Posts Tagged "effectiveness"

Foundations of Focus

Posted on Feb 25, 2015 | 0 comments

Foundations of Focus

The ability to focus is absolutely crucial to being able to live Slow. For the last month, myself and a small group lightly held the intent to inquire into the nature and mechanisms of focus. Here is what I discovered to be foundational to my ability to focus: 1. Health Crystal clear thinking benefits greatly from the energy flowing through a healthy body, along with escaping the distractions of physical complaints. As we know, physical and mental health go hand in hand and it works both ways. I chose this month as a focus month because of the many challenges life is passing my way at the moment. In the ‘less centred’ moments that come along at such times, my old neck injury flares up, leaving me stiff, in pain and fuzzy-headed. Ah yes, there’s the reminder to dedicate some of your focus to self care and compassion! I did a 1-day juice fast to give me body space to reset and it did wonders. 2. Routine Routines work wonders for focus because you are not wasting any of your attentional effort on the little things. It works for me to consider appropriate rest cycles; work in rounds of 50 minutes on, 10 minutes rest and have one day a week which is more rest than work. It also helps at the end of each day to think about the 3 most important things to do the next day to help set boundaries by eliminating choice. Take a brief moment to plan how to go about your day ahead before launching into the work. BUT be prepared to give all the above up and just do. I noticed myself spending so much attention on wondering if I had my schedule right, caught in expectations I had set for myself, that it was better just to release that expectations and just start. 3. Ritual Begin the day with a small ritual to centre on your intent. Meditation plus visualisation is great, although I found a shortcut of simply verbalising my intent was better than nothing! In the evening reflecting on what you are grateful for is an alchemical powerhouse, helping to melt the internal contractions that would only serve as distractions. A little prayer before bed is a nice implant into the subconscious also. 4. Fun Connect with what excites you about your work. Amazing how distractions disappear when you play! 5. Fear  Reflect on what you are avoiding by choosing not to focus. That fuzzy abyss between where you think you want to be and where you are is probably due to things you are avoiding. 6. Environment Consider how you can set up your surroundings to aid focus. Decluttering, having a dedicated work space (in my case as opposed to the kitchen table next to the refrigerator), visual prompts to remind you of your 3 most important ‘to-do’ tasks and turning off email and social media notifications is a good start. Also consider not checking email except at certain times of the day. My rule was no email or Facebook until after midday, leaving more space for my most important work at the most productive time of day. 7. Training There is simply no avoiding the fact that if you want your mind to focus better, you MUST train it. Modern life is so full of distracting stimuli that clamber against each other for your precious and limited attention. If we allow the mind to switch-task or engage in continual-partial-attention constantly, it wires itself for distraction. Conversely if we train it through meditation, our attention becomes a tool...

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Why spreading yourself too thin is such a beguiling trap (thanks FOMO) and what to do about it

Posted on Feb 3, 2014 | 0 comments

Why spreading yourself too thin is such a beguiling trap (thanks FOMO) and what to do about it

