The holidays are barely here and I’m already feeling rushed and distracted! With gifts to buy, cards to send, people to see, how could anyone stay focused?! For me, this time of year brings a combination of excitement and stress. The holiday season can mean family, friends, and coziness, but it also means adding more to our “to-do” list and filling up our schedules, while keeping our regular chores!
I wondered if others were feeling similar and the consensus from both clients and friends is – YES! So how do we deal with all these distractions and still get things done? The answer is in the practice of being present.
There’s no fool-proof way to stay present, and you’ll have to adapt these suggestions based on your own needs, but here are a few places to start:
Notice what distracts you most
The first step is to take note of your distractions. What do you find you “waste” most of your time on? Becoming aware of when and how you give in to distractions can give you lots of information about where you lose time.
Example: You find around 3pm you’re browsing the web instead of focusing on work. If you’re a 9-5er that’s probably because you’re tired! This Gallup poll suggests that over 40% of Americans are not getting restful sleep! So at 3pm your body is telling you “I’m done, let’s zone out,” and you respond with a little Facebook time. What you really need is a break. Try giving your body what it needs. Instead of distraction time try to get a quick 6 min. nap or have a healthy snack.
Often our distractions make it difficult to connect with others and in life we have many distractions! A 2016 study published in the Journal of Psychology of Popular Media Culture showed that 70% of people surveyed reported cell phone use negatively affected their relationships. When you choose to do something distracting (eh hem like looking at your phone) instead of connecting with someone else, you’re sending off the signal that you’re ignoring them. So put down your distractions, turn and face the person you’re talking to and engage!
Stop and Look Around
One of the biggest parts to being present is paying attention to your surroundings. And you may not know this, but you can be busy and present. The key is to build in time to stop and look around. This blog post talks about how to do just that, and I’ll add my two cents.
For my busier clients I encourage them to take a minute between transitions. Whether it’s between tasks at work or while running errands, you can use these transitions as natural points of refocus.
Try this: Before you leave to go home from work, take a minute (you can set a timer if you like) to sit in the car or at the bus stop, to take a few breaths and notice what’s around you. Did that tree in the parking lot finally lose its leaves? Can you hear any birds chirping, do you notice the sun setting? Take a minute and engage your senses. Allow yourself to release some tension or stress you might be holding from your work day. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself.
Schedule do nothing time
Are you so busy you barely have time to sit down? Then it’s time to schedule some “do-nothing time.” Maybe this sounds impossible, but really you probably have more time than you think. If you’ve done step one and started noticing distractions, you should have a good idea as to where you waste your time. Instead of doing a compulsive habit that gives you little relief and relaxation, schedule actual down time. You can even use “do nothing time” as a reward for all your hard work. Try saying to yourself “Once I’m done with this shopping, I’ll go home and have 5 minutes all to myself to rest and do nothing.” Doesn’t that sound nice?
(And if you find sitting down and doing nothing is way too hard, don’t worry, you can take it in little spurts. Try doing nothing for 1 minute at a time. If it feels good, keep going, if it makes you feel uncomfortable you stop and/or you can come talk to us!)
Single tasking can be relaxing and meditative, no matter what you’re doing. Honestly. Here’s a great post on the art of single tasking. The premise is that you pick one task and do only that; wrapping presents, making dinner, finishing up some emails. You set out to complete only that task and focus on only it. Maybe you feel like if you don’t multi-task you’ll never get everything done! The truth is, you can be just as productive and feel even a little bit more grounded and focused by simply single tasking each task you have to complete. (Here’s the research on that.) So give it a go. Try opening your phone or laptop and completing only one task.
There you go! Hope these tips get your holiday season off to a focused start!