How to improve your concentration

Being focused on what you’re doing helps you do good work. And it’s fun to sink deep into a project.

If you’re feeling a little scattered, here are 5 Buddhist tips for meditation that also help with concentration.

Pay attention to where you’re working
If you’re trying to do serious work in a noisy, active place – good luck! When you need to focus, give yourself the best shot possible by finding or creating a calm, quiet place with few distractions. You may think you can concentrate amidst chaos, but give quiet a chance and see how much it improves both the amount and quality of your output. Continue reading

Taking the first small step

I had a big, cool idea in the 1990s. I wanted to write a novel. I decided this at a crazy-bad time. I had two little kids at home and a demanding job. But I thought about writing all the time. I had to figure out a way to write a novel.

My first baby step was to make a list of novels I loved and characters I wanted to meet in real life. I gave myself a week to brainstorm all of my favorite books and characters.

Then I took another week to think about common threads. What appealed to me most in my favorite novels? And what types of characters was I most drawn to? Continue reading

Write it down

What do you do when you have a great idea – but it’s the middle of the night. Or you’re in the shower. Or you’re driving your car. And you try to remember that idea by reminding yourself. And reminding yourself. But before you can take action, the idea fades away.

If you want to capture more ideas and get them closer to action, write your ideas down whenever and wherever they come to you. Put a pad of paper, a pen, and a flashlight next to the bed. Keep a pad of paper in the bathroom so as soon as you exit the shower you have a place to record your thoughts. If you’re driving, pull over. It’s better to do that and get the thought out of your head than it is to drive distracted. Continue reading

Get some sleep!

Our society seems to value getting by on very little sleep. How many times have you heard someone say, “Yep, I get by on five hours a night,” and you think, “I should be able to do that.”

But the thing is your body needs deep, uninterrupted sleep every night. Sleep is when your brain reorganizes and recharges. When you cut that short, you wake up groggy. You can’t answer a question until you’ve had at least two cups of coffee. You fantasize about taking a nap as you head into a late afternoon meeting. You have a heck of a time staying focused.  And good luck getting to the things you want to get done.

You may feel like you’re getting by just fine, but new medical studies show that a lack of regular sleep can have significant health implications – with brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, and on your over-all good health.

I loved a recent write-up in the Smithsonian about how even jellyfish have to sleep. This means that this sea creature becomes completely vulnerable for certain periods of the day or night – and yet has survived for millennia. Continue reading

Starting a new routine

In Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, Duhigg explains that most of what you think you are deciding is actually based on habit. What time you go to bed. What time you wake up. What you eat for breakfast. How you dress for work.

You say decision. Your body says habit.

Your brain depends on you developing habits because habits require a lot less brain power than decisions. Your brain accounts for about 4% of your body mass but requires about 20% of your total glucose for fuel. When your body goes into habit-mode, your brain runs on lower power than when you’re sleeping. Your brain likes this because it frees up glucose to solve new problems. Continue reading

“Could” versus “Should” when it comes to clutter

Author Karen Kingston offers interesting advice in her book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui around “should” versus “could.” If you’ve got clutter at your house that you’ve put off clearing, your procrastination may be because you don’t care! If you feel like this is something you should do but you don’t really have the heart for, then you’ll find a million things to do before you tackle that hot spot.

“Should” is someone else’s rules, someone else’s opinion.

“Could” means you have a choice.

When you choose to do something, your focus and energy change. Figuring out your priorities is a trick to getting anything done, whether it’s decluttering the basement, or solving the problems of the world! If you choose to solve something for a reason that resonates with you, you’ll get it done. Continue reading

Taking on too much

I started working at a “regular” job about 3 weeks ago after doing freelance work for 17 years. I have freelance work I’m still wrapping up. And I continue to run two web businesses. And I’ve given 3 talks on Organizational Zen in as many weeks. AND we held auditions this week for a musical I’m directing that includes a cast of 16 kids and 14 adults.

I’m not eating much or sleeping enough because I don’t have time. I’m in new environments with new routines. I’m meeting dozens of new people. And I’m learning new skills and testing old ones at work and at the theater.

I feel swamped and somewhat out of control like I can’t catch my breath. I missed a call last week – which I HATE. And I feel like I really, really just want to take a nap but I can’t because there’s too much to be done! Continue reading