Distracting myself - taking small bites
Those days when I can’t seem to find focus. My mind is looking for ways out. I can feel the resistance to what needs to be done. Time is wasted doing that which does not need to be done, following links on websites, reading that which is interesting but not necessary right now.
I write this as much to remind myself of what I need to do when resistance creeps into my life.
As the resistance to getting things done kicks in, the body tenses. For me that sits especially in the shoulders but I can also feel in my mind. Like a caged animal, my mind wants to run from where it is being held, from the tasks at hand. Unless I can grab hold of the mind, it is around this time that I start getting distracted. It is my mind’s equivalent of escaping from the cage…though in reality it is still trapped.
What I need in that moment is an anchor. Something firm to hold onto that prevents me running off into unproductive activities. By anchor I am not necessarily talking about a physical thing, though it could be. Examples of anchors might be:
- Drop everything, get out and take a walk. Just remove yourself from the focus of your activities and change the scenery.
- If outside is not an option, change the scenery through a walk to the bathroom (whether you need to go or not), a walk to the coffee machine, or to a window with an expansive view.
- Meditate - feel your feet on the ground, the contact of your body with the chair. Become aware of the sounds around you. Bring your attention to your breath, just breathing itself naturally. Watching the rise and fall of the belly can further help to ground you.
- If you have some spiritual practice, in that moment drop into that. For example the recitation of a mantra, itself a meditation.
- Journal - just write, let the mind run free. Perhaps write about what needs to be done. If you are keeping a Bullet Journal, get more detailed in there. Break up the tasks.
Take small bites
And then when you return to work don’t try and get everything done at once. If you didn’t do this during your break, look at the tasks that you have set yourself and break them down into smaller bite size chunks. And then slowly work through those chucks.
Take a break
Periodically take a break, perhaps every 20, 30 or 40 minutes stop, walk around, breathe deeply, stretch for 5 minutes, and then back to work. After a longer period of time, take a loner break. The Pomodoro Technique can be helpful with this, and there are many computer and phone apps that implement variations of the technique.
Go steadily but gently
Finally, go gently on yourself. Do not set expectations that you cannot keep. Incrementally stretch yourself, trying a little more each time, each time building on the progress made the day before. With practice the distractions become less, the mind tamed, quieter, and progress is made in work.
Steven Pressfield wrote a whole book on the subject of resistance called The War of Art. Take a look a it if you would like to look at the creative blocks in your life.