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How to Stay Focused, Calm, and Productive
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#1: Stop multitasking.

Researchers at Stanford University have shown that individuals who multitask are less able to pay attention and more easily distracted by irrelevant information. Although you may think that you are getting things done twice as fast when you're multitasking, the constant distraction involved means that you are actually far less productive than if you focused on a single task.

Try working on only one task at a time: this is the key to being mindful, and it will allow you to be in the moment and to remain focused on the task at hand. To make this easier, make a list each day of what you need to accomplish, and then choose one task at a time; this will help if you are worried about forgetting all of the tasks that you need to complete that day. If the other things on your list come to mind while you are working on your chosen task, just remind yourself that they are already on your list so they will get taken care of, and then let the thought go. If you think of new things that you need to do, just jot them down on your list, and then go back to your current task.

Even when you are only working on one project at a time, you are probably multitasking by checking your email, sending text messages, and answering the phone. Removing these distractions is just as important as removing any other ones. Every time you see a new email pop up or your phone rings, it pulls your mind away from the task at hand. Eliminate these distractions by turning them off, and then add checking your email and phone messages to your to-do list. These tasks will have their moment, and you can allow yourself to be present with just one task at a time. You will not only complete your work much faster, you'll be happier and more focused in general. 

#2: Just breathe.

The easiest way to begin practicing mindfulness lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand. After enough practice, your brain will begin to learn how to focus without becoming distracted, and you will soon be able to apply this new skill to other experiences. 

Set aside five minutes each day to focus solely on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire five minutes remaining focused on your breathing and not letting your mind wander. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This sounds simple, but it's hard to do for more than a minute or two. It's all right if you get sidetracked by another thought; this is sure to happen at the beginning, and you just need to bring your focus back to your breathing. If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to twenty, and then start again from one. Don't worry if you lose count; you can always just start over.

This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but starting with breathing is very important. Practicing with a simple task allows you to focus exclusively on the current task, which trains your brain to generalize this experience to other tasks. Eventually, you will be able to move on to focusing on more complex tasks without distraction.

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