in any of them.
Surprisingly, doing one task at a time is exhilarating and relieving. Practice completing one task at a time, as if you have nothing else to do. And, then practice again and again. Be completely in the moment, no matter how mundane the task.
#1 – Do Something Amazing Each Day
I saved the best for last. Think about what you love about life. Intentionally, do at least one thing each day that inspires, energizes, or motivates you. You may already be doing something amazing each day.
Is your most important task also something you love to do? If not, carve out time to do something you are passionate about before you go to bed. Again, give your amazing experience all of your focus, for as long as it lasts. Enjoy!
“Be like water. Flow, respond to the landscape, move around obstacles, and be graceful in your movement.” Leo Babauta
Mental clutter is not like water, it’s a pool of nagging thoughts that you haven’t done enough. Break through by simplifying, unplugging, and focusing on the essentials.
I’m going to be working on putting less on my daily to do list, so I can enjoy that amazing moment! What focusing practice will you start practicing?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2011, but you can still download Leo’s book on Focus for FREE or purchase a premium version, here.