It's Monday. You're back at your computer. And it is moving SLOW. Websites won't open, documents won't load, downloads take forever. You might even get a pop up warning about your CPU (or Central Processing Unit) Usage being too high, with the admonition that this will undoubtedly interfere with your computer's overall performance. Ignoring this message and forcing your computer to do more than it's capable of does no good and may even bring on the dreaded "Blue Screen of Death" (PC users feel me on this one).
So what do you do? X out of the Buzzfeed links at the bottom of your screen, close the resume you've been stealthily editing, stop streaming your Spotify radio station, clear your cache, or maybe even do a full restart. Before you know it, your computer is zipping along again and you're able to complete your work in record time.
But what happens when your own internal CPU usage is too high? Much like computers, human beings are complicated and multifunctional machines. Sure, we can do lots of things at once (digest! breath! think!) but when we're trying to run all our applications simultaneously, something's gonna give. Usually the first things to go are our productivity, our focus, and our general sense of ease or contentment with life.
You're trying to focus on the task at hand but there are other thoughts plaguing you. Imagine your mind is a computer screen with a bar of minimized tabs running along the bottom of it. Sure, you've got the majority of your attention on the email you're typing to a client but you can see all the other open tabs out of the corner of your eye and they distract you. Slow you down. Pull you away from what you're doing and keep you from being fully present. These minimized tabs include but are not limited to your to-do list, your wanna-do-list, your past failures/memories, and your fears. The challenge we face on a daily basis is clearing the cache, cookies and browsing history from our CPU's so they don't prevent us from operating at an optimal level.
How, you might ask? First of all, this is not a problem that ever goes away for good. Remaining present is something we have to work towards at times in all aspects of our life. There is no "quick fix" for the human condition but here are a few tips that will get your system running more smoothly.
1) Write down your to-do list with by-whens, or official due-dates. If your list lives in a physical place, it doesn't have to float around in your brain. When a new thought comes up, write it down and let it go. If you know it's accounted for, and you know when you'll have it done by, there's nothing more to worry about.
2) Complete one task fully BEFORE moving onto the next. How many times have you typed an email then realized 2 hours later you never hit send? We're conditioned to react to stimulus as it appears in front of us so to help combat this, do yourself a favor and disable any "alerts" you don't really need. If you're Lindsay Lohan's publicist or a surgeon...sorry, you might be stuck with yours. But for the rest of us, put your phone on "do not disturb," close out of Gchat or AIM, and disable the Outlook incoming mail alerts when you're working on a specific task. Once you've finished what you're doing completely, then by all means go see what you missed. Instagram will still love you even if you don't "like" it for an hour as will your bored friends on GChat. Multi-tasking is over rated. How about doing multiple tasks one at a time and not feeling like a chicken with its head cut off instead?
3) Create a powerful mantra and post it! If one of your main fears at work is that your clients walk all over you, write yourself an empowering note like, "I am confident and powerful" and post it in the corner of your computer screen. In this day and age, I promise that won't make you look weird and you probably won't be the only one. Small reminders like this can subconsciously trick your brain to forget about past failures and doubts, and focus on strengths instead. When you start to go into a self-doubt spiral, read your mantra (silently...talking to yourself is still weird) ten times and notice how you feel. "I am a skilled writer." "I am an inspiring teacher." "I am talented." Choose what works for you but make it present tense ("I will be a great writer" is the same as saying "I'm not a great writer YET") and make it powerful.
4) Meditate. Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Bill Clinton AND Katy Perry can't all be wrong...meditation is powerful stuff! You don't have to do it for a long time for it to be effective, though generally 10-15 minutes is the minimum you want to strive for when starting out. Find someplace quiet and comfortable in your home, sit up tall and close your eyes. Listen to some white noise (Sounds of Nature is my favorite), or don't. Repeat your mantra silently, or don't. Envision yourself in a peaceful, beachside scene, or don't. In other words, do whatever you need to do to get into a peaceful, quiet, meditative state of mind. And DO NOT beat yourself up when pop up windows and banner ads start streaming across your mental computer screen- because they will. Meditation practice is called that for a reason. We are PRACTICING clearing and focusing the mind so that when we're at work or in a social situation, we've already trained our minds to let distractions come and go without getting attached to them. If you're not sure how to get started, check out which local yoga studios have an intro to meditation class or google "how to meditate" and try out a bunch of different methods. Just don't do those two things simultaneously while typing an email to a client on your iPhone and listening to a Podcast on your headphones or it's going to defeat the purpose.
We all have the potential to be high-speed, high-tech, glitch-free operating systems with sleek design features (I'll let you decide for yourself if you are a PC or a MAC). Just keep as few windows open as you need to and don't become a human error message!