Mental Focus vs Monkey Mind
Most of the time when I’m getting frustrated working on my business I realize it’s not what I’m working on that’s frustrating me. It’s all the stuff I know I need to do that’s competing for my attention. This is not a small problem either. Lack of mental focus can interfere with just about everything I’m trying to do in a day. Whether it’s deciding on what tasks need completed, prioritizing them or actually working on them, not being clear on the task at hand can be disastrous for the quality and quantitiy of my work.
This is especially true of writing. Without a clear vision of what I’m trying to say, I can’t even get a decent rough draft out of my head. The writing session degrades to a haphazard attempt to connect a series of incongruous thoughts. I don’t have to tell you how productive I’ll be editing this mess, do I?
These things I’ve mentioned here are all the result of what’s called “monkey mind.” Monkey mind is the brain’s natural tendency to bounce from one idea to the other without any thought of relevance or importance. Monkey mind is what most of us struggle with when we say we can’t concentrate. Nowhere is it more pronounced than in the entrepreneurial community. This group, which has a natural predisposition to ADD and ADHD, can have an entire day washed down the drain unless they identify the problem and take steps to address it. This is the basis for this article. I want to give you some tools to combat monkey mind and get a sharper sense of mental focus to help you get your work done.
Tip #1: Before You Do Anything, Breathe!
Your life began with a breath. That’s why I believe anything worth doing should start with one too. Try this simple 4-7-8 breath method that will help you calm down and focus on the task at hand.
Tip #2: Realize No One Thing You Do Will Ruin You
Fear is an entrepreneur’s biggest enemy. Why? Because we believe if we make a mistake it will be lights out. Our lives will be ruined and we’ll be sentenced to a life of poverty and shame working at a job we hate. Intellectually, we “know” this idea is absurd yet we continue to resist change. What we need to do is make sure we call our fear out by telling ourselves daily that one misstep won’t destroy us. I recommend that be first thing in the morning before you start to work and sometime before you go to bed. The 4-7-8 breath is an excellent way to lead into this.
Lastly, if you find yourself throughout the day getting fearful try this technique I developed. Whatever the fear you have is, state it and end the sentence with “and then, my life ended” just to bring some humor and lightness to the situation. An example: “If I don’t get that landing page done, I can’t make any money on this site and then, my life ended.”
See what I mean?
Tip #3: Get Rid of The Old You
Successful entrepreneurs know in order to succeed we’ve got to grow and change. One of the easiest ways to prepare ourselves for this is to spend a few minutes visualizing our new selves. I’ll be posting a more in-depth exercise in the future but this one will give you a taste of what’s to come.
- Sit in a chair where you’ll be comfortable and not disturbed for a few minutes.
- Turn off any phone.
- Turn off your computer or at least dim the screen.
- Don’t leave any apps running that will alert or message you.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe in for four counts, hold it for four counts, release for four counts and hold it out for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.
- Now, I want you to picture yourself as you are (worried, tired, stressed, etc.) and see how that makes you feel.
- Next, I want you to picture your successful self as you think you’d look (bright eyes, chest out, smile on your face, joking) and see how that makes you feel.
- Then, mentally crumple up and throw away the current picture and focus only on the successful picture. Imagine how your life would be if you actually were that person. Think of all the things that would be different and better and really let yourself absorb those emotions. Do this for no less than one minute but as long as it takes you to feel all the positive energy.
- Before you open your eyes, make sure you can clearly see your face on this successful person.
- When you’re sure you can, take one breath where you breathe in all the positive energy you’ve uncovered and breathe out all the negative energy you’ve left behind.
- Open your eyes and say to yourself “I AM already a success!”
Tip #4: Commit To Working On One Thing For 15 Minutes
Monkey mind loves to keep you bouncing from one thing to the next, never fully committing to anything. You can put him in his place by picking one thing on your list right now and commit to spending no less than 15 minutes on it. It doesn’t matter if you finish it. Just put the 15 minutes to focused attention on ONE task. After 15 minutes, congratulate yourself for the accomplishment, get up, stretch, get a drink or a snack. Whatever it takes to reward yourself for your accomplishment. When you’re ready, sit back down and try the same thing with another daily task.
I would recommend that you hold yourself to 15 minutes at first. Eventually, you’ll find that you’re able to focus for longer and longer periods of time. The only caution I have is that you don’t overdo it too early. If you do, you run the risk of letting monkey mind interfere with your progress or feeling like it’s a punishment. If that happens, you’ll be less likely to commit to tasks in the future because of the negative association you form with the process.
Tip #5: Wash, Rinse, Repeat
I know it’s an overused cliche but….take a look at these tips, try them and try the ones that resonate with you again. Once you find something that consistently works, commit to doing it daily. You’ll become a master at this much faster than you think you will! Good luck!
Please leave me a comment below and tell me what challenges you face and whether I’ve helped you with any of them. It’s the only way I’ll know if I’m helping you. Thank you so much for reading!