Most of us are distracted while at work – 37 % according to a recent study (Potential project.com) – and we often view this as a problem. On average, over a third of our entire day is spent distracted and off-task. Unfocused employees, unproductive teams and absent-minded leaders cost the U.S economy $300 billion annually.
If we were always choosing for our minds to wander, that might be okay. But notice that it happens even when we’re trying to be present. That can compromise our ability to be at our best and to fully take advantage of the moments in our lives.
To make matters worse, we don’t have any strategies to optimize ourselves when heading into our days – only 2% of leaders have regular practices or habits to take care of their energy and their minds during the day in order to be at their best.
◼ Stress makes mind wandering even worse
Once again according to www.potentialproject.com, a stressed agitated mind will wander 2 or 3 times more than a mind that is calm and balanced.
And in addition, people under stress have poorer focus and more mind wandering as the week progresses, hitting a weekly low on Friday. On the contrary, their calmer counterparts have better focus and less mind wandering, even hitting peak focus on a Friday.
◼ Constant demand for our attention is also a source of mind wandering
Our attention is constantly required. Indeed, we are exposed to an incredible amount of information which leads us to be interrupted all the time. This hyper connection keeps us connected around the clock and it is a huge source of distraction and inattention. This is due to the digital revolution with the acceleration of the means of communication, which considerably increases our time of mind wandering. Christophe André, a famous French psychiatrist, calls them “attention thieves”. All these sources of distraction have a strong impact on our attention and therefore on our well-being. Our mind never stops wandering, without really ever settling.
It often happens that we let our mind wander but to brood with dark thoughts.
Feeling emotional discomfort is inevitable when dealing with stressful life events, conflicts, failures, breakups, threats. All this will generate an infinity of unpleasant emotions: anger, bitterness, shame, sadness, nostalgia, anxiety. So far everything is normal. This process begins when we come into conflict with this discomfort and see it as a problem to be solved (“what is wrong with me?”).
This reactivates unhappy memories (which do echo to our current feelings) and worry about the future (if we cannot find an explanation) which lead to negative judgments (inner criticism: “my life is a failure”, “I am zero”, etc.). All our energy is engaged in this ineffective struggle and here we are again for a tour of this hellish merry-go-round, convinced that by making one more effort we will find the solution.
The best way to stop our mind wandering is to calm the mind and be more focused.
Here are 3 key actions for a more focused day.
◼ Daily mind-training practice can help you to get in touch with your mind and learn how to direct it to feel more grounded, resilient and present.
◼ A good night’s sleep decreases mind wandering. Sleep is foundational to good mental and physical health and wellbeing.
◼ Connecting with others pulls you out of your own head and makes you feel more balanced and focused.
And regarding dark thoughts ?
The way out: identify our negative thoughts, take time to think about them and write them down, for example the top 5 of your most frequent negative thoughts. This will allow you to develop your ability to identify them, to recognize them as recurring thoughts without any value of truth and not to listen to them when they are activated in difficult times.
Letting your mind wander doesn’t have to be a barrier because it can also help you find various solutions to a problem. We also note that the dreamiest people are often the most creative, so this doesn’t have to be a drag.
Daydreams can indeed constitute a kind of virtual place which allows:
– imagine the future in order to plan certain actions,
– bring creative solutions to a tangible problem,
– to refocus on objectives.
All this is just the normal principle of daydreaming, very useful if it does not turn into an addiction to mask certain aspects of daily life, whether social or professional.
Alice teaches how to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results.
Alice is a HR executive, coach, mentor, therapist, mindfulness practitioner and teacher, public speaker, animal lover, nature addict, wellbeing advocate, wife, stepmother… or for short just a Human Being.
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