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How To Stop Procrastination

When you’re focussed, everything seems to flow and come together neatly. But when you’re not focussed, you find yourself thinking of five things at once and you end up being so preoccupied with everything that you still need to do, that you end up missing the turn off when you’re on your way home. Sound familiar?

Have you ever missed appointments, evenings with friends or stopped doing the things you love because you’re trying to get everything else done? We all know how frustrating it is when you go to the supermarket and you get home, only to realise that you have so many bags of groceries but forgot the one thing that you actually went there to get. This may seem like such a little thing in the greater scheme of life, but it’s an indication of a much bigger problem. The problem of not being focussed and not being able to concentrate on one thing at a time while somehow managing to overthink everything else.

Every thought that we have creates a picture- you might notice it or you might not, because it happens faster than we are aware. When you get distracted, you’re changing these pictures all the time. It’s like you’re going to the movies to watch Avatar (Awesome!) but during the movie you notice your phone going off, whether it’s a call or a notification, or maybe a message from a friend that you haven’t spoken to in ages. You’re still at the movie, but now you’ve changed your focus to what’s happening on your phone. When you look up at the movie screen, you switch your focus from your phone back to Avatar again except now you realise that in the time you weren’t paying attention, you’ve missed an entire scene. Maybe it was crucial to the plot, but you can’t rewind to find out and instead you have to keep going without all of the information. This is what happens every time we get distracted, the full experience of our action or activity is diminished.

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Have you ever been talking to somebody and you become aware they are not really in the conversation? It’s like their mind is occupied with something else and they might think that you haven’t noticed their delayed responses or generic replies, but you have.

The same thing happens when you are at the supermarket checkout and the employee greets you with “Hi, how are you today?” and you respond, “Yeah it’s been a bit of an average day” only to get the reply, “That’s great.” You find yourself thinking Really? Did you even hear what I just said? Yes, they may have actually heard the sounds of your voice but didn’t process the meaning of what you said because their mind is preoccupied with something else.

When an activity turns into a predictable routine, it’s as though your mind entertains itself by thinking of other things and turning on a sort of automation to carry out the activity. Most of the checkout staff are on duty all day every day, carrying out the same set of repetitive tasks, so it’s understandable that their minds might start to create pictures about different things. They might be thinking about dinner that night, what they need to purchase after their shift, when they are going on holiday next, how they are saving their money etc. It’s all these things that are holding their attention, rather than your conversation. You can tell that they’re not focussing on you and that the conversation would’ve ended differently if they were giving you their full attention.

Do you want help with Sadness, Procrastination, Self-Sabotage, Confidence or Motivation?

But it’s so easy to be distracted! If you think about it now, how many notifications do you see pop up on your phone each day? It’s great to stay connected, but how can you maintain a single focus on something when every few minutes you see a notification that someone has liked you on a dating site you’re using, tagged you in a photo on Facebook, sent you a Snapchat or sent you a long message- all unrelated to the task that you’re currently doing. How distracting is it when you go to dinner, whether it’s a first date, regular date night, or a gathering of friends/ family, and someone’s phone keeps vibrating? You’d like to have an engaging conversation but everyone is looking down at their phones or sending that “quick reply” to someone else whose time seems to be more important than yours.

Forty years ago, it was a different story. There weren’t any mobile phones or email, so instant messaging didn’t exist. You would call people on their telephone and if you couldn’t get through, you’d leave a message on their answering machine if they had one, or you’d wait and try call them again later. People sent letters by mail (Who remembers snail mail?) which could take a few days to arrive, nobody could contact you when you were on your way to work or out for a run. You didn’t have a phone to distract you when you went out on a date or went to a social event with others. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was impossible to get distracted back then because of the fact that you didn’t have a mobile phone or email, but it definitely made it easier not having to respond to anyone else other than the person or people in front of you.

Not that long ago, we weren’t being distracted so frequently. Nowadays, some people call it ‘multitasking’ but really, how different is it to getting distracted or losing focus? If you imagine that a ‘single focus’ thought is like a train that moves forward on a specific track to complete a task, multitasking would mean that the train would need to change direction or even head in multiple directions. Everything would need to stop and the tracks would need to be changed to adjust to the new information and the new destination. The same thing happens when we keep changing our focus and interrupt our original train of thought.

What people are saying about Emotion Academy:

"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria

While we are busy changing tracks and stopping or starting our thought train, reality continues around us and we miss out on the valuable bits of information or data that pass us by. Have you ever been in the middle of a meeting and suddenly you find yourself thinking about going to the movies that night, or what you’re going to tell your partner when you get home? As soon as those thoughts come to mind, you’ve stopped focusing on the meeting and the task at hand, instead driving your train on a totally different track. By the time you realise that you’re still in a meeting and you stop and shift your thought train back on its original track, you’ve missed at least thirty seconds or a minute of communication around you. This leaves gaps in the data that you collect, meaning that you have a bit more work trying to piece together what you’ve missed. On the other hand, have you ever had a day where your concentration flow is more consistent than usual and you are able to fully immerse yourself in the given project? Do you notice how much more you get done, and how much easier it is to reach your goal?

Concentration is like a muscle or skill that you need to train over time. Think of something that you are really good at, you’ve probably been doing it for a long time or it’s something that you learned at a young age so you don’t really think about it when you do it now, it has become automatic. What if we have been trained to be distracted from a young age, it will seem normal to ‘multitask’ but what if it’s the thing that is actually holding you back from progress or full experiences? What if single focus is the difference that you need to make in order to be more calm, focussed and successful when it comes carrying out important tasks and ticking off that important thing on your to-do list?

If we don’t consciously make an effort to exercise our concentration muscle (with which we produce our best work), our distraction muscle will just remain stronger. When you have a single focus, you may start to notice that you have better conversations with people and this makes you feel more satisfied, you become more present and aware which means that you can make the most of your experiences. You are able to listen and pay full attention to what the other person is saying, without worrying about what they’re wearing or where you have to be in the next hour, you are able to simply appreciate the moment and enjoy the interaction. The same applies at work, when you exercise your single focus on each task, you may find that you get more done and that you produce a higher quality of work.

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Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer

Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight.  In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.

So, this begs the question: How do I train myself to have more concentration or focus?

Like any muscle that you are trying to strengthen, it will take time and discipline. If you want to be a runner or you want to train more at gym, it takes discipline and commitment to get up and do it every day. It will get easier over time and you will start to see results, it will just take a while to get into the routine and develop the skill that you need. We subconsciously create memories of different locations that can trigger different feelings, so when you are sitting at your office desk and working on your computer, try and associate this space with having just one focuse. When you are chilling on your couch at home or watching TV, you can allow yourself to relax a bit more and train your mind to remember that it’s alright to be a bit distracted in this space or during your personal time.

Train yourself to have a single focus. When you are at dinner with other people, turn off the notifications on your phone. Be interested in the person you are with and it’s likely to create greater connections. When you’re in a meeting, switch your phone to flight mode and notice how much more you can get done. When you go to gym, put a specific playlist on and don’t pick up your phone until you have finished working out. The same goes for getting into bed and falling asleep, promise yourself that you won’t look at emails after a certain time and let yourself fully relax.

With enough practice, this will become routine for your mind. It’s the same mechanism that allows you to experience a specific feeling when you visit the street you used to live on as a child, or that triggers certain memories when you smell a specific scent. Train your mind to associate different
abilities or behaviours with different spaces, be curious and interested in the people that surround you and allow yourself the time to focus on one task so that you can do it properly. You’ll start to feel less stressed, more fulfilled and motivated by how well you are able to complete each task, one at a time!

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