One of my main goals for this year was to focus, which I know sounds vague. I had to decide what focus means to me. I developed a few pillars of focus to concentrate on:

  1. Eliminate distractions.
  2. Determine what matters most to you.
  3. Train your brain
  4. View focus is a muscle.

I took some time back in January to map out 2018. I came across a meme that stood out to me on Pinterest and ran with it:

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It’s a lot to explain in one post, but I followed the process. And by process I mean, what I made up for myself. I honed in on what prevents me from focusing. From clutter around the house to my phone, some lifestyle changes had to happen.

I then determined what matters most to me. I aimed to improve my job performance, concentrate on hobbies and be comfortable with doing absolutely nothing.

This year is all about hobbies and experiences, so I selected hiking and outdoorsy opportunities to focus on. My relationship with my husband is great, and my job is going well. Buddy’s health continues to improve, and the more I work out, the better I feel. In short, I have no complaints.

But despite how well things are going, I want to indulge in fun activities with reckless abandon. I want to go so deep in my flow that I lose all sense of time and pending external responsibilities. I’m ready to reclaim my time after work. I’m ready to shut off my brain at 6:00 pm. Whether it’s time dedicated to hobbies or spent doing nothing, I’m searching for meaning in the hours outside of my career.

This is what matters most to me. Drawing meaning and purpose from life’s every day moments.

Next, I worked to train my brain. I tuned into my breathing and tried some techniques meant to bring one back to the present moment. I practiced interval focus training and strived to meditate often.

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These changes didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken serious thought and deliberate action to redevelop new habits. But now that I’m reaping the rewards, I highly recommend to anyone considering a lifestyle change to evaluate how well you’re able to focus throughout the day. There’s so much information dedicated to enhancing your work performance and increasing motivation, but focus doesn’t receive as much attention. Without focus, nothing else can fall into place.

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The most important step in the process in my opinion is to eliminate distractions. Turn on your blinders and ignore whatever doesn’t serve you. In the mental health field, we’ve moved away from the disease model and directed our attention towards recovery-oriented services. My emphasis on eliminating distractions sounds counter-productive, but I swear to you it works.

With my new phone, I’ve turned off nearly all notifications so I can focus at work. I’ve kept Facebook as a communication tool, a way to connect with family and friends back home, but otherwise I’ve deleted Instagram and Snapchat from my phone. I’ve been without Instagram for over three months, and my focus has improved tremendously.

And ever since the Great Declutter, our house feels warm and inviting. I no longer feel distracted by all the useless shit around me. I’m nowhere near a complete minimalist like some people, but I’ve definitely gotten better at letting things go.

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I’ve made an intentional effort to separate myself from my phone in the evenings, and I’ve substituted master gardener events and exercise for my previous scrolling behaviors. Specific happenings such as Regina’s baby shower and entertaining out-of-town visitors keeps me happily occupied.

I know it’s redundant, but focusing on my focus is changing my life and my moods. I’m feeling more motivated, energized and happy than I’ve been in a while.

At the risk of sounding grandiose, I remember 2011 as a transformative year, and I suspect this is 2011, round two. I have high hopes for this year, and I expect to remain diligent, active and focused.

More on exercise and gardening soon! In the meantime, here’s this: