Has your mind ever felt like these brownies? Scattered all over the place. For the last few days, I have felt like my energy and my mind are scattered to the four winds. When I sit down and try to do something, my mind is like a ping-pong ball bouncing around. At first, I tried to force myself to focus, which didn’t work at all. I just got frustrated. Then, I realized, I have tools at my disposal to help myself; things that I’ve learned over the years that have worked well for me. So why am I not using them? (Cue: Slap to the forehead) Once I started doing so, I stopped feeling scattered. So, I want to share these things with you, in hopes that they will help you when you’re feeling scattered as well.
But first, what does feeling scattered mean?
It can be different for everyone, but overall, feeling scattered means that you can’t really focus on any one thing. Even when you need to do something, your mind jumps from one thing to another and you can’t seem to get anything done.
For me, when I say that I’m feeling scattered, I’m usually bouncing from thing to thing, not really finishing any one project. I’ll start writing, think of something I need to do in the kitchen, and go do that. Then I’ll abandon that project and move to something else. Then something else and something else.
What leaves us feeling this way to begin with, and how do you focus when your brain is feeling scattered?
Most often I think it happens because we’re trying to do too much. We have too much on our plate, on our to-do list, and we’re pulled in 7 different directions.
I tend to get too focused on the bigger picture when I have a lot to do. I can’t see the trees for the forest. Other people are just the opposite. Either way, we can’t seem to focus on what we need to be doing.
To help with this, I do my best to remember to break things down into more manageable pieces. The best way to do this is to work backwards from your end goal.
Figure out what you need to do each month to accomplish your goal? Then take those things and break them down further: what do you need to do each week to get to those monthly goals? Then, even further: what do you need to do each day to meet your weekly goals?
When I’m especially scattered, like I have been for the last few days, I will even break it down one step further and figure out what I need to do each hour to accomplish my daily goals. I literally ask myself, “What is my very next step”, over and over again throughout the day.
Eat breakfast, “What’s my next step”. Do my Qigong practice, “What’s my next step”. Sit down and answer emails, “What’s my next step”. And so on.
It sounds monotonous, but it helps me to get back on track, and also, to focus on one thing at a time.
Trying to do several things at once for too long can keep us feeling scattered. Instead of focusing all of our energy on one thing, we are spreading what precious energy we have out. We aren’t really doing our best at anything.
If you’re feeling like you can’t focus on things, and like you’re having a hard time getting things done, try breaking it all down into more manageable steps.
And write these steps down. Or at the very least, make a note in your phone, or on your calendar.
How ever you do it, the point is, get it out of your head. If you’re trying to keep a growing list in your mind of what you need to do for this and that, first, you aren’t going to be able to really focus on anything that you’re doing. In the back of your mind you will be constantly thinking ahead and going through that list to make sure you don’t forget anything. And second, you can miss the opportunities that may arise spontaneously, because you can’t hear that small voice inside your head that is trying to help you and guide you.
While you’re making your list for each day, find those things that you could scratch off of your list entirely by asking someone else to help you.
If we can allow others to help us carry some of the load, we will have more brainpower and energy to do other things.
The trouble with this one is, many of us have a hard time asking for help. We either don’t want to bother people, we’re afraid they won’t do things right, or we don’t think that anyone will actually help.
But for the sake of our own sanity, we need to learn to ask for help sometimes, and to allow people to help us in their own way. If we do so, it gives others the chance to do something nice for us, and it keeps us from being super busy all the time.
An important thing to remember is that, feeling scatterbrained doesn’t always mean that you’re busy in a bad way. It can happen when you are busy doing things that you love or when you’re super excited about a project as well.
There’s a word that we use in my Qigong classes for this…overexcitation.
It’s when we are looking forward to something, or something really great has just happened, and we get so overly excited that we can’t contain it.
When this happens to some people, their emotions seem like they are out of control. They will laugh too hard at something, or laugh so hard that they make themselves start crying (not laugh crying, like sad crying). Or they will just be all over the place in general. They may talk in circles, or start to trip over their words because their brain just can’t seem to keep up.
When I have a lot of things coming up that I’m really looking forward to, or really excited to share with people, if I’m not careful my brain starts to go in different directions like this.
My mind races, and, even though I want to get a lot of things done, I can’t because I can’t focus in on any one thing. Even after I’ve made my list, broken it all down, and arrived at a plan, if I’m overexcited about things, I can’t make myself actually sit down and accomplish anything.
In cases like this I will take a few minutes and practice something I learned in Qigong: saying the word “Haaa”.
