“If your mind is scattered, it is quite powerless.”— Dalai Lama XIV
Often when our lives have a multitude of things going on all at once we can feel really muddled and scattered.
Having a scattered mind makes life feel chaotic and stressful. It makes it challenging for us to focus on the things we need to do.
The mind is never at rest. It jumps around like a deranged bird that never rests in one spot long enough to call it home.
We might feel like we’re struggling to keep our heads above water. That scattered feeling might have you believe you are losing control.
However, in the midst of all this chaos there are some easy things we can do to loosen the pressure and feel we have some degree of control.
Here are 4 ideas that can help!
1. Dump everything on a ‘to-do’ on list
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do then the first option that always works for me is to sit down and make a list.
The act of writing it down is a wonderful way to clear some space in your mind. By simply dumping everything onto a list you let go and free up your mind.
Focus on getting everything out of your head and onto paper. Just write.
Then when you are done start prioritising items. Scan the list- What needs to be done first? What’s most important?
You can colour code group or maybe number them in an order of importance from 1 to 10.
Once you know the lay of the land you can start to attack each item one at a time.
It can be helpful to set a time limit and see how many items you can get done.
Alternatively, you might pick a number of items on your list and keep going until they are all done. I’ve found picking 3-5 things to get done works well for me.
As new demands enter your thinking just add them to the list- it’s that easy. If you can’t see what’s in front of you how can you action it?
2. Self-Regulate by Taking Recovery Breaks
Working without taking breaks puts us on a fast-track to burnout.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed and scattered, it’s usually not caused by the external situations. The issue is more relative to inner emotional turmoil.
At those times it’s important to shift our focus away from the mind and connect with the body.
When we feel our brain is reaching the point of “diminishing returns,” we need to turn our attention away for a period of time.
So what can we do?
We can go for a walk, go for a run, do some deep breathing exercises or spend some time stretching the body.
3. Stop Multitasking and Simplify
Our brains were not designed to multitask. They are hardwired to do one thing at a time. The reality is when we think we are multi-tasking we’re not. Our scattered brains are simply switching from one task to another.
Research has identified that when we switch from one task to another our attention does not necessarily follow.
This causes us to feel scattered. It’s often the case when you’re jumping chaotically from one thing to another.
This type of behaviour fatigues our brain and impacts our ability to process information in a constructive way. The outcome is increased levels of stress.
Trying to juggle multiple tasks makes us more scattered and less productive. To ultimately get more done we need to simplify and focus on a single task.
We need tactics to shut out distractions that the scattered mind thrives on.
We need surroundings that promote focus. This means a working environment where all distractions can be limited. For a period of time we could turn off emails and text notifications. Or we could keep mobile devices out of reach.
Only check and answer emails and voice messages at elected periods each day to keep them from being all-day distractions.
4. Shut down Ritual
I first came across the term ‘Shut down Ritual’ in a book called ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport.
He argues incomplete tasks will always dominate our thinking causing us to feel stressed. The fear of forgetting doesn’t allow our mind to let go.
To counter this probability he suggests a course of action at the end of a work day whereby we spend some time reviewing and planning what we need to do to complete a task when we revisit it. It helps you take stock of your day and prepare for the next.
Shutdown rituals provide immediate structure for the following days’ work , so you can easily pick up where you left off. They also help to adjust your priorities throughout the week, ensuring your effort is going towards the most important tasks.
Take Home Message
These ideas are not a magic fix-all, nonetheless each can help to calm the mind when it’s scattered.
Maybe pick 1 that appeals to you and try it!
How do you overcome your mind when it’s overwhelmed and scattered?