focus

How to Clear Your Mind and Fuel Your Creativity

Have you ever had an “aha!” moment when you least expected it? Maybe you were in the shower, on a run, or simply drinking your morning coffee when suddenly... the answer became clear. There’s a reason why these breakthrough ideas strike at strange times and it’s most often when you have a clear mind.

In order to do your most creative work, you have to silence any anxious and stressful thoughts, especially if you have external pressure like pending deadlines. The good news is you can learn to distance these negative thoughts, while your creative mind goes to work.

To find out how others stay creative under stress, we reached out to:

  • Kevin Huynh, Partner at People & Company

  • Ramon Mortiz, Senior Associate at iProspect

  • David Li, Technician and Fulfillment Specialist at KeyMe

Here’s what they had to say about distancing anxious thoughts and letting your mind be creative:

Identify Anxious Thoughts

“What’s the first thing you do when you find your mind racing from anxiety and stress?”

Once you notice your mind start to race take a moment to pause and breathe. Try to assess the situation. Ramon suggests considering your “current situation, emotions, [and] thoughts,” by asking questions like:

  • How did I get to this point?

  • Why am I thinking this?

  • Where did this feeling come from?

You can also try writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Kevin finds “that putting [his] thoughts into words helps [him] reflect on what [he’s] feeling and why [he] feels that way.”

Put Things Into Perspective

“How do you silence these anxious and stressful thoughts?”

A common thread among the contributing influencers is to always put everything into perspective. For some, this means introspective reflection, while for others it means talking things out with a close friend.

Kevin says, “nothing silences stressful thoughts like talking them out with someone I trust. Often those discussions with my partner or business partner don't change the circumstances but they put seemingly overwhelming things into perspective.”

Priority Over Pressure

“When you have other tasks to complete, how do you focus on the task at hand rather than the building pressure?”

For Kevin, his “good days start with lists”. Especially when times get busy, Kevin proactively makes lists for each day of the week. However, we all know how easy a to-do list can quickly get out of hand.

This is why it’s important to focus on the present moment says David. He highlights the importance of tackling each task one-by-one even though it can feel “almost paralyzing to focus on whatever you may have on your plate at the moment.

Here are some best practices for writing your to-do list:

  • Include work-related and personal items

It’s important to make sure you complete all of your work. It’s even more important that you maintain good physical and mental health. Make time for yourself.

  • Identify urgent versus important items

This helps you determine which items need to be prioritized first, while others can wait until a more appropriate time. Focus on the urgent problems first.

You can read more about writing sensible to-do lists here.

Enjoy the Moment

“Do you have any exercises or habits or hobbies that help you clear your mind and prevent stress from wearing you down?”

Everyone has an activity, hobby, or something you enjoy doing. It’s important that you make time for yourself and these types of activities. For Kevin it’s cooking; he says, “cooking is rejuvenating. There's something about preparing, creating, and consuming food that makes me feel more like me.”


How Top Performing Teams Get In The Zone

Have you ever experienced a dream-like state where high quality work flows effortlessly and without hesitation? The kind you’d describe with words like flow state or deep work. More specifically, it’s when your mind balances relaxation with concentration. Here are 3 practices top performing teams use to “get in the zone”:

Find A Shared Purpose

Every task becomes significantly easier - and a lot more fun - when it has a meaningful purpose. Defining the team’s purpose allows team members to be in sync and see how they can best contribute for success. One way you can define this purpose is to understand how the task serves any bigger picture goals. This allows you to keep your team grounded and focused if there’s ever any debate about how to move forward in the project.

Tip: Try to find a strong visual or statement that encapsulates the team’s mission.

Simplify The Process

As human beings we have a habit of over complicating things. Our awesome, high-powered brains are so analytical that they sometimes experience analysis paralysis. This is when your purpose statement comes in handy. Having a clear intention allows you to decide which tasks will move you closer to the bigger picture goal and which ones will not. This will provide you context to assess each problem, so you can deal with it appropriately.

Remove Physical Distractions

There are a proven ways to improve people’s focus at work. The first is to remove any physical distractions. When it’s time to sit down and work, close social media, turn off phone notifications, close your email, and only keep tabs open related to the task at hand. Top performing teams do this because they know It takes an entire 20 minutes to completely refocus after a distraction.

Getting in the zone is no myth exclusive to athletes and superheros. It’s a wonderful, empowering state that anyone has access to. If you’re looking to take your team’s focus to the next level, try applying these 3 strategies.

Why Peak Performance Requires a Strong Mind Body Connection

There are two types of exercise critical to reaching your peak performance in life: mental and physical. Physical exercise is organized, premeditated, focused physical movement that is intended to achieve a set of fitness goals. Common physical exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and yoga. With repetition, you get better over time.

Mental exercise is a bit more complicated. Your brain is active 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The brain is a super-powered processing machines constantly analyzing your external environment, while commanding your bodily functions. Your brain also regulates emotions, stores memories, and processes information both consciously and subconsciously. Just like physical activity, there is a distinction between brain activity and mental exercise.

Mental exercises are challenging. They require more cognitive power and eat up more energy. They are also the activities that make you smarter. Some examples include learning a new instrument, studying for a test, strategizing a new business model, and even reading for long periods of time.

Mutually Exclusive or Complementary?

What you may have noticed is that these examples of physical and mental exercise are not mutually exclusive. To play piano, you need to think about which notes to play and move your fingers and feet accordingly. To swim a proper breaststroke, you have to apply a learned technique to move efficiently and get better.

It is important to understand the difference between mental and physical exercise to understand an even more powerful type of exercise - the mind body connection.

