We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve committed ourselves to focus on a task-be that work, art, meditation, working-out, whatever. We begin to focus on the task and our mind immediately distracts us, reminding us about some unresolved conflict, some mistake made in the past, or some unfinished business that needs to be taken care of.
When we try to push away these interruptions, they only persist. There is no ‘off’ switch in our mind. Our mind is like a cup that can only hold one thought at a time. For example, when we resist “Did I lock the door this morning?” our mind responds by giving us a nice, big, full glass of “What about that lock?”. The mind gets stuck because we are pushing these thoughts away.
The key is gratitude: when distractions break our focus, practice gently acknowledging them, thanking them for reminding you and calmly returning to your intended focus. I am in charge, not my mind.
It’s simple but challenging to practice single-minded tasks with gratitude for the mind’s interruptions. All we have is this present moment: the past is done & the future will take care of itself. Only right now do we have the power to chose our intention and create the experiences we desire.
Pro-tip: Keep a stack of post-it notes nearby when you practice single-mindedness and follow up on these concerns after you’ve completed your activity. GTD teaches that giving your mind a consistent place to leave its concerns is the best way to free your attention for your current focus.