Not just saying it, but almost sighing it.
(To see the entire explanation behind this, and why it helps, watch Chris Shelton’s video on YouTube.)
Without going too deeply into it all, any emotions that we don’t express or release, get suppressed; they get stored within our bodies. Each of our organs is affected by different emotions and our hearts are kind of the directors of how these emotions are dealt with. For instance, if we get frustrated with our boss and we don’t do something to release that frustration in a healthy way (like talking to our boss, going for a walk, doing yoga or Qigong, etc.) then that emotion enters the heart. If we continue to ignore the frustration we’re feeling, if we continue to shove it down, it settles into our Liver.
But, using the “Haaa” sound can help us to release it before it gets to that point. Each of the different organ systems has a different sound that helps to heal and release repressed emotions. The “Haaa” sound is the sound for the heart.
Feeling scattered and unfocused also relates back to our hearts. So, doing the “Haaa” sound helps to release these emotions before they cause more trouble.
To do it, take a deep breath in through your nose and on your exhale say “Haaa” for as long as your exhale lasts. And repeat.
Sometimes I only do this a few times and sometimes I do it for a few minutes. It depends on what is going on within me and around me. Each time I do it though, I feel the pieces of my scattered mind return.
A complimentary practice to doing the “Haaa” sound, is journaling. Those pent-up emotions can “get in between” the thoughts that we’re having and leave us feeling scattered.
Much like breaking down your goals into smaller pieces, putting your feelings into a journal can free up some of your mental space for the things that you need to think about each day.
When we have an argument with our spouse, or a bad day, replaying over and over again in our heads, we don’t have much room left over for other things.
Taking a few minutes each day to sit and write some of these things out in a journal helps us to release the feelings and thoughts associated with whatever it is that we’re dealing with.
If you don’t want to write out every detail of your conversations, or what you’re actually feeling, instead, try writing down 10 things that you’re thankful for each day. Doing this will help you to shift your focus to the good things that are in your life, rather than only seeing the bad.
Doing this practice before bedtime is especially helpful because it helps to get the thoughts out of your head so that you aren’t laying there with a racing mind rather than sleeping.
Which is another reason that we can feel scattered: because we’re exhausted.
This can happen when we haven’t slept well, or we’ve been working hard on a project. Our bodies and minds are over it, and things start to fragment. We lose the ability to concentrate and we don’t have the energy to do anything about it.
If I get to a point in my day when I’m so tired that I can’t concentrate on anything, I know it’s time to take a nap. If I don’t, the remainder of my day is not going to get any better. Those times that I’ve tried to push through, I’ve ended up miserable, grumpy, and completely unproductive. On the flip side, if I lay down, even for a few minutes, I feel better and I can be more productive.
Even if you sit in your car on your lunchbreak and take a 10- or 20-minute catnap, it can benefit you.
Sometimes our energy gets so scattered because we’ve given it away to too many people. Meaning….we’ve been doing a lot of things for other people.
This can happen even when you’re doing what you love to do, or when you’re working for a good cause. In fact, people who volunteer, or who love what they do often put even more of their heart and soul into what they are doing.
When I’ve been around a lot of people, or doing a lot for others in general, I will take the time, at least once a week, to sit in a quiet place for a few minutes and call back my energy.
This may feel weird to some of you at first, but try it, because it really does help.
Find a quiet spot, close your eyes if you want to, and say (out loud or to yourself) “I call back my energy from all of the places that I’ve scattered it this week”, and imagine your energy (in whatever form it looks like to you) coming back to you and filling up your being. Repeat this several times over.
Your quiet spot doesn’t have to be somewhere that is total silence quiet, unless you want it to be. It can be outside where the birds are chirping, or in a room where you have soft music playing. The key is to be somewhere that you aren’t going to be bothered for at least a couple of minutes.
Leave your phone in a different room, and mute it. Or if you’re using it for the music, mute all of the sounds except the music.
My favorite place to sit and do this when it’s warm outside, is on our front porch, in our rocking chairs. There are some road noises, and people occasionally talking, but for the most part all I hear are the bird chirping around me.
The hardest part of finding a way to stop feeling so scattered, is being aware that you’re feeling scattered to begin with.
A lot of people think that feeling scattered is just the way they are. Or that it’s a by product of success and life in general. This doesn’t have to be true.
Try a few of the tools that have worked for me, and you’ll start to feel your mind become less and less scattered. You’ll be calmer, more focused, and better able to handle issues when they arise. Instead of not being able to get anything done, you’ll find that you’re actually MORE productive. Every aspect of your life will benefit.