Keys to focusing in difficult times
By Tim Ursiny Ph.D. RCCFeatures Business and Operations Finance
July 24, 2009 – The
normal responses to high levels of difficulty, stress and chaos include
confusion, distraction and loss of focus. However, those that can get their
head in the game can find opportunities that others will miss. Here are three
concrete defensive or offensive strategies to deal with distractions and stress
and focus on actions that will get you results.
The worry chair
common conditioning technique used by counselors is the worry chair strategy.
It is especially useful for those who have trouble falling asleep because they
are ruminating about their day. You can use it at home or work, but we will use
the example of someone with insomnia to demonstrate the process.
up a specific chair in your house that is designated as the worry chair. If you
are worrying about things and unable to sleep for more than 10 minutes, and
then get out of your bed and go sit in the worry chair. Allow yourself to worry
all you want when you are in the chair. Take each worry to its conclusion
before you move to the next worry. Stay there as long as you need to (until you
are done worrying). Return to bed. If you start worrying again then go to your
chair and repeat the process. Do not allow yourself to worry in any other spot
in the house (or office if you do the process there).
can add journaling to your worry time if that is helpful for you.
this technique may be strange, it is a method for you to condition your worry to
that chair instead of your bed, office chair or anywhere else. It puts you in
control of the worry rather than having the worry control you. Lack of sleep
will kill your focus so don’t allow it to go on too long.
is a structured procedure for eliminating troublesome thoughts. It was
popularized by Joseph Wolpe and has been used to treat a wide variety of
challenges including overcoming fear, increasing focus and removing mental
the form of thought-stopping can vary, the basic procedure is as follows. Wear
a rubber band on your wrist. Any time you have the undesirable thought, you
snap the rubber band (not hard, just enough to feel it). You visualize a stop
sign or yell “stop” (unless you are in a grocery store or other public place).
repeat to yourself a replacement thought that is more helpful. Repeat the
entire process as often as you need to.
technique is meant to help train the brain to stop the automatic and
destructive thoughts. Since thoughts are intangible, the rubber band helps make
the process more concrete. The process is simple and usually only takes a few
days or weeks to feel a major impact.
who want to stop distracting thoughts try all sorts of complex strategies for
relief. Despite this tendency, thought-stopping continues to be one of the most
effective, yet simple strategies that psychology has to offer to keep you
focused and get results.
technique has been used by major corporations like Disney to take complex
concepts and create a coherent story and focus. All you need is a marker, a pad
of sticky notes and an issue to focus on (such as a marketing plan, goals for
the future, a problem that needs to be solved, etc.). Once you have these you
start brainstorming about the issue using the following sequence. Without any
critique, put each idea on a sticky note and randomly post them on a wall or
desk. After you have exhausted all
ideas, cluster the post-it notes that seem related. Put a label on each of your clusters. Determine
if anything needs to be added to or removed from any of the categories. Prioritize
your categories. Prioritize the ideas within the categories. For your top
priority categories, break each important idea into specific and timed goals. Put
the goals in a special place or type them up into the computer.
live in a world full of stress, change and distractions. While it may be normal
to be hindered by these factors, it is not inevitable. With proper techniques
and motivation, we can decrease our stress, increase our productivity and focus
while others flounder.
Dr. Tim Ursiny is
the founder of Advantage Coaching & Training. He trains and coaches
individuals and teams in areas such as stress management, conflict resolution,
dealing with change and building client loyalty. He is the author of multiple
books including The Confidence Plan, Tough Times Tactics and The Top
Performer’s Guide to Attitude. For more
information, please visit www.advantagecoaching.com, or contact Drtim@advantagecoaching.com.
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