So, we’ve compiled a list of nine methods that are specifically designed to help you stay focused and positive. We like them so much, we’ve given them each a gold star. Remember, sometimes it’s the simplest efforts that seem so obvious, that are actually the most effective.
Tip #1 — Find Your Routine
Easier said than done, especially if you’ve been working from home. Humans, generally, crave routine because ‘For the vast majority of us, routine helps us cope with the continual flow of decisions that face us in everyday life’. By introducing consistency and security you offer your mind and body tangible assurance that they can run free or bloom. Even personal training provider F45 recognised that ‘By focusing solely on ourselves and what we want to accomplish in the future, we can develop an internal sense of motivation’.
But how does one achieve a routine you ask? Well, this is dependent on you and your lifestyle.
Sometimes simple things like waking up and going to sleep at the same times each day are enough consistency. Maybe you have an unconscious morning “get ready” routine that involves a shower, morning workout and breakfast. You could be like Obama and remove unnecessary chaos by only stocking your wardrobe full of the exact same suit, so to avoid stress on what to wear each day. Alternatively, you could find passion in the chaos, which energises you for the day ahead. Basically, your routine reflects who you are so it’s inherently going to look different to everyone else.
Remember to not overwhelm yourself with a strict routine because you’ll fall out of it as quickly as you fell into it. Humbly introduce 2–3 weekly changes. Maybe it’s eating breakfast at the same time each morning, drinking a litre of water before midday or even clocking up 30 minutes of exercise at 12:30PM each working day. Do this for even one week straight and reflect on how you feel.
It’s the little, personal wins that really help you stay focused but also help you feel good about yourself!
Tip #2 — Create Lists & Prioritise
Lists are everywhere you look and there’s a reason why. ‘Motivation is the essential and irreplaceable element of success. When we’re not motivated, we fail’. When you check off an item on your list, our brains release small amounts of dopamine that naturally fuel us to push on. AKA: Motivation.
Trello, an online web-based Kanban-style list-making application, has demonstrated the power of lists in terms of motivation and therefore, positivity. What they note though is that ‘Checklist items have to be actual, substantial tasks to be effective in actually accomplishing your to-do list or getting closer to the project end date’. So, you can cheat the system by putting in little tasks like “breathe” but it’s not going to do the job compared to something more substantial.
When developing your lists, the next most important element is prioritisation. Why? Because ‘The most difficult duties will not get easier the more we fret about them or put them off’. Instead, we typically waste more energy worrying about the big stuff when that precious energy could actually go into doing the work. Fast Company reported that ‘our minds are sharpest in the morning’ so that’s when we should tackle the big honcho tasks.
By taking control of your tasks, your day ahead and your energy, you’re allowing yourself the beauty of security. The security of controlled factors within your bubble has fantastic benefits on your mindset and therefore helps you stay positive.
Tip #3 — Eliminate Distractions (When You Want To Actually Focus)
You’ve definitely heard this one before, whether it be from family (“put your phone away and pay attention”), work, your school teachers or even industry leaders. But, they definitely have a point that you can, but can’t successfully, ignore.
Like we discussed with lists, you need to recognise what’s important and prioritise it. If you don’t, every task will consume you and drain you. Plus, if you action every task immediately, you’re setting an unsustainable precedent. Instead, Fast Company recommends not responding immediately to your tasks because ‘By not responding, you are sending a message that you are a strong-willed, focused person who is very busy and over time you will be bothered less by trivial, time-wasting matters’. Savage but true.
As with routine, get into the habit of creating a distraction-free zone. These habits signal to both yourself and those around you that you’re not to be disturbed. Effective habits include ‘Closing the door to your office, [putting] on noise-cancelling headphones, [turning] off your phone or putting it on silent and moving it away from you (so you can’t easily pick it up)’. Again, sometimes the smallest actions drive the biggest reactions — that being your clear drive, focus and motivation.
