Less Stress: Focus On The NOW

Less Stress: Focus On The NOW

Want less stress, instantly? Here you go. Focus on NOW. Right now. Not tomorrow, or next month or year, or even ten minutes from now.

I’ve found this to be an incredibly useful strategy whenever I feel stressed, and it’s a strategy I teach to my students. You may be thinking that it’s a “very zen” strategy. It’s not zen… To be truly zen, you wouldn’t be thinking at all, but I digress. :-)

It’s VERY hard to stay in the present moment. It helps to have a plan, execute it, and then review at a future date. Once you’ve created the plan, and are executing the plan, just stay in the moment.

Less stress: plan, execute, and review

Once you’ve created your plan, don’t second-guess yourself. Or think too much.

I’ve just been chatting with a writing student who thinks that his writing is going too slowly. He’s written the first draft of a nonfiction book, and is frustrated because he thinks he should be moving through the revision more quickly.

Sadly, he’s lost perspective. In the time we’ve been working together, not only has he planned and written an ebook, he’s planning another one. That’s huge progress.

I suggested that he get a timer, then work at his revision for two or three 25 minute sessions each day. When he’s not working, he should forget about the book, and let his subconscious deal with it.

Another student has just self published an ebook to Amazon. It’s a novella, and he’s priced it at $2.99.  This novella is a prequel to the novel which he published a couple of months ago.

We’d worked out a publishing plan:

  • Publish the novella;
  • Get the next novel written;
  • Make the novella permanently free a month before the second novel is published.

All three ebooks are part of a series, so the novella should work as a marketing tactic for the series. WILL it work? I don’t know. No one knows.

Here’s what I know for sure. If he gets all three ebooks onto Amazon, and the novella is permanently free, he’ll make sales.

We talked about Julie Smith’s publishing company, and that if you’re a self publishing author, you’re a publisher too. Keep it in mind; be business-like in your self publishing business. :-)

Your plan lets you relax: once you’ve created a plan, DON’T change it

When you have a plan, you know where you’re headed. Of course you can change a plan as necessary, but don’t  be too eager to do that.

Your plan is for you. It ensures that you have less stress, so that you can be productive. After a while, you’ll become focused on NOW, doing what you should be doing in the present moment. You’ll worry less, because you know you have a plan.

Try it. Create a plan for a project that’s worrying you. It can be any project in any area of your life, small or large. Then just start working your plan. When you’re distracted, remind yourself to stay focused on the present moment.

It makes for less stress.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Productivity Tricks: Time Yourself

Productivity Tricks: Time Yourself

How often do you find yourself working hard, and achieving little? Usually this happens when you take your eye off the ball, so to speak.

An example. I’m ghostwriting a series of Regency romance novellas for a client, and I’m endlessly distracted by research — this morning I read about bag wigs for example. This took me on a journey of further reading, and before I knew it, I’d wasted 15 minutes on pointless research, since bag wigs were long out of fashion in the Regency period.

Obviously I have a problem with focus, so let’s look at some productivity tricks this week.

The first one: use a timer.

I’ve been using Repeat Timer Pro which is excellent. However, it doesn’t allow you to track your productivity, so I was looking for an app which would help me to do that. I’ve been hearing good things about Tomatoes (Mac), and since the app looks easy to use, I’ve just installed it.

Tomatoes app

Jens-Petter Berget said of the Tomatoes app:

I have full control over each day and how I’ll be working. Every completed pomodoro is archived. This way, at the end of the week, I can evaluate the week and how productive I’ve been. I’m also tracking all interruptions, to see what I can do to have more focus when I’m working.

We’ll see how it works for me. I’ve never followed the Pomodoro Technique in any meaningful way, but I do find that it suits me to work in 25 minute sessions for some tasks. You can work on anything if you know that a distasteful task will be over in less than half an hour.

