A Simple Antidote When Motivation and Focus Dwindle

Working for long spells saps us of our motivation and focus. After working for an hour or three, we begin to slack off and distract ourselves. We tinker, fiddle, doodle, and daydream.

Everyone experiences this, but not everyone knows a remedy. Countless folks assume they lack some quality that allows ‘hard workers’ to stay in the zone. This is not the case, friends!

Any of us can develop better working habits, and this little solution may be just what you need when procrastination poison sets in.

Colorful Antidote

Photo Credit: Derek Gavey (Creative Commons)

The Antidote

When you begin to notice the venom of anti-productivity seeping into your work, do these two things:

1. Take a break as soon as possible.
2. Perform a mind-clearing exercise.

What in the world is a mind-clearing exercise?

A mind-clearing exercise can be anything, really. The best ones will be actions which require attentiveness. The point of a mind-clearing exercise is to do just what the name suggests — clear your mind, or de-clutter it, if you will.

After working for a long period, your head is spinning with information from your projects, your to-do list, and other hoopla. Your brain needs a short break to recuperate.

Activities that shift your concentration give your noggin the rest it needs, and after, you can return to your work feeling recharged and ready to hone in.

Here are some examples of mind-clearing exercises that have benefited me. Depending on my mood and how much time I have, I’ll pick and choose between these options.



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1. Meditation – My objective is to sit perfectly still and focus on my breathing and bodily sensations. Sometimes, I also imagine myself in a tranquil setting.

2. Hard Exercise – I launch into some intense cardio or a frenzy of push-ups or sit-ups.

3. Leisurely Stroll – I take a walk for a few blocks, concentrating on the act of walking and on the beauty of the natural surroundings.

4. Music Absorption – My goal here is to be completely engrossed in a song. This usually involves finding the perfect tune for my mood, belting out the lyrics, playing a piece on the piano, and/or dancing absurdly.

5. Sauna Release – I bask in the intense heat of the wooden chamber, enjoying the sweating process. This practice is usually accompanied by reading or meditation.

6. Pet Time – Alas, I do not have a pet. But, when I’m visiting my parents, I love to break up what I’m doing by playing with or walking our family dog. I try to allow myself to be swept up in the joy Buddy experiences from simple things.

7. Slow Reading – I always have a book I’m reading purely for pleasure. I let the words surround me, fill me, and whisk me away. I read at a slow pace, enjoying each sentence of the prose. Here’s a guide to reading more.

8. Power Nap – If I sense that my body wants to drift into dream land, I don’t fight it. I listen.

When I return to work after breaking for one of these activities, I always feel more alert and refreshed.

On Difficult Situations

At some times, it can be nearly impossible to get away from work to perform a mind-clearing exercise. You should do your best to squeeze in a short one anyway.

Even if you’re at the office, take a bathroom break and try to stretch or meditate for a few minutes. It helps.

The End-All, Be-All?

Do understand that mind-clearing exercises are not the productivity master-key. They won’t work any magic, and you still must make an effort and put in the work.

If focus and motivation are serious obstacles for you, you may need to further reduce distractions, get more sleep, and simplify your life. Looking for a starting point? Read Focus by Leo Babauta.

Give it a try…

Make an effort to begin incorporating mind-clearing exercises into your work routines. Feel free to experiment with my suggestions, but also be creative in discovering others that work better for you.

Remember: You can develop the ability to accomplish significant work each day. It’s a matter of refining practices and finding methods that work well for you.

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
—Steve Jobs

What other mind-reviving tricks do you use to stay on top on your game?

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About Jordan Bates

Jordan Bates is the Creator of Refine The Mind. He loves you. In 2013, he moved to South Korea to teach English, embarking on a nomadic journey that would lead him to 29 countries. In the process he became a writer, entrepreneur, facilitator, autodidact, and rapper, reaching millions of people with his words and ideas. He’s deeply curious about how reality works, how to live well, and how to liberate all sentient creatures in existence. Befriend him and/or get his free eBook on how to exit the world of traditional work and live a radically free life. Amor fati, humans.

  • Michael Clark Sep 20, 2012, 11:35 pm

    I really enjoyed the part about “basking in the intense heat of a wooden chamber.” How does one paint such a remarkable image and get the reader to laugh at the same time? … obviously you have the answer. Great work JB!

    • Jordan Bates Sep 22, 2012, 1:53 pm

      Haha, thanks Mike. Glad you liked the image and got a chuckle out of it.

  • Pradeep Pandey Nov 27, 2015, 2:27 pm

    A big thanks. Would love tobe kept informed about new posts relating to time and lifestyle management to help me in remaining fit, productive and effective, free from the undesired habits like procrastination….!

  • Jr Maghuyop Mar 20, 2016, 2:05 am

    Thank you so much. I learned a lot!

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