Procrastination, Focus, and Letting your Mind Wander | Parent Well-being Blog

When was the last time you thought about nothing and anything?

 

Focus. This is a word I use on a daily (nay, hourly) basis – even more so when working with the excitable yet often distracted pupils in the lower years groups of the College. Focus is what allows us to accomplish tasks (occasionally at an alarming speed for those of us able to hyperfocus). Whether you are a scientist, a writer, an athlete or an actor – concentration is a requisite skill in almost every facet of our lives. 

 

So, surely, if one can focus 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, you would be the most productive and mentally fertile person on the planet. Possibly, but more importantly, impossible! In the age of digital information, with everything we could conceivably need permanently at our fingertips, there is no shortage of data and activities for us to focus on. They range from emails and administrative tasks to unending social media feeds. Yes, these are beneficial to us (some more than others), and with moderation and balance, can form part of a healthy relationship with technology. But they still all require our attention.

 

If all our waking hours are consumed by focus, we neglect our ability to lose focus. Losing focus isn’t the same as procrastination or a lack of motivation, in fact, it can be quite the opposite. It is an oft-neglected skill that requires honing, and training, to become another mindfulness asset in our brain’s arsenal. Meditation is one of the easiest and most effective ways to practise mindfulness, but it still requires a level of concentration – that at times – we need to get away from.

 

Daydreaming, like losing focus, often has a negative stigma attached to it, and I can see why. It is not the act of daydreaming that is bad, it is the timing of it. For example, when I started daydreaming very soon after starting to write this piece (and continued for over an hour), this was very much a bad time to postulate a world where jet skis could fly. Had I saved this internal debate about the hypothetical for a coach journey, or a walk around the Marlborough Mile, it would have been ideal. But alas, I chose a time when I truly needed to achieve some work with sustained focus.

 

Some of us find these internal rendezvous easier than others, a mixture of practice and our anatomies (brain structure, hormonal levels and chemical responses). For those who struggle to “let go”, you can fabricate situations where your brain is allowed this freedom. The freedom to think about nothing, and everything, where your subconscious can run wild. This helps us to modify where we derive our happiness from, a shift from external stimuli to impulses within ourselves. 

In our hectic lives, we may think we don’t have time for these thoughts, and as shown previously there are definitely incorrect times for them, but there are more occasions than you think. It could be before bed, on a walk, sitting on a flight. We don’t need to shut out external stimuli (e.g. closing our eyes), looking at our surroundings can be the perfect inspiration for an internal narrative to unfold. Instead of switching from one enjoyable task to the next, try switching off altogether, and allow one’s brain to forage in the beauty of your imagination. You might be surprised by what you discover.

 

Nicholas Jones | Graduate Assistant in Sports

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