How can you stay focused?
There are a lot of tools, tips, and tricks to try to stay focused on a task. A lot of the battle can be trying to escape from the dreaded unknown, the black abyss that likes to hypnotize you into staring back. The heart clench and cold sweat are all too familiar. How do I catch myself from drowning in the pool of anxiety? The lingering, dreadful notion that I may never reach my goal?
I need to escape the abyss.
For years and years, I have wondered and pondered how to stay focused–motivated–on my goals.
It’s hard to pull myself out of a mental funk. Sometimes that funk is years long. I think I’m getting the hang of staying focused on my work. But I am not going to lie, procrastination and poor time-management are hard habits to break. On a bad mental day, it will feel like every tool and tip that I have learned and used over the years has failed me. Nothing works; that is a lie.
The black hole is scary and it tries to take me into its clutches. For years, I thought I was a slave to it, staring into and floating in a timeless space. I had to learn to start healing myself to realize that I am not in a forgotten zone. I’m not floating or drowning, I can stand up on my own two feet. The water is only knee-deep.
In this realization, I can take into account the tools I learned (and still learning) can aid me in reaching my goals.
Make New Habits
I heard that to create a new habit, I would have to practice it for 24 days straight. Almost an entire month for my brain to understand and learn something new.
Remember when I mentioned that I procrastinated and had poor time management?
Making new habits is extremely hard for me, my mind, and my heart to really incorporate into my daily routine. Constantly, I feel my body fight to incorporate new tasks into my day. More than once, I have become so overwhelmed with different information on what to do, especially when it comes to the new habits I want. I didn’t have realistic goals or ideas. So, I had a few conversations with myself.
I found out that I like making lists: daily chores, weekly schedule, bucket lists.
Every few years, I make a bucket list. I do this because I am constantly growing and changing. Who I was two years ago may not think bungee jumping off the Stratosphere is so appealing. I used to want to be a singer, but now I just want to sing off-key in the shower, or maybe at a karaoke bar with some friends. Constantly re-working my bucket list helps me find out what my goals in life are.
The constant in all of my bucket lists is to be a published author.
Over and over again, I have crawled and stumbled to this goal. It wasn’t until I had that difficult conversation with myself that my dream of publishing books will be just that. A dream. I was still learning about myself, so I went back to school. I remember I had the best times writing my stories in class, so I decided I could do that again as an undergraduate.
I don’t recommend doing that, but it worked for me.
Writing had to become my new habit. How could I become a published author if I didn’t actually do the work? I tried adding twenty minutes a day that was only for my writing. I do have to admit that it didn’t work. I tried something else: how many words a week I wanted to write.
Sometimes, starting out with a small goal for that new habit makes it easier to transition to. The way you go about your new habit can be changed.
Now, I am writing consistently, and sometimes it might not be of content that inspires me, but I am writing again. I knew from the bottom of my heart that words and stories are my passion. So, I need to make time to write, organize my day, and remember I am a human who needs some fun.
To keep focused on your new habit, try making a music playlist. Every time you listen to the playlist, it should help you stay on track. If you need something visual, maybe play some motivational videos from people you admire. Tie something to your new habit.
The habit you have been putting off? Make some time for it. It isn’t a hassle or burden to you.
Reevaluate Your Time
Ah, time. It really does feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, doesn't it?
So, that new habit I had previously encouraged you to make time for, let's talk about how to achieve it. As human beings, we like to compare ourselves and secretly compete with others. For example, I know many people–many friends–with a lot on their plate. Honestly, when I tell others about my day (especially hearing it out loud), it sounds like a lot is going on in 24 hours.
It feels like there isn’t enough time.
It isn’t until I actually sit down and write out my day that I realize I could utilize my time better. Sometimes, when I am being lazy or procrastinating I have to go through a mantra in my head just to hype myself into not letting my old habits take over. Depending on what I need to get done, I would tell myself things like, “you CAN get up right now and wash the dishes” or “you HAVE the time to vacuum.”
A body at rest will fight to stay at rest.
I love making lists. It feels so right when I can check off each bullet. But lists may not work for you. Maybe take a look at your calendar and write out everything you can get done on that day. Set up reminders and alarms to keep you on track.
Even if you have five minutes for what you believe is important to you then use it. Eventually, you will get used to your new planned out days. Remember: it takes 24 days to create a new habit.
I am a visual person, so I love all the physical things used to make my lists. Right now, my favorite notepad is a F.R.I.E.N.D.S weekly schedule and list gifted to me by a dear friend. There will be days that I forget to write on it, or I can’t get everything checked off, but that is okay. I can only control what I can do in the present. I can’t change the past, nor can I predict the future.
You do NOT have to be perfect. Don’t beat yourself up if you can't fit everything in a day. You are not a machine, and you don’t need to be.
You have a fresh start the next day.
Make lists, create a new schedule, and, most importantly, have that hard talk with yourself. It will be therapeutic, I promise.
I trip and stumble constantly and consistently, but I always get up in the end. There will be days, months, even years where I make myself believe I am not enough. I do this wrong, or someone more capable than me can do that better. The sweat and heart-racing anxiety feel all too consuming.
I never know if I can come up for fresh air. My senses are dulled and dimmed by the black hole that likes to vacation in my space. I am not important. I have nothing to offer.
No one can help you, you can’t even help yourself. Who are you to be giving advice or making content? It’s not even good. The cup you try to pour from doesn’t exist. No one can relate to you. Round and round these words are like punches to the gut. Those devilish whispers in my ear. Years is a long time to be listening to these deceptions.
Those words are not my own.
It asks, “why me?” All I can think about is, “why NOT me?”
I am worth everything. I have so much to give. I am more than enough.
It was hard and will still be hard to escape those claws and daggers. But I still have air in my lungs, so I will fight. I have a little boy at home watching me with wonder, copying everything I do. I am doing everything in my power to be the role model he needs. After all, my husband and I are his first ones.
I used to get jealous because someone the same age or younger achieved their dreams. But I didn’t see the hard work they put into it or the demons they had to endure. I am only in competition with myself and who I was yesterday. I can only control my actions.
The Unknown will not win.
Breathe. Calm and ground yourself. The little actions you make today will be huge leaps and bounds tomorrow. Move your body so it doesn’t stay at rest when it doesn’t need to be.
One of my new habits is to move my body. Long walks (sadly, not at a beach) and working out my muscles. My main motivation is to be able to breathe and not die when my heart thinks it's doing anything strenuous. A big factor is that I want to be able to dance for more than five seconds without having a fat attack.
Something simple will bring in big profits in the long run.
Reader, you are worth it. Your dream is worth it. Choose yourself first. I’ll be here rooting for you and know that whatever you do–I’m proud of you.
About the Author
Selina Wells is an undergraduate at UNLV and aspiring author. She is interning at The Love Yourself Foundation as a Blog contributor and Editor. Her work “That Girl” can be found in the creative arts journal Beyond Thought. When she isn’t reading and writing, she is chasing after her two year old son with her husband, Alan. Currently, Selina is working on her first novel. Follow her journey on Instagram @mrs.swells