Tip #4 — Take Breaks
Following on from fostering a distraction-free zone, make sure you also take time to step away and take a break! Listen to your body and mind and recognise when you need to stop and refuel. Something as simple as going for a brisk walk or stretching for five minutes allows you to retreat and regenerate, ensuring that ‘You will come back to your task with renewed vigour and a sharper mental focus.’
Lean on your routine here. Set alarms throughout the day if need be to take a break every hour on the hour, or as a helpful little reminder to eat lunch and drink water.
Tip #5 — Return Back To Your Original Goal & Remember Why You’re Here
Goals, goals, goals. You need them. It’s that simple. By reflecting on what your goals are and therefore why you’re here right now, you allow yourself the opportunity to return to the present rather than looking too far ahead or behind.
Forbes reported that having ‘a clear, compelling goal mobilises your focus toward actionable behaviour’, which basically means your goal drives (AKA motivates) you. More importantly, a goal determines your focus and offers momentum.
Like the lists, you enjoy the same hit of dopamine when you chip away at a goal.
As Forbes recognised, ‘Just as a snowball grows in size as it’s rolled down a hill, momentum works the same way.’
Reflection on your goals also allows you the freedom to separate fact from fiction and ‘stop negative self-talk in its tracks’. You are subconsciously training your brain to look beyond the stress and the naysayers and instead, look for the light, for the good, for the positives.
Tip #6 — Practice Gratitude Every Day
If you haven’t actively taken the time to write down three things you’re grateful for, take some time today, before bed, to do it! Harvard Medical School reported that ‘In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness’, meaning that gratitude brings about positive emotions, positive memories and tackling adversity.
Forbes also noted that contemplating gratitude reduces cortisol by 23% and that ‘People who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels’.
Reach Out highlighted that the simple act of gratitude offers the following benefits: instant mood boost, developing closer relationships with friends and family, increased life satisfaction and a coping mechanism.
What you’re grateful for will naturally change each day. Sometimes it’s the little things. Sometimes it’s the big things. Regardless, gratitude allows you to connect with something larger than yourself and incidentally, see the forest from the trees.
Tip #7 — Reflect On Negative Thoughts. Are They Useful Right Now?
Without spending too much of your precious time and energy, remember to challenge negative thinking. It naturally happens because we as humans seek to compare and compete for survival, but remember to be kind to yourself.
Psychology Today recommends asking yourself, “Is there another more positive way I could view this?” This question allows you to stop, pause and reflect on quite literally if the thoughts you’re having are beneficial. When you start to think this way, you subconsciously train your mind to be a better problem solver whilst also effectively managing negative situations.
We know, it’s easier said than done but why not take the time to put words into action? Next time a negative thought pops upfront of mind, why not gently ask “Is this thought important right now?”
Tip #8 — Meditate
Are you finding that there’s never a good time to meditate? Why not right now? Why not take the next seven minutes to pause? To stop? To breathe?
Did you know that studies have found an 11% decrease in stress when meditating for just 10 days? Platforms like Headspace, Calm or Smiling Mind offer meditation right from your phone, right now, in the morning, before bed or whenever suits you best.
Headspace also reported that meditation ‘helps us regulate our emotions because we ‘learn how to react calmly, thoughtfully, and empathetically when faced with stress and challenges (which can be particularly valuable in the workplace)’.
Like acts of gratitude, meditation allows you to pause, reflect and encourage feelings of warmth and positivity.
Tip #9 — Get Active
Our last tip is an oldy but a goodie. Exercise. It’s been proven time and time again to be good for you, your body and your mind.
It’s reported that even ‘small amounts of exercise could have an outsize effect on happiness’ and by even committing to 10 minutes per day, you ‘tend to be more cheerful than those who never exercise’.
If you don’t know where or how to start, start small and add ‘5% to what you’re currently doing’. Like your routine and good habits, this doesn’t have or need to be massive. It is also likely to be unsuccessful if you start big.
So, start small and build as you find yourself responding positively.
We hope these nine tips help you. Even if it’s just the reassurance that small steps lead to bigger and better things, don’t forget that you will succeed and we’ll be right here to cheer you on.