Hi everyone! As we go into another workweek, the Anxious Introvert is here to offer some tips on how to set up your thoughts so that you are productive, organized, and at ease. Below are four habits that will help you maintain your mental sanity and maybe, you’ll find they help you function better a work, too.
1. Clear your workspace
Oftentimes the thing stopping me from focusing on the task at hand is a tangible one: my workspace is cluttered. I can’t focus in a chaotic work environment, and this includes a space which is messy and untamed.
While there are varying degrees of cleanliness, and while some of you may function in a cluttered workspace differently than I do, this much is true: when you don’t have authority over your space, you don’t have authority over your mind. What this means is that if you’re space is overrun with clutter and seemingly impossible to clean, it’s probably a result of a cluttered brain, or vice versa.
Typically, when I start my workday, the first thing I do is take care of the physical clutter. My workspace happens to be my bedroom, so I make my bed, tidy up anything that might have gotten messy in the day before, and I clean off my desk. Anything that I don’t immediately need I put out of sight.
Why out of sight? Well, if I can see it, even if I’m not focusing on it, it still distracts me from giving my full attention to my work – which means that my work isn’t as good as it could be.
This may not mean that you are extremely organized. Even I have a junk drawer, so no judgement here. But what it does mean is that you take some steps before you sit down to work to make sure that your focus is on what you’re doing, and not where you are doing it.
2. Focus on One Thing at A Time
Ever call yourself a multi-tasker? Yeah. Me too. And while I think it’s fun to claim such a title as a “successful multi-tasker”, I think it definitely has some drawbacks.
A lot of times when I work, I have the TV on, or I listen to some music, or I’m doing more than one thing in order to keep myself from getting bored. But let’s be real here: more often than not, of the two things I’m doing, I’m mostly ignoring one of them.
If my to-do list gets too long, I try to shorten it by completing more than one task at a time. Sometimes, this is great: for example, I can listen to my lectures while doing chores, or practice my guitar scales while watching tutorials. But most of the time, this gets in the way.
In reality, I’ve discovered that even if you feel like you don’t have time to get something done, it’s better to give each item on your to-do list your completely attention for a shorter amount of time than to spend hours doing everything at once. Although you may feel as though you’re not getting as much done, you might find that you’re getting more quality work. As we say here on the platform, “do it right, or do it over.”
3. Put Away Distractions – Even Mental Ones
I can’t necessarily put my phone away when I work, because I use it to assist me in my tasks, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other distractions I can put away.
A lot of times, the things stopping me from being productive are mental or emotional issues that I haven’t yet resolved. And more often or not, these are things I can’t do anything about – worries and stressors, for example, or things that I’m scared I’ll forget if I don’t constantly think about it.
While everyone has their own ways of dealing with these mental distractions, it’s important to clear out anything in your brain that isn’t helping you be productive. As a writer, I utilize my greatest strength, writing, to get it all out.
If it’s an emotional issue that I’m grappling with, I journal about it before I get to work. I write down everything I’m thinking and then I flush it away. If it’s work, school, or chore-related, I use a varying combination of my notebook, planner, and sticky-note collection to get it out of my head. And when this is done, I give myself permission to forget about it until I’m done with whatever task I’m trying to complete. When that task is done, there are all my thoughts, written down, and I can pick up right where I left off.
4. Take Care of that “One Thing”
Finally, after you’ve done all the things mentioned above, if you get to a place where you just can’t seem to muster up enough concentration to be productive, then maybe it’s time to take a minute and examine what’s going on in your brain.
A lot of times when I can’t focus, it’s because in spite of getting myself organized and put together, there’s something unresolved that I simply have to deal with. Sometimes I just need to take a shower, or empty the trash, or go pet my guinea pigs. Sometimes it’s more serious – I need to call my doctor, text a friend, or reach out to someone in some way. When these things pop up, it’s easy to chastise ourselves for giving more precedence to something that should be “less important.”
Still, if it’s in your head, even after all your attempts to organize your mind, then it is important, and it must be dealt with. If you can resolve the issue, then do it, no matter how long it takes.
If you choose to ignore it (I’m guilty of this more often than not) then not only will you be unable to focus, but your work and ultimately your mind will suffer. It’s just not worth it, my friend. So take care of that one thing – you know what it is – and get on with your day. Any time spent putting your brain at ease is time well spent.
I hope that you found these steps helpful and informative. What kinds of things do you do to get your brain ready to work? I can’t wait to hear from you!