Where are you right now? Are you walking while reading this, and your mind is back in your last conversation, or thinking about the one you plan to have later? Are you reading this while your attention is focused on the conversation in the next cubicle? Are you working on a report while imagining how heavy traffic will be on the drive home?
Or maybe you’re feeling an emotion that you can’t express for fear of the repercussions? Is that emotion keeping you from completing an important task? Are you stuck – unsuccessfully trying to trouble-shoot a complex problem that’s keeping you from finishing or advancing a project?
Here are 4 simple tools that will help you move beyond distraction, or creative and emotional roadblocks so you can get back on the road to progress.
1) Change your rhythm. Jeffery Davis of trackingwonder.com suggests that after a period of intense focus on a task, its helpful to change your rhythm by doing something different. Interject something pleasurable and off task. He recommends taking a 5 to 20 minute relaxing, fun-filled break to clear your mind.
Consider listening to music, dancing, jumping rope, gardening, painting, drawing, reading something you love. Do whatever delights you and takes you away – mind, body and emotion – from the situation you’ve been focusing on.
Benefit from your brain’s ability to be its most creative when it’s relaxed and bathed in pleasure. Afterwards you can go back to your task with your juices flowing, once again.
2) Cry. This may be the most controversial of the tips, but crying is an emotional expression that is as natural, normal and valid as raising your voice or banging on the table. Crying is a way of relieving pressure, letting go of held emotions. It can actually be a helpful – even healthy – way to release tension.
Recently, I’ve noticed men crying publicly. Athletes like Zach Johnson, this year’s winner of The British Open, and Jason Day, winner of The 2015 PGA Championship, both shook with tears.
You may need to excuse yourself or shut your door because traditionally, crying in the workplace has been taboo, largely due to the long-held belief that tears make you appear weak, vulnerable, emotional, not in control, and it makes witnesses uncomfortable. While tears in the workplace are not common, they relieve pent up tension and may enable you to feel a sense of relief, focus better, and therefore, perform more effectively.
3) Get physical. Jump-start your performance by getting up and moving! Get your blood flowing and oxygen pumping to your brain. According to researchers, physically fit people perform complex cognitive tasks more effectively. Their brains are more flexible and functional, with better memory. And, the older we get, the more important being physically active becomes. It’s one way to keep the structure of your brain’s white matter in tact and functioning at its peak.
Put this research to the test. For immediate results, stand up and stretch, or walk around the block. Try taking the stairs to your next meeting instead of the elevator. For longer-lasting results, join that exercise class or re-engage with your strength training program.
4) Breathe mindfully. To get your body, mind and emotions all in the same place, at the same time, use this always-accessible technique. Slow down for a few minutes and notice your in-breath and out-breath. Instantly, you’ll feel more present, centered and peaceful, enabling greater creativity and productivity.
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