The Mind Body Connection

Going as far back as ancient Greece, people believed that the mind and body were deeply intertwined. Medicine and sports were predicated on the idea that our bodies and minds depend on each other for peak performance. This notion was almost lost at the beginning of the seventeenth century, but has come back to popularity. Scientists in modern times have found again and again that the body and mind are a synchronized unit. For example, what separates Olympic athletes from recreational athletes is not their superior bodies; it’s actually their ability to make decisions on the fly, and command their muscles accordingly. Vice versa.

Here’s another example. Think back to the last time you were very hungry and trying to work. Not easy right? A body that’s properly fed, hydrated, and has stable glucose levels feeds a sharper, more focused, and calmer mind.

Though we do not yet fully understand the connectivity between the mind and body, it is a growing topic in a variety of fields from meditation to physiology to fitness. Peak performers, doctors and scientists all want to know how this relationship works. One thing is for sure. If you want to reach your peak performance in life, it’s critical to find a happy balance between mental and physical exercise.


 

The Sensible To-Do List: Where Productivity Meets Compassion

When managing a busy life, the common solution is a to-do list. While writing your thoughts on paper helps make your to-do list actionable, the key is to be kind to yourself as you write.

You Are More Important Than Your Task List

When it comes to productivity, there is one thing you can keep in mind: you have the power to manage your life. We’ve compiled some ways to tackle your to-do list with self-love. This process will make you more productive and happier in the process. Sustainable productivity starts with compassion, and here’s how you can do it everyday:

1. Prioritize Your Tasks

After you’ve listed out all the tasks, center yourself by closing your eyes and taking a three deep breaths. Then write the due dates beside each task. During this process, try to be as calm and rational as possible. Remind yourself: Choosing realistic deadlines means you’ll produce better work that you’re proud of.  Once the deadlines are set, chose the top 3 tasks that need to be done and rank them in order. Now tackle them one at a time, starting with the most important.

2. Accept The Work

The one often overlooked yet essential part of productivity is remembering why you want to complete these tasks in the first place. Ask yourself:

  • What do these items mean to me?

  • Why do I care so much about them?

  • How do they fit into the bigger picture?

If any item on the list doesn’t answer these questions - cross the task off.

3. Dive In

If all of the overwhelming thoughts and feelings won’t let up, just start. You’ll feel more productive after working just 20 minutes! Don’t worry about perfection or speed. Instead, be present with what you are working on and focus on the task fully.

Once you get the first task done, it provides momentum for the next one. Celebrate the small wins to give yourself confidence that you can do it.

4. Take Time To Relax

It may sound crazy, but taking time to relax is critical for sustainable productivity. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress Free Productivity, sums it up perfectly. He says, “your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.” A clear mind is most effective at making good decisions.

5. Thank Yourself

Sometimes we remember to thank everyone except ourselves. It takes bravery, courage, and persistence to do the work now that supports your future self. Take the time to acknowledge and internalize that effort. Say to yourself: I am doing a great job! Don’t let your mind tell you otherwise.

How Going Offline Makes You More Productive

How do you feel about being connected to your devices around the clock? Does it keep you in the loop and help you get more done? Or is it the opposite and your attention is being pulled in a thousand different directions?

Our devices, while very useful, can sometimes distract us from our desired path. By spending time offline, you can enjoy more clarity, peace of mind, and higher peak performance to thrive in life.

Here’s why going offline makes you more productive:

A Better Night’s Rest

You’re lying in bed, about to go to sleep, and then “beep, beep”... your phone goes off. Sound familiar? Whether it’s a social media notification, a text, or some other reminder, we often check it out. Even though we’re settled in bed, looking at the alert gets our minds racing again. On top of this, studies say the blue light from phone screens interferes with your body’s sleep cycles. All of this combines for a poor night’s rest, and affects tomorrow’s mood, energy level, and productivity.  

Focus On What’s Important

Constant connection to our devices makes it all too easy to be distracted - especially when the next notification appears. It takes great self-control and even greater willpower to avoid checking our phone every-time it beeps. After all, it’s our very nature to give attention to something that’s calling for us.

The challenge with ignoring notifications and technology is that it takes focus and energy. Whether you turn your ringer to silent or turn off your devices altogether - more power to you!

Be Present and Focus

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By spending more time offline, you can access focus and clarity of mind. For instance, you’ll be present to the people you spend time with. They will appreciate your focus and you’ll be able to appreciate their presence. This can help strengthen your relationships immensely.

 

An Inspired You

Most importantly, going offline lets your mind rest. Sometimes social media, emails, and notifications can make your mind work harder than it needs to. By taking a break from all that extra information, your mind is free to focus on what really matters to you.

Taking a break from your devices can be very refreshing. Whether it’s for a week or just one day, you might be surprised by your how clear you feel.

A World Distracted: How to Find Focus Today

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There’s no denying it: Technology has transformed our lives in incredible ways. It’s made information accessible, remote communication possible, and business more seamless than ever before. It has also created some challenges.

Research has shown that our attention spans have gotten shorter and our ability to store information in long-term memory has been reduced. In fact, a Microsoft study states that North American attention spans fell from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015. Constant streams of text messages, emails, Tweets, Snaps, and news feeds have taken their toll on us.

Because meditation focuses the mind away from these distractions, it helps to strengthen people’s ability to pay attention. Meditation can help improve focus and memory, which allows people to be more productive at work. It also helps people stay present and in the moment, which leads to a greater sense of fulfillment.

Employers are discovering the profound connection between individual happiness and corporate success. The Journey practice is designed to give everyone the tools they need to manage stress and become more productive.