A wandering mind is a typical and aggravating problem that prevents us from concentrating on the task or project before us. The capacity to concentrate plays a role in one’s cognitive functioning.
As a result, productivity drops, and stress rises.
Despite being annoying, the difficulty is easily resolved. Simple lifestyle changes and other simple methods assist us in refocusing our minds.
What is a wandering mind?
A wandering mind is when one’s thoughts are not focused on the task at hand. Sometimes, it happens because we are bored, whereas other times it is due to anxiety or nervousness.
The cause of this issue depends entirely on the individual experiencing the issue.
There are multiple tools and techniques available for us to use in order to return to the task at hand. Through the use of some methods, we can improve our productivity and ultimately reduce stress levels.
What causes a wandering mind
There are many different reasons why people experience a wandering mind. It can be due to boredom, anxiety, stress, and even overthinking.
Sometimes overthinking about something is worse than actually doing it because we create more hassle for ourselves.
The most common reason why we all let our minds wander is that we are bored. Not having enough to do does not help us focus on the task at hand.
The different types of wandering minds
Wandering minds can be divided into four separate categories. They are as follows:
- Task-related thoughts: Task-related thoughts are when one thinks about the task at hand but still allows their mind to wander.
- Emotionally charged thoughts: Emotionally charged thoughts are when one specifically thinks about stressors or anxiety-provoking events.
- Boredom-related thoughts: Boredom-related thoughts are when one is preoccupied with daydreams because they have nothing to do.
- Self-reflection: self-reflection is when one thinks about themselves and how they perceive themselves.
Methods for refocusing the wandering mind
There are many different methods available for us to try in order to reduce our wandering minds. We can use some of the following techniques in order to improve our focus and remain productive:
Making physical movements such as dancing, writing with your opposite hand, stretching, and fidgeting all help us in not allowing our minds to wander. These activities allow for different parts of the brain to become activated which prevents us from thinking about the usual things.
Deep breathing is a simple method that can help us reduce stress and anxiety levels. It allows one to refocus on their task before them, whether it is reading or writing something they need to work on.
Simply taking a deep breath in through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth allows one to refocus on the task at hand.
Keeping track of your wandering mind
One way to prevent your mind from wandering is to simply keep track of it on a piece of paper.
Every time one realizes that their thoughts are not focused on the task at hand, they can write down what they were thinking about and then re-focus on what they are supposed to be doing.
Mindfulness is when one makes a conscious effort to notice when their mind has wandered off, using clues such as having an emotional reaction or not remembering what one was just working on.
Once one has noticed that their mind has wandered off, they are to bring their attention back to the task at hand.
Block out distractions
There are many people who can become easily distracted whenever they try to work on something even though there are other things that need to be done simultaneously.
When this happens, it is best to take a break and tackle the other tasks one needs to complete.
Plan your day
One can decrease the frequency of having a wandering mind if they plan out their day.
Organizing one’s tasks and planning ahead for what will be done during each time slot allows them to not waste time thinking about something that is not related to the task at hand.
There are many benefits to having a notebook especially if one’s work is creative in nature. Having a notebook allows for one to write down ideas and anything that might pop into their mind when they least expect it.
Train the brain
Allowing oneself to daydream can actually help with concentration because it allows one to take a break from being so focused on what they are doing.
It is suggested that one allow their brain to daydream for around ten minutes every hour in order to “train” the brain not to wander off.
Sharpening your focus
Now that we have learned about what it is like to have a wandering mind and how one can train themselves not to let their thoughts wander, the next step is to understand how one can improve their attention span.
One should know what it feels like when their attention starts to fade so they would be able to recognize it faster or before it even starts.
The following are ways of sharpening one’s attention span:
- Expand your knowledge: One way to be able to improve their focus is by expanding their knowledge. Research has shown that people who are more knowledgeable on a subject will find it easier to stay focused on what they are doing because they already possess information on the topic at hand.
- Make a schedule: Having a schedule for the day helps one focus on what they need to do and prevents their minds from wandering. To further improve focus, it is best to keep track of things that needs to be done during each time slot and by what deadline.
- Practice writing: Writing helps one focus on what they are thinking about and why it is that they are doing something. It is also a great way to be able to release their thoughts out of their minds without worrying about forgetting about them due to the fact that they have written them down.
- Do not multitask: Doing multiple things at once may be useful but it does not help with the capacity to focus. For example, if one is working on something and has their phone near them, they are more likely to check it every time they hear a notification which will take them out of their focus.
One cannot have a proper attention span without being able to recognize when their mind starts to wander and what it feels like.
One must be able to distinguish between not concentrating on something and losing focus on that task.
People who are more knowledgeable about what they do will also find it easier to maintain focus on what they do due to the fact that they do not have to worry about things such as what they will say next.
To improve one’s focus, it is important to be able to write down or keep track of their thoughts and ideas otherwise, without them written down somewhere, all the information that needs to be processed at a given time can result in confusion.
Lastly, multitasking can be draining and can result in a loss of focus and should not be done, especially when one is doing an important task that requires all their attention.
In the end, concentration is not only about focusing on what one does but it also means knowing how to distinguish between what it means to lose concentration and not being able to focus as well as knowing when to take a break in order to be able to maintain a proper attention span.