In today’s world of multi-tasking – managing work, your family, your home, social media, etc… Life has become ever so complicated!
There isn’t a single moment of “quiet time” that we can afford for ourselves during the day, week, or sometimes even in a month. Life just goes by, with us spinning in place, putting out fires and living everywhere but in the moment. In order to get focused and move forward, we need to quieten the noise!
How do you quieten the noise and get focused?
Step 1: Reflect on the following questions
- What are your top 3 priorities?
- What are your top 3 distractions?
Step 2: Note down & pay attention to the following
- Do you multi-task?
- If you answered ‘yes’ to the previous question, does that truly
make you more productive?
- Pay attention to where you can say ‘no’ more often. Saying ‘yes’ to too many people or things often means saying ‘no’ to something in your own life.
- Understand what boosts your focus and use it when needed.
- Pay attention to when and where you can do a little extra to finish off something important.
Step 3: Outline your plan in small, achievable and measurable
- Devise a plan to consciously block your distractions for chunks of time during the day.
- Focus on your priorities and ensure everything you do, every single day, is moving you a step closer towards achieving them.
- Start with a one-week plan, follow through on it and assess your success on the weekend.
Step 4: Start working towards the new YOU
Are you ready to take action and make changes in your environment, habits and life? If yes, make a note of 3 actions to create more focus in your life.
Knowing about your strengths and weak links – and consciously working with them – can put you way ahead of yourself. If you find yourself wanting to learn more about the cluster of emotions and experiences you’ve become, please do reach out to me and I can conduct online life-coaching sessions with you. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, through my website at
www.innersensecoaching.com, or via LinkedIn or Facebook.
Today, a lizard visited me. It was on my bag… for no reason, well seemingly.
It might have appeared to tell me that my universe is aligned, that the things I need are with me. Just the way it was that hot night in Bangladesh when the power had gone off for hours and my daughter, a month old, had cried and cried until a Gecko appeared on the wall. As I held her in my sweaty arms, my mind frazzled and her face red from screaming… the presence of the Gecko soothed us, reminded us of the presence of something else. Something both smaller and bigger than us.
Today, this lizard might be telling me that what I just read and the connections I have just made are profound and that I must stop and listen to them, just the way I stopped and acknowledged the presence of the lizard.
This is what I read:
“… geniuses of all kinds excel in their capacity for sustained voluntary attention. Just think of the greatest musicians, mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers throughout history – all of them, it seems, have had an extraordinary capacity to focus their attention with a high degree of clarity for long periods of time. A mind settled in such a state of alert equipoise is a fertile ground for the emergence of all kind of original associations and insights. Might “genius” be a potential we all share – each of us with our own capacity for creativity, requiring only the power of sustained attention to unlock it? A focused mind can help bring the creative spark to the surface of consciousness. The mind constantly caught up in one distraction after another, on the other hand, may be forever removed from its creative potential.”
The Attention Revolution by Alan Wallace
These are the connections I made:
- We need to evaluate whether or not the “busyness” and scheduling in schools is, actually, exactly what Wallace is referring to by “caught up in one distraction after another”.
- We need to take some time to be very honest about whether or not students (and teachers) are, in fact, just being “caught up in one distraction after another”.
- We need to explore ways in which we can create “long periods of time” in which students (and teachers) can reach that “state of alert equipoise” in which everyone can be at their best.
- We need to make the relationship between mindfulness practice in schools and the capacity of students (and teachers) to sustained voluntary attention more explicit.
- We need to develop a sophisticated understanding of what attention means and move beyond thinking it is just either (a) listening to a teacher or (b) doing what a teacher expects students to do.
image by sergey245x on Flickr, shared under creative commons license
My colleague, Chad, and I consistently use “Purposeful Downtime” to get our students back into a mindful state after recess and lunch break.
Our students have taken on the routine of coming into our classrooms, finding a suitable space, lying down and entering a deep relaxation before they continue with their learning.
We have been using a website called calm.com to guide them through the relaxation, but we will shortly start making our own 10 minute relaxation videos that are specifically for our students.
The effect on the students afterwards is quite profound. They tend to be in the ideal state for learning with focus. In this video, we ask them how they think relaxation helps them.
Alicia, a teacher at Mt. Scopus, has given the following feedback (see here) from one of our sessions together:
“The big idea I came out with was ‘why?’ If we, as teachers, don’t know why we do what we do in class or why we teach a certain unit or why we are heading one direction, then there is no value to our teaching and our children will FEEL it right away.”
It makes me very proud when someone has really grasped the crux of a message I try to get across… and then expresses it better than I could!
There are not many careers out there in which you could spend many hours doing something and yet be unable to explain thoughtfully how your actions are leading to something important. It is quite mind-boggling to think about how many of us have delivered lessons, or entire units, without ever really taking the time to make sure we understand what it is about and why it is important.I have tried to think of all the reasons why we might do this:
- we don’t have the time because only a limited amount is allocated to planning
- we think we don’t have the time because we have so many other things to do
- people in our teams resent the conversations and debates as a waste of time
- we get bogged down in semantics (although this can be valuable too)
- our units are sometimes about far too much and we are afraid to limit them
- our units are sometimes about almost nothing!
- we look at last year’s planner and figure it went OK
- it is just too hard to reach any sort of consensus
- we get distracted thinking of learning activities
- we become obsessed with designing a summative task (more on this in another posting)
The Roman proverb in the image above sums all of this up for me. If we don’t have a clear, shared understanding of what a unit of inquiry is truly about, then we could basically do anything with our kids. But, if we do have a clear, shared understanding of what a unit of inquiry is truly about, then we can design learning experiences and contexts that take us and our students in that direction. This doesn’t mean all teachers teaching the same way. It doesn’t mean all learners learning the same way. It does mean that we have focus, something to return to and something to guide us all. It does mean that we are able to make better connections with other areas of the curriculum. It also means that our units will have real value.
So, get in the habit of asking “why”… why I am asking my students to do this? Why would this be a good idea? Why would this activity be effective? Why would this assessment have value?