Every day we are bombarded by distractions. It can feel like our attention is being pulled in a million different directions at once. How can we enjoy the benefits of modern technology while maintaining focus, productivity and well-being? Luckily, we’ve got neuroscientists on our side to help us understand how our brains work and identify tools and techniques to help us stay focused, people like my good friend Adam Gazzaley and his colleague Larry Rosen.
You don’t have to be a painter or musician to be an artist. In fact, just living day to day is an art. Our lives our like canvases, and what we do with our precious time here is the paint on that canvas. I believe we are all artists in need of creativity. I find that in order to be creative I need to be open to insights and my intuition. In order to be a better Life Artist, I have created a simple approach that has allowed me to become more aware and perceptive, so that I can be more effective and creative.
1. Get into the Present Moment with Ritual
Life today is non-stop. It often feels like there is no time, and that we jump from one task to another, without any space for actual joy. Enter Ritual. No, not the kind of ritual associated with archaic, outdated, or overly complex or foreign concepts or languages. By ritual, I mean an action, or even non-action that is so easy and repeatable, it requires virtually no thought. Anything can become a ritual. My kind of ritual is simple, repeatable without memorization, requires little thinking, offers little stimulation, and yet is relaxing. My rituals create space.
I’ve wrote earlier on the ritual preparing and drinking of tea can be used as a training ground for getting present. And that the more present and “awake” we are, the better things get. Whether it’s tea or anything else you can find to wake up, I believe that we need all the weapons available to fight distraction.Whenever you’re doing something, anything, notice when the pull happens that nags on your attention.
Freedom and productivity arise by waking up to the pull of distraction. And let’s be honest, distraction is addictive because it feels good and pulls us away from the real challenges we have in life. But distraction also keeps us from living fully, doing great things with our time, and making a real difference in the world.
Life is full of distractions. So many things pull on our attention. So how does a person ever get anything done? I created this “how to” to remind myself of how to get something important done when I am so easily distracted by life outside (and inside) of my head. Incidentally, even when I follow these steps, the mind takes its own distracting path!
1. Stop all distractions: Turn it all off. Email, texting, twitter, desk clutter, facebook, web browser, wireless access.
2. Create the shortest to-do list possible. Write down the task at hand as a single goal on a piece of paper and post it right in front of you. Nothing else should be on that sheet of paper.
3. Let nothing else deter you from achieving that single task. Leave it right there to draw your attention towards every time the inkling of distraction arises.
4. Keep another sheet of paper handy to capture ‘inbox ideas and tasks’ that arise. Don’t send emails, or texts, or ‘get online,’ or do anything other than capture random ideas onto that extra blank sheet of paper.
5. Take 10 breaths to clear the space. This mini meditation will center, and help to focus on finishing the task at hand
6. Do it!!!
7. Celebrate. Do it all again.
What is Zen?I noticed recently how little time we have for joyful thinking. By that I mean the simple ability to just daydream, bliss out, and savor the fun of a meandering mind. We spend so much time doing-doing-doing that it’s easy to fill life up with one task after another, non stop, never having the moment to actually “not-do.”
I learned recently in a panel discussion with Leo Babauta author of the blog Zen Habits, and Susan O’Connell the VP of the San Francisco Zen Center, and Tim Ferriss author of the book and blog The Four Hour Workweek, that Zen is active not doing. Intentional, focused, and conscious not doing. I like the idea of that, and think it’s really pertinent to living happily and healthily today. Continue reading Focusing on Negativity for a Meaningful Life
Over 100 years ago Thomas Edison posted his to do list via fountain pen to this journal. It’s awesome to see, and inspiring to say the least. Looks like not much has changed in how we “get things done.” Check out his projects on this list and get be ready to be really inspired.