I’m surprised by the insane amount of distractions that veer my mind off course when I try to concentrate. At any point there are a bunch of thoughts running on my mind, waiting for my focus to dip. The minute it does, I’m off to another world. It’s amazing how your mind bothers you with the most insane, random thoughts from nowhere. It is easy for me to sustain momentum once I get started, but getting to the starting point has always been tricky.
With this constant buzz of thoughts, on some days going to sleep is a challenge. There have been days when I hit the bed and the next thing I remember is waking up after 8 hours of sleep. And then there are days when I wish there was a way a Ctlr+Alt+Del option to stop thinking about hypothetical problems and devising solutions for them and to shut down the train of thoughts. I tried chanting shlokas, visualizing an image in my mind and focussing on my breathing but none of them worked.
One such night when I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep, I was reminded of how I had dozed off in the office bus while I was listening to music. I then reached for my phone, plugged in my earphones and played a random song. I don’t remember making it to the end of the song. Surprised by how this technique helped me sleep, I tried it again the next day and it worked again. I tried this on random days, especially when I couldn’t sleep in 5 mins and it worked. I had finally figured a way to calm down my hyperactive mind.
Whenever I find a solution for a problem I get excited and try to apply it in other aspects of my life that might need some help. I contemplated the times I’ve had have trouble focussing. I didn’t have to think much because its’ mostly at the workplace and the hectic pace around you makes it difficult to concentrate when you’re handling an important task. On such days, I find to a silent corner to work but I don’t get that luxury every time. One day when I couldn’t find a quieter place to work at, I used my earphone technique, played the same set of songs I listen to when trying to sleep (I was desperate!) and I was successful in draining the ambient noise.
For the record, multi-tasking is not my cup of tea. I can hardly be productive while listening to music and working at the same time. But instead of listening to music per se, I tried to use it as a way to shield myself from the surroundings. I choose songs and instrumental covers which wouldn’t be a distraction in itself and played it in a volume loud enough to drown the ambient noise but hushed enough to listen to my thoughts.
A common mistake we make when trying to concentrate is to ‘not’ think about something – and we end up thinking about them. Instead, channelizing all our attention on a single point of focus automatically puts the other thoughts in the background. The good thing was, I was no longer at the mercy of others to avoid distractions getting in my way of work. Be it a crowded train or a dynamic workplace, if I wanted to get work done I could get my work done. I felt good that I’d come up with a way to use a distraction (music) to fight another distraction (surroundings). I know it’s not a big deal but it felt like I’d played with the laws of nature and found a way to answer my problem. The most significant benefit is how I got a new sense of freedom – a way to get into a Zen mode anywhere, anytime.
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