One of the hardest things to find right now is focus. Motivation. The ability to get on and DO things. Of course, there are very good reasons for that.
From a practical point of view, those of us who have children are trying to get things done with children in the house. Every parent knows that this is pretty much the definition of impossible. It could be that you would find it easy to focus at the moment if you could just find a moment of peace! I get it.
From an emotional point of view though, there is a reason focus is so hard to find. We are carrying an enormous emotional load. Our normal lives were ripped away from us very quickly and we have had to adapt to a completely new way of life, with no information on when that will change, and with serious health concerns hanging over us. Make no mistake: that is traumatic. Finding it hard to concentrate, to focus, to get your motivation – that is all a completely normal response to trauma. One of many completely normal responses. Self forgiveness is key in this situation. There is nothing wrong with you – we are all dealing with a lot.
Yet we still have things we need to do, no matter how stressful life may be. Be it paid work, housework, homeschooling, life admin, we all have a to do list and it’s not going away. Let me share with you my favourite tip for finding some focus when all you want to do is hide under the duvet:
Use a timer.
The first part of using the timer is to choose a timescale that feels safe for you. On a really bad day that safe timescale might easily be just 5 minutes. It often is for me. You feel as though you can just about manage to do 5 minutes of something before you flop back down on the couch. Okay. 5 minutes it is. Or 10, 15, 30 – whatever feels like the right timescale for how you are feeling. Again, self forgiveness is key.
Once you have your timescale, choose your task. What needs your focus today? Don’t panic – it’s only going to be 5 minutes. So you can pick one of those big, horrible, headspace filling jobs because it’s only going to be your safe timescale that you use for this. No one is asking you to sit down for hours and finish something.
Got your timescale? Got your task?
Set a timer, probably on your phone, and go for it. Spend your chosen amount of time working on that task. When the timer goes off, you are done. Give yourself a pat on the back. You focused on that task for your chosen amount of time. You did it!
What will that achieve? In my experience a number of things:
- You will have made a start. That mental block about doing ANYTHING has been pushed away
- You will have made progress on your chosen task. You will be amazed in what you can achieve even in just 5 minutes
- You might find you feel motivated to do a little more now that you have done the hard part and got started. (You might not, and that’s okay too.)
- You will know how much you can achieve in your chosen timescale. Your tasks won’t seem so overwhelming when you realise they don’t take up as much time as you imagine
You can set the timer and focus on a task any time of the day when you feel able to do so. Asking for open-ended focus and motivation from yourself is probably unrealistic at the moment. What timescale feels right for you today? Go with that. It will be different tomorrow. Just do what you can do and remember: we are all experiencing the same challenges. It’s okay to be struggling. These are challenging times!
Give yourself a break.
Helen Calvert, April 2020