Do you find that, when you sit down to work, your brain ‘helpfully’ churns up all kinds of other things you could (or should) be working on?
Or gives you answers to problems you were trying to solve earlier?
Or maybe it sends new ideas for projects? Reminders of things to do later? Cool things to investigate?
I’m sure there is a very good reason why brains do this.
Maybe they are protecting us from the intensity of the work we are about to do.
Or, perhaps it is afraid that the project won’t turn out the way you hope.
Or maybe your brain is just bored with having to focus at the moment.
No matter *why* it is happening, I want to make sure that you don’t tell yourself a negative story about it.
Let’s just take the facts of the matter.
- When we sit down to work, our minds fill up with distracting thoughts.
- We need a way to stay on task.
We *could* expend a lot of energy fighting off the churning thoughts or we could surrender a little bit.
Oddly, I was setting this up just to take a photo but, in the process, a distracting thought occurred to me so I flipped the card and wrote it down.
I’m not advising letting your brain lead you off into the various rabbit holes of the internet, I’m suggesting a way for you to get the thought out of your brain and quickly return to the task at hand.
WRITE IT DOWN.
Yep, that’s it.
Keep a little notebook, a piece of paper, or an index card, next to your work and whenever a distracting thought pops up, write it down and promise your brain you will return to it later.
You could even set a reminder to check the paper later – just so your brain really trusts that you will return to the list of ideas.
Taking this approach means that you can learn to focus on your work while during your work time. That focus will keep your work from spilling over into your play time and your rest time – and more rest and play is VERY good for you.
Be Kind to Yourself
Yes, it will take some practice to get used writing things down like this.
You will be better at it on some days than on others.
Sometimes you will be annoyed when you emerge out of the rabbit hole and you’ll ask yourself why the hell you didn’t write things down instead.
Those things are all okay. They don’t MEAN anything about who you are or what you are capable of – they just give you information about where you are at the moment, the struggles you are facing, or (maybe) changes you may need to make. That’s totally fine – that’s just information, not a reason to be hard on yourself.
NOTE: Being hard on yourself never works. It seems like it is going to but it just ends up making you feel bad. You don’t need that.
You don’t have to be ‘disciplined’, you don’t have to beat yourself up about it, you don’t need to tell yourself a story about why it happens and what it means, you just need to work on a solution.
Even if it takes lots of practice, it’s worth finding a way to focus on your work.
You have important things to say and to do in this world and a little bit of notepaper might just help you get to it.
By the way, this ‘Put It Aside’ approach also helps you keep your inner editor quiet when you’re writing. When a ‘fix this’ thought or a ‘you shouldn’t be writing that’ thought pops up – write it down and come back to it later.