As I make my own Slow transition, I have been reflecting on just how thin I had been spreading myself, the detrimental effects of this, why it occurs and how to correct it. Along the lines of my habit, intention and routine blog posts, I’ve had to face the fact that trying to do everything, no matter how awesome those things are, leads to only half doing everything. which is frustrating at best, and can be depressing. Carl Honore describes this as doing everything hurriedly and nothing well, a symptom of Fast culture. Slowing down in order to regain a sense of control1 and mastery2, both fundamentally important to health and happiness, was certainly one of my motivations for the project. Here is a saying that has stuck with me for years: “Happiness is simple, simplicity is difficult” Life is amazing and there’s so much cool stuff to do! Yes but spreading yourself too thin leads to half-finished tasks, multitasking (which is not actually multitasking it is dividing and losing your attention) hobbies you never master and stay stuck at the ‘beginner’ level, not being able to fully get in the moment with these activities, and grass is greener thinking which leads you to switching activities in case something else is better, and the cycle continues. Remember this: if you don’t have attention, you don’t have time3  How does this occur? We live in a hyper connected world where we are constantly presented with options and choices, and moreover we can see what other people are doing so much more than ever before. We are social creatures and are hardwired to compare ourselves to others which has a significant effect on our happiness. Consider this point from Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less; when you consider or are presented with more options you experience more buyer’s remorse and the outcome is less fulfilling. I’m pretty darn sure this transfers over to experiences not just material objects. Heard of FOMO before? That is the twitter-friendly acronym for ‘fear of missing out.’ FOMO has become quite a phenomenon in itself, noticeably aggravated by heightened awareness of how much is going on thanks to social media. But thanks to the acknowledgement of this as a phenomenon, a distinct backlash against it has been enabled. Check out this article on the Joy of Missing Out. This is the double-edged sword of the privilege; there is so much we could do, how do you content yourself with only a small fraction of the buffet? It doesn’t help that we live in a Fast-dominated culture where we are groomed to take on a ‘do everything’ mentality. What happened to down-time?! The value of rest and reflection has been somewhat forgotten along the way. What can we do about it?  Some people I know really seem to be able to take on a significantly larger number of things and thrive. So I’m not trying to say just do less full stop (Slow is about ‘just right’, not extremes), but in our Fast-dominated culture there is certainly a tendency to err to the side of too much. There is no magic formula determining how many hobbies you should have, how many times per week you should see your friends etc; it is up to you to be true to yourself, reflect (a lot, I’m realising) and make the changes, even if initially uncomfortable, that bring meaning and happiness to your life. Although there is truth in it, “learning to say no” is overly simplistic. Teasing out what are the things to devote time to...

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The Slow way to make your routine work for you not against you

Posted on Feb 1, 2014 | 0 comments

The Slow way to make your routine work for you not against you

This is something I never thought a non-conformist fond of change and exercising creativity like me would admit – routine is important. More so if no one else (such as an employer) is providing the structure for you. I had overlooked just what effect waking up every morning and being able to what I wanted, when I wanted, would have. I guess I had assumed that I would get to work 9-5 just like before but in a different location. Boy was I wrong. What are the implications of a lack of routine? The main issue is that using your limited pool of conscious effort to make decisions about things other than your important tasks means that you are significantly less effective than if you devoted the majority of your Slow Thinking daily quota to your daily priorities. As discussed here, your Slow Thinking system appears to draw from the same limited pool of available effort as willpower. Looking at routine as a subject for the project was not what I thought I would be focussing on in the early days. But following the realisation about effectiveness and its relationship with routine I had to quickly redress the balance of structure in my day before I flittered away too much time (and yes this does sound like someone for whom Slow does not come naturally. The purposeful part of Slow does for me, but not the patience part). Having a consciously chosen routine means your mind is freed up to focus on what is important. Being on autopilot is not Slow, but deliberately choosing what to allow routines to take care of in order to stay purposeful, is. Much like my journey with living with intention, this is all a work in progress but thought I would share some lessons as I go: Things like eating well and exercising are important, especially for someone like me who values health extremely highly. But I also go overboard with focusing on this and spend too much effort making decision about what and when I eat and exercise. Don’t let one of your values have too much sway over your routine – it will crowd out other values you hold, in this case my value of ‘contributing with purpose.’ Think about what time of day works best for you to complete certain activities, create and stick to a schedule so you no longer need to think about what you do when. For example what works for me is doing some form of centring and contemplative practice when I get out of bed,  exercise, then going into the most important task I have to complete that day that involves mental effort. Similarly, use natural rhythms and cycles to find the right routine, not just any routine. Getting myself to bed earlier is the main habit I’m working on because our melatonin/seratonin cycle guides our sleep and waking patterns. Seratonin is highest just before sunrise and melatonin at sunset; being in sync with the earth’s circadian rhythms has many benefits (sleeping better, reducing sugar cravings, increasing optimism and pro-activeness to name a few). Having a routine in terms of how you structure your day helps you keep in mind what your intent is for each part of the day. Use this, don’t multitask, limit distractions. Goals versus systems – using systems (routines) to achieve progress to desired outcomes is much more empowering and enables you to focus on the small steps which lead to success. For more on this topic here is a great blog post by James Clear Do you have any tips for...

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