From breaking news reports to family emergencies, every day we are faced with distractions that challenge our productivity. Each time we complete a task, we are constantly reminded that there are ten others in the queue. To be productive, we must provide our brains with optimal conditions. We must be mindful. This process resets our brains and frees us of the emotions that hold us back, opening up space for improved concentration and better focus. When you find yourself struggling to be productive, look to the following tips for a healthful solution.
1. Breathe to be present.
With overflowing schedules and multitasking mentalities, sometimes we forget to breathe. The perfect antidote to anxiety and stress, breathing is crucial to both your mental and physical well-being -- and it doesn't even have to be time-consuming. Studies show that even 25 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation, with breath as a key component, can greatly reduce stress.
So begin a morning meditation ritual. Start small and work your way up to longer stretches of time. Breath meditation is simple as the focus is solely on the breath. When the mind wanders, as it is apt to do, return to the breath. The discipline of concentration brings us back to the present moment, helping us to develop greater awareness and acceptance. To ease you into the practice, download an app with guided meditations.
We live in an age of hyper connectivity, constantly consumed by the surrounding screens. According to research, the average American spends 4.7 hours on the phone daily -- that is almost one-third of our conscious time, assuming we are awake for approximately 17 hours a day. Studies have shown that the use of technology can decrease productivity and weaken attention span, memory and sleep quality, causing increased stress levels and cognitive errors -- such as forgetfulness and lack of awareness.
Keeping up with email, social media and other websites can be draining, and it's a behavior that's likely unsustainable. Not only is it bad for our eyes, it's bad for our relationships as well. The solution: try a digital detox. Set aside a few minutes each day to turn off all gadgets. As you connect with the natural world and the people around you, you're well on your way to increased productivity and a better quality of life.
3. Speed up by slowing down.
With millions of things to do on a daily basis, it's hard to even fathom the idea of taking a break. Yet, rushing through the day in a mindless blur can do more harm than good -- causing misguided decisions and misuse of energy.
Slowing down may seem counterproductive, but it can actually help us become more efficient and resilient individuals. Reports show that a little rest can go a long way -- even nine minutes can have positive results. Allowing the brain to breathe can make us more focused, more effective at communicating and better at developing new skills. When we don't take time to slow down, our body feels the damaging effects.
4. Establish a gratitude practice
As humans, we are prone to a "negativity bias," which means the mind reacts more quickly to bad things than it does to good ones. Taking the time to write down expressions of gratitude during moments of negatively may stabilize feelings of anger and anxiety while triggering more positive emotions. During a study where participants were asked to keep a gratitude journal, results showed that the individuals who wrote more frequently felt better about their lives and were more optimistic about the upcoming week.
The more grateful you are, the better, as actively practicing gratitude can have a positive impact on your mental health, relationships, quality of work, and creativity. Even a one-time act of gratitude can produce an immediate increase in happiness -- and with it greater productivity.
5. Garner acceptance.
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change."
Mindfulness means accepting each moment as it comes -- and yourself as you are. However, we are conditioned to fear failure and rejection, often losing sight of the fact that these things are simply a part of life. When we devote attention to self-criticism, we drain ourselves of energy and are less able to enjoy our successes. This lack of acceptance can lead to avoidance or denial. Through acceptance we develop clarity of mind, which lets us focus on self-improvement. It allows us to better acknowledge a situation, learn from mistakes, and move forward. Acceptance is a catalyst of change.