Wednesday, 15 January 2020 09:04

Try These Tips to Regain Your Focus in Two Minutes or Less

From a quick desk stretch to a simple breathing technique, these strategies will help you get back on track when you feel unproductive.


By Marina Khidekel, Editorial Director at Thrive Global
Shutterstock
Shutterstock
Regaining focus when you have multiple top priorities on your plate can be a challenge, but there are small, smart ways to course-correct and get your mind back on track quickly. After all, we all have moments where our minds begin to wander, or procrastination takes over, but finding your focus again often starts with taking just one small step.

We asked our Thrive community for the creative strategies they use to refocus in less than two minutes, and we were so inspired by the tips they shared. Which of these will you try the next time you have trouble concentrating or getting back on task?

Take a long, deep breath

“Whenever my mind starts feeling like it’s going all over the place, I do the ‘one breath’ technique. I drop everything I’m doing, take one deep breath, hold it for a heartbeat or two, then let it out. It helps me gain clarity and feel a sense of renewed focus so I can move on.”

—Mica Gonzalez, goal-setting and productivity coach, Manila, Philippines

Walk the length of the hallway

“My job entails many tasks that must be done simultaneously, so when I begin to feel overwhelmed, I get up, stretch, and walk around for a minute or two, even if it’s just to the end of the hall and back.”

—Sherry Gavanditti, communications specialist, Beachwood, OH

Close all open tabs

“The most effective thing I do when I’m feeling scatterbrained or unproductive is to literally shut down every single open window on my computer, which inevitably includes lots of open internet sites. I also silence my cell and move it to a location across the room. I then take a deep breath, and just start working on whichever project I haven’t been focusing on. I don’t try to talk myself into it. I just start. The self-discipline to shut down all of those delicious distractions matters most.”

—Deirdre Maloney, speaker, trainer, and coach, San Diego, CA

Implement the “25/5 rule”

“When I have trouble focusing, I write down the top five things I want to accomplish, and highlight the one thing I must do. Then, I put all my devices on airplane mode and use the 25/5 rule, where I do 25 minutes of work, and then carve out five minutes for movement — whether that means just standing up, stretching, or taking a short walk. It helps me regain my focus and accomplish my goals more efficiently.”

—Lennis Perez, engineer and wellness consultant, Austin, TX

Ask yourself why

“When I find myself procrastinating, I take a deep breath and ask myself, ‘Is this what will bring me joy, or best serve me?’ If the answer is no, I continue with what I initially set out to do and the distractions fall away. If yes, I do what distracted me and move on.”

—Erin Coupe, speaker, author, and facilitator, Chicago, IL

Tune in to your senses

“As soon as I become aware that I’m getting stressed, I know I’m also not living in the present moment. I tune in to one of three sensory experiences: what I see, what I hear, or what I feel. No matter where I begin, my internal chatter quickly abates, my muscles relax, my breathing deepens, and my reactivity dissolves.”

—Nancy Leach, author of The Mindful Boomer, Toronto, Canada

Repeat a centering mantra

“When I need to recenter quickly, I close my eyes, or at least look away from screens — and breathe into my belly, using slow, deep breaths. I then repeat a mantra, like, ‘I am centered,’ or ‘I am productive,’ as I engage in diaphragmatic breathing. This quickly grounds and inspires me for the next task at hand.”

—Dr. Tricia Wolanin, clinical psychologist, speaker, and author, Bury St. Edmunds, U.K.

Take a short pause

“To refocus, I stand up, go to the toilet or make some tea, come back, and then get back to the task. The small break helps me refocus and get back on track!”

—Loreta Pivoriunaite, performance strategist, Lithuania

Do a full-body gratitude scan

“Neuroscience shows that people who consciously practice gratitude can train their brains to sort through muddled emotions to find the positive. When my mind is racing, my best centering tool is gratitude. I take a deep breath and start by giving thanks for my healthy body — my toes, my foot, my ankle, my calf, my knee — working all the way up to the hair on my head. But by the time I get to my waist, I’m pretty much level-set.”

—Rosemary Ravinal, executive coach, Miami, FL

Write down one thing to do immediately

“First, I grab a scrap of paper to write down all the things on my to-do list that are swirling around in my head. Then, I ask myself for one thing I can do right now that will make a difference. And then I do it!”

—Andrea Wicks Bowles, director of global initiatives, New York, NY

Listen to a calming song

“I find that it can be helpful to listen to a slow, peaceful instrumental song, or close my eyes for a moment and just listen to soft, flowing water sounds.”

—Sherry Gavanditti, communications specialist, Beachwood, OH

Try “release” breathing

“I use Brendan Burchard’s ‘Release’ mindful practice to help myself refocus. In his book, High Performance Habits, he explains how we can transition from one task to another with more ease and intention by completing this exercise. Once you’re done with a task, and before you move onto something else, you set a timer for one or two minutes. During that time, you close your eyes, concentrate on your breathing, and each time you exhale, you say, ‘Release.’ The exercise is just as useful for refocusing as it is for transitions. It’s a game-changer!”

—Cathy Perez, wellness coach, Phoenix, AZ

Close your eyes and take five deep breaths

“When my mind starts to wander and I need to regain focus quickly, I close my eyes and take five deep inhales through the nose and exhales out through the mouth. Closing my eyes is my way of pressing the ‘reset’ button. Breathing deeply allows me to grasp control over my thoughts so that I can hone in on the upcoming task at hand.”

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO

Smell a calming scent

“I work in a field that requires loads of human interaction, a ton of paperwork, and academic responsibilities. Over time, I’ve learned that my procrastination mainly stems from feeling overwhelmed. Recently, I have discovered that a quick fix for me is adding some form of aromatherapy. If I’m at work, I take a tiny dab of my favorite essential oil and rub it on my temples. If I’m at home, I find that lighting a scented candle helps me feel centered and calm. There’s something about the combination of the scent and warm light that leaves me feeling a bit more rejuvenated.”

—Judith Nicholls, anesthetist and pain specialist, Cayman Islands

Put on your headphones and try a meditation app

“When I need to refocus, I reach for my headphones and my Brain Wave app. The app contains various binaural beats series that are tailored to your needs. I choose a focus or concentration program, set the timer for 30 to 60 minutes, and then get back to work. Not only does the program get me focused, but the simple act of putting on my headphones is a physical signal to block out the distractions around me and refocus. The timer acts as a tangible finish line, and I know I can have free, unfocused time after I reach it.”

—Cindy Duke, freelance writer, Brentwood, CA

Write a declaration of completion

“Instead of a to-do list, I write a declaration of completion. At the beginning of the day, I will write, ‘Today I accomplished, XYZ by 4 PM’ in past tense. When I start to get sidetracked, I re-read my declaration for the day and it motivates me to get back on track with my agenda. It helps me figure out how much I can handle in a day, and which tasks I can cut out.”

—Tracey Vazquez, life coach, Washington, DC

Take a tea break

“Between urgent emails, long meetings, social media, and non-work distractions, it can be difficult to focus. When things seem to get out of hand, I stop, take a step back, take a few deep breaths, walk to the pantry, and get myself a cup of tea or coffee. Those couple of minutes not only calm my mind, but also allow me to be in the right mindset. Then I ask myself what I need to focus on next.”

—Melvin Sanicas, physician-scientist, Zurich, Switzerland

(Thrive Global)

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