When I first installed the Tomatoes app, I freaked a little, because I couldn’t see a clear way to edit the timers. In Repeat Timer Pro, you can set timers of various durations. I have a five-minute timer, for example, for free writes, which I do as warm ups for most projects, to clear my mind and help me to focus before I get started on a task.

In Tomatoes, you set one duration. I decided on 40 minutes, because 25 minutes isn’t long enough for most of my projects.

We’ll see how it goes by the end of this week; I’m hoping that using Repeat Timer Pro, and Tomatoes in combination, will help me to limit distractions, and increase my productivity.

If you’ve got a favorite productivity trick, please share. Leave a comment here, or on Google+.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Overwhelmed? 3 Clever Ways to Get out from Under

Multi-tasking? It's dangerous

Multi-tasking? It’s dangerous

 Overwhelmed? That’s a normal state of existence for some these days, but that state of everything piling on top of you isn’t good for your health, let alone your productivity.

Eventually, feeling overwhelmed can lead to panic attacks. I suffered from them from the birth of my son, right through my twenties. These days, if I sense that I’m taking on too much, the reminder of those attacks helps me to pull back.

Let’s look at three ways to get out from under everything that’s weighing you down.

1. Be here now. Accept everything

Fear’s at the bottom of feeling overwhelmed. You feel as if you can’t cope with all your responsibilities. Since fear’s uncomfortable, we look for a way out, or for something to blame. That’s not helpful. Your brain’s operating system, brilliant as it is, becomes your enemy. You imagine the worst.

Pay attention to your surroundings. Focus on them. What can you see, feel, and touch? Catalog what you can see. If you’re in a coffee shop, pay attention to the servers, the clientele, and your surroundings. What can you smell? Exactly?

Sip your coffee: taste it. Feel the taste of it on your tongue.

If I could feel a panic attack coming on, I focused on my feet. I felt the floor, or if I was driving, the feel of the accelerator pedal. The more you can use your senses to be right where you are, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel.

You’re pulling back from your imaginings, right into the present, and what’s happening now. When you’re in the present, it’s easier to accept everything. Consider that you might as well accept what you can’t change.

Acceptance is powerful. It stops you from trying to run away in your mind. Once you accept, you can work on changing what needs changing, one thing at a time.

2. One thing at a time, always

Forget reading your email while you have lunch. Focus on the food. Just do ONE thing, and focus on it completely.

Multi-tasking is a medical and mental hazard, as this article on Harvard Health Publications points out:

Instead of trying to do several things at once—and often none of them well—Hammerness and Moore suggest what they call set shifting. This means consciously and completely shifting your attention from one task to the next, and focusing on the task at hand. Giving your full attention to what you are doing will help you do it better, with more creativity and fewer mistakes or missed connections. Set shifting is a sign of brain fitness and agility, say the authors.

When you focus, you accept where you are, and what you’re doing. That focus will relax you. Life will become more interesting, rather than a struggle.

W. Timothy Gallwey’s written bestselling books about effectiveness:

The “inner game” is based upon certain principles in which an individual uses non-judgmental observations of critical variables, with the purpose of being accurate about these observations. If the observations are accurate, the person’s body will adjust and correct automatically to achieve best performance.

Playing your own inner game: being right where you are, and paying attention, eliminates feelings of being overwhelmed.

3. Act, and BREATHE

Act, but do just one thing at a time. Focus on what you’re doing completely, and breathe. Breathe from your belly, rather than your chest. As you inhale, your belly should expand slightly.

Yoga Journal has an excellent article on breathing:

Move the Belly With the Breath: When we are at ease, the diaphragm is the primary engine of the breath. As we inhale, this domelike muscle descends toward the abdomen, displacing the abdominal muscles and gently swelling the belly. As we exhale, the diaphragm releases back toward the heart, enabling the belly to release toward the spine.

Acceptance, doing one thing at a time and breathing sound like simple ways to get out from overwhelm-stress. Here’s the thing. They work. Breathe… :-)

, and on Twitter: @angee

photo credit: Ktoine via photopin cc