I often talk to myself; it’s the only way to get an intelligent conversation.
I sat down at my desk this morning ready to start a brand new day of work. I had a number of things I wanted to do, I have a clear idea of what they each were and how I would do them, and in what order I was going to tackle them.
It was perfect.
So I settled down to start working on the first item on my list.
And I sat.
And I just couldn’t focus on it, I couldn’t concentrate on the task at hand, even though it was a fairly straight-forward task. My mind just seemed to keep wandering to the final task I had lined up for the day, no matter how much I tried to concentrate on the task at hand.
So I gave up on task number one, and started to work on number two instead. Or tried to work on it, but I just kept finding I was being distracted, thinking about the final task, or even finding myself almost absentmindedly moving onto totally irrelevant things (you know the sort of thing, 5 minutes checking your email, a quick catchup on Facebook, recheck the email in case something had come through, see if there’s anything interesting on eBay, all the usual distractions!).
And so this pattern seemed to continue for the whole morning. Nothing was getting done and I was getting more and more frustrated with myself for not being able to concentrate, for delaying, and for allowing my mind to wander to the final task and to find all these other things to distract me.
Have you ever had days like that, where no matter what yo set yourself to tackle, you find your mind wandering? Perhaps to some other task which you’ve promised yourself you will do later?
Or some other sense of intense frustration with yourself?
So I sat back and reviewed what I had done that owning. Nothing. All those other distractions which computers can provide us had eaten up my time.
But why? I didn’t normally waste whole mornings like this, what was going on?
As I thought back to what had happened that morning, I began slowly to see a pattern begin to emerge. It became apparent that what would happen is I would go to start on a task, my mind would immediately start thinking of the final task of the day, and then as I tried to ignore those rambling thoughts I would get the urge to time waste. As I time wasted all thoughts of other tasks faded, until I felt it was time to work. At this stage, I got the urge to work, so I started focusing on the task at hand, and the entire cycle repeated.
So every time I wanted to do some work, and I started to think about the current task, my mind would swerve to the final task instead and if I tried to ignore it, my mind would effectively refuse to play at all and I’d end up browsing the Internet.
What, I wondered, would happen if instead of trying to force myself onto the first task, I gave i and listened to what my mind was by this time screaming at me, and instead worked on the task I had scheduled for the end? I gave it a try. And immediately all time wasting desires ceased, my mind became focused like a laser beam on the final task of the day, and I blasted through that task in record time, completing even more than I’d originally set out, as idea after idea poured forth and it became something even better than I’d ever hoped of planned it would be.
Once I’d finished that task, to my surprise I then found myself immediately focusing on the original task list of the day and found myself steaming through them in order, uninterrupted, undisturbed by wandering thoughts.
So what on earth had happened?
Looking back on it, it appears to me that my mind had overnight been pondering on the details of the task I’d planned to do last, and had some good new ideas. So naturally, it was excited and wanted to get those ideas out and to work on the. And it was telling me this as loudly as it could (remember, each time I went to start work my mind turned to that final task instead of the task at hand), but I was not listening. So rather than lose what it had been thinking, it distracted me with shiny toys (the Internet) and tried again next time, and kept trying.
Until I finally actually listened to myself, listened to what my mind had been trying to tell me all along, which was to focus on that final task; and when I did, the results were, as I mentioned, beyond what I had hoped for. And, once that was out of the way, my mind was more than happy to turn itself to the other tasks of the day.
Do you ever find days where nothing you try to focus upon works and your mind drifts to another task which you’d said you would tackle later, perhaps?
Do you ever find times where you get this almost irresistible urge to work on something completely different for a spell?
Or perhaps you just get so frustrated with yourself because you can’t concentrate or focus at all no matter how hard you try?
It might be related to work, or it could, very often, be related to something else, something you are facing but seem unable to tackle. No matter what you do, there is something at the back of your mind nagging at you, something which you can’t ignore.
You see, sometimes in our busy daily lives, we need to just stop and listen to ourselves, listen to what our mind is telling us.
Now, I am not saying that we should give in every time our mind wanders; no, that way chaos and disaster can surely lie, especially if we give in to all the myriad distractions around us.
And certainly we should not be indulging in those nagging negative thoughts which we all get from time to time – you know the ones, those “It’ll not work, it’ll all go wrong” lies which our nervous side tries to tell us.
But sometimes, just occasionally, when you find that your own mind seems to be actively working against you, you might do well to stop a moment and listen to what it is trying to tell you.
How can you tell the difference between those destructive negative thoughts and positive distracting thoughts?
Consider what they are telling you and what the outcome is.
If the thoughts are purely doubts and self-doubt and negativity, then they are not what you should give in to.
But if they are more along the lines of “Hang on, let’s do this positive thing first” then those are the times to give in to yourself, and listen to yourself, and to have a conversation with yourself; you never know, it could be the most intelligent conversation you have that day and certainly the most productive!