“To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” ~ Buddha

You are working on a project with a strict deadline, but you just can’t seem to focus. Maybe thoughts about your next big idea, the weekend ahead, or even longstanding family issues start creeping in. Then you begin to worry: how will you finish this project on time?

It can be very disconcerting and it can happen to the best of us. Although chronic problems with concentration could be a sign of ADD or another disorder, it is much more likely that your brain is simply the product of a modern, hectic life. It’s very similar to the strain you put on your computer when you have too many tabs open.

With so much on our minds, we can learn to discipline our thoughts with these five techniques:

  • Set aside some time to write down everything you are thinking about.
  • Organize the thoughts you’ve written into three columns on another piece of paper. Label them: “To Do”, “Later”, and “Discard”.
  • Focus on the things in the Discard category, and delete them, one by one, in your mind.
  • Start a “Later List”, and put every thought you might have time for in the future on that list.
  • Organize action steps for your To Do list in a calendar or agenda planner.

Ideally, 1/3 of your thoughts will fit into each of the three categories. If they don’t, you will have to get into the practice of clearing your mind of all clutter, not just unfinished tasks. From personal problems, to worries and fears, to vacation fantasies – everything goes on the list.

Most people can do this download by thirds. If you find this challenging, it might be because you are too attached to the accomplishment of the tasks on the Discard list. I promise you this: the ideas will come up again, so don’t be afraid to discard them now. All you’re doing is clearing the way so you can get the first third accomplished.

Please don’t just write down the tasks that are unfinished. Write down everything – potential tasks, unfinished tasks, current tasks – everything. You will be amazed when you take the perspective of everything and you begin to write it all down. You’ve had a lot on your mind and might not have noticed things like this:

  • Summer vacations you’re planning
  • Friends with whom you want to reconnect
  • Paint colors for your home remodel
  • New things you want to research and learn

All that is included in everything, competes with your daily To-Do list and distresses you. Once you are in the habit of this, you will no longer be bombarded with all of your thoughts. You may not have realized how much clutter is in your mind, competing for your attention, and robbing you of full focus on your Daily To-Dos. As you train your brain to qualify your thoughts, you will learn how to focus on what truly needs your attention, what can wait, and what can hit the road!


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Comment by Angela Levesque on May 4, 2015 at 11:42am

Hi, I just want to remind you that articles need to be at least 700 words long and must include a bio for us to pass it along to the publishers. Maria's content is always great, but for ease of submission it needs to meet the guidelines. Thank-you for your time. 

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