If there was an award for most scatterbrained person on earth, I would surely be a top candidate.
It seems there is no end to the relentless assault of thoughts that jump from neuron to neuron in my brain. These tiny demons have long plagued my head and have made it a challenge to work with me since my childhood years.
Now that I’m an adult, not much has changed other than I’ve entered the workforce. So how does someone with the attention span of a guppy become a functioning citizen of society?
I learned to embrace it.
Those of us with chaotic minds are more creative and perceptive than our non-chaotic counterparts. In short, when managed properly, a chaotic mind is a beautiful thing.
There are downsides, of course.
Having a bustling mind can drop your emotional IQ and make you prone to stress. Plus, when your brain is constantly on overdrive, it’s very difficult to have structure. Ideas and inspiration come and go whenever they please. It’s on us to catch them when they appear and not let go.
As a writer, one of my biggest problems is coming up with relevant ideas. My head is full of stories of dragons, elementals, and a winged heroes, but those are hardly usable in everyday writing. I also tend to bounce around from being completely lost to being hyper focused.
If so, I want to share 10 methods I employ to help me focus, stay organized, get inspired, and keep my brain moving at full force.
#1. Free Writing
To begin the process of inspiration, incorporate about 5-10 minutes of free writing. This is writing about whatever you want. Just let the words flow through your fingers and onto the computer screen. This will kick start the creative juices. It’s a great warm-up exercise, whether you’re a professional blogger or a student getting ready to write a paper or academic essay.
Don?t worry about grammar or spelling. Just have some fun with it. Be creative.
Write in a serious tone or a funny one. I find myself writings words in a Shakespearean manner on occasion. Do whatever sparks your creativity.
Try your hand at challenges and problem solving.
Learning about something we don?t know much about is great way to think of new ideas. The subject could be about almost anything. The only issue with this is we have to be interested in the topic otherwise boredom sets in fast. On the flip side, this is where that hyperfocus can be utilized. In college, I could research a topic within a couple hours if it was a topic that fascinated me.
Another way to challenge the brain is through playing games. I have an unhealthy addiction to Luminosity and FitBrains. Playing games will not only makes our noggins tick, but it helps to get our minds off writing. This helps prevent us from burning out.
Be judicious with these two methods. They are awesome, but they can also be time consuming. Learn to manage your time wisely to make sure you are still being productive.
Once you kick around a few ideas, the next road block will be focus. This may very well be your biggest downfall because distractions can come from everywhere and everything.
Even having a simple conversation with someone can steer us off course. We will notice something about their hair, clothes, accessories, and then our minds are gone.
#3. White Noise
Using white noise is a great method for staying on track. Its soothing effect can help you relax and slow down your brain.
My favorite white noise is rain, but it has to come from mother nature – ambient rain music in the background just doesn’t work for me. If I was Ororo Munroe I could make it rain all the time. I’d cause massive floods and the townsfolk would probably hunt me down.
We don’t want that.
If you’re like me and you need your rain to be the real deal, fans are a great white-noise alternative while you wait for the skies to open outside.
I will confute what the professionals say about keeping your desk organized and clear of distractions. For me, having a clean desk is more frustrating.
A somewhat cluttered work space helps focus my thoughts. At home, my computer desk has random trinkets and novelty items on it. When my mind rebels, I?ll play with one of them. Try putting a couple of toys at your desk and see if they can be beneficial to you.
Having something to play with not only helps your brain slow down, but it helps you focus. Instead thinking about pie, Marvel comics, or the texture of my socks, I’ll think about one of the random items on my desk. This helps me keep my random thoughts to a minimum.
Obviously, this strategy may not work for everyone, so if having a clean desk makes you happy it?s definitely best to keep it that way.
#5. Active Thinking
Doing something with your hands is a good pacifier. Drawing while thinking of ideas is one technique. Various studies have indicated that doodling can improve memory and focus. Having that visual helps us to focus on an idea and remember new ones.
The idea is known as embodied cognition. Simply put, the way we process thoughts is affected by our bodies.
Whenever I hit a mental block or I’m having trouble thinking of ideas, I will whip out my sketch pad and begin to create a picture. I also have a rubix cube that I can play with when I?m not feeling artistic. These are great at helping me think of new ideas.
This is another good method to get the blood flowing. A short walk outside will help spark creativity by pulling inspiration from your surroundings. Walking outside and enjoying nature helps to spark new ideas.
Next time you?re sitting at a computer or staring at an empty piece of paper, get up and move around.
In addition to helping you master your chaotic mind, it will improve your cardiovascular system.
#7. Talking to Yourself
It’s okay to admit it. We all talk to ourselves on occasion. Did you know this is another oddity we can use to our advantage? Talking out loud to myself makes me slow down.
Whenever I think to myself, my thoughts go by as fast as the speed of light. I know the same can be said for many of you. Trying to slow down the racing thoughts seems like we’re trying to catch the wind with our bare hands.
However, speaking out loud, though still fast and sometimes undecipherable, helps our minds slow down and actually think about what we?re saying.
#8. Colors and Sticky Notes
My computer has decorative edges made of sticky notes. These serve two purposes:
One, the various colors help me think of new ideas. I use multi-colored sticky notes rather than the plain yellow ones. I found I overlooked most of what I had written down if I only used one color.
And two, since my ideas come at random, they let me quickly jot down notes so I can remember the idea later.
After I use the ideas on the sticky notes, I discard them to make room for more madness. From the outside looking in, this may seem like a clutter nightmare, but it works for organized my disorganized thoughts.
#9. Hydration and Nourishment
The human brain relies on glucose for its main energy source. If you’re an avid writer you need your brain to function at 100%.
When blood glucose plummets from the lack of food, that?s when you get dizzy or angry. Nobody wants to deal with an angry writer.
I’m not saying pump yourself full of processed sugar. Foods high in simple sugars may give you a temporary boost, but you will soon be lagging and may be worse off than before.
I used to eat doughnuts or a muffins everyday for breakfast. Soon after eating, I?d be hungry again and lose all my ability to focus. I made the switch to fruit and oatmeal and it has made a tremendous difference. Try opting to eat healthier and see how it affects your brain power.
Also, don?t neglect the H2O. When cells become dehydrated it starts a chain reaction that has a negative effect on the body.
Problems such as headaches, fatigue, and nausea are all problems associated with dehydration. A good practice is to have have at least 20 oz. of water when you wake up. Make sure to drink an adequate amount of water during the day as well.
#10. Ten?Minute Meditation
This is a nice little trick I learned from Andy Puddicombe on TEDTalks. Doing nothing for 10 minutes is beneficial for my relaxation and my focus. I sit outside and stare into space.
I literally do nothing – I don?t listen to music or play on my phone. I let all my thoughts come and go as they please and I don?t get focused on one particular subject.
Meditating before bed is also a good practice. Unless I?m super tired, it takes me a good hour to fall asleep. My significant other is the type than can fall asleep in 10 minutes, and I cannot fathom how he does it.
As he is trying to sleep, I try to spark up a conversation. Sadly he has gotten really good at tuning me out, which leaves me alone with my thoughts. When this happens, I do a short meditation to try to help calm my thoughts.
This method is a recent one, so it remains to be seen how well it will help me tame my brain. But, if nothing else, it is a good way to de-stress and prepare myself for the next day.
Now It?s Your Turn
If you’re like me and the traditional methods of focusing don?t work for you, try some of these tips.
Don’t fight what is in your nature. So what if you have a chaotic mind? You just need to approach it from a different angle.
Do you struggle with focus? What methods have helped you? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below!
Creative Commons Image via Allan Ajifo.