Finding focus: want to get more done

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Want to get more done, feel calmer and more balanced? Having a deeper understanding of self-discipline could be the key.

Self-discipline might seem an old-fashioned concept these days. “Many people aren’t sure whether diligence or discipline is a good thing – it makes them feel they are being told to act in a certain way.” says His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa in his new book Everyday Enlightenment (Penguin, $20). When you’re struggling to find a balance between long working hours, housework, your relationship and family, you may scoff at the suggestion you need to be more disciplined – after all, you already work hard. But diligence is about streamlining and focusing, keeping your mind clear and learning not to be distracted. Perfect the art of diligence and you’ll achieve more with less effort. Here’s how.

Description: If you’re prone to strong negative emotions, you’ll find discipline is a balm.

If you’re prone to strong negative emotions, you’ll find discipline is a balm.

Focus on the result

You can instill self-discipline by thinking about what you’ll be able to achieve. A musician or artist brings lasting happiness through their talents, but only if they first practice with diligence. Then, seeing the joy their work brings, they feel content and confident. One reason so many of us have trouble accepting praise or being happy with our lot is that we lack the independent confidence that comes about because of our devotion to something. Whether you’re learning yoga or starting to knit, think how good you’ll feel once you’ve improved. You could even set yourself a goal – becoming a yoga teacher or designing and making your perfect cardi. Reaching a goal like this will leave you with a lasting sense of achievement, peace and confidence. You’ll feel more capable and more in control of things. You can apply this to any situation: rather than thinking about getting through a boring day at work, focus on how good you’ll feel that you’ve done the work to the best of your ability and can leave on time.

Create a clean mind

If you live with diligence you can learn to focus your mind and therefore deal more easily with the busy and stressful life that is so common today. A good method is to learn to meditate. Clear a little time and space in your day to breathe mindfully. Be aware  of each breath entering your body, focus on how the breath turns with perfect naturalness, feel the breath return, changed by your body, back into the world. Count each breath, returning to one again when you reach 10. Concentrating only on your breathing is the first step towards learning to focus and having control over your thoughts. A doctor friend who felt stressed by an unmanageably high turnover of patients tried it. After every patient she breathed mindfully for two minutes. She felt guilty and unsure at first: it seemed counter-intuitive. But because she was more relaxed and focused, she was better able to give her patients solid, clear advice. She got through her work more efficiently and more successfully, and her attitude to her job is healthier and happier.

Make space

Uncluttering your mind can also mean tidying things in your day-to-day life. Clean your desk and your email folders and keep them clean. Make lists of everything you need to do: break each job down onto small, do-able segments. Further control your time by replying to non-urgent emails only when it’s convenient.

Master your emotions

Yes, you can discipline yourself in this area, too, and you’ll find your relationships with others will become smoother and happier. If you’re prone to strong negative emotions, such as anger and jealousy, you’ll find that discipline is like a soothing balm. Pause before you respond in anger. Consider what a more thoughtful and compassionate response might be. Now act on it. With practice, you’ll no longer be a slave to rash emotions. You’ll probably also find that others start reacting to you in the same way.

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