Mindfulness and Cognitive Science

4 ways to improve your focus throughout the day

Which seems better to you: create your to-do list and business projects based on what you see other businesses doing OR who you are and what your big picture vision is for your business?


Good nutrition coaches know that to help their clients change their eating habits, they first need to gain awareness of their body. Rather than giving a bunch of new rules to be blindly followed, they slowly help the client take notice of the sensations they experience when they are hungry or full. This method gives the power over the the client because it teaches them how to get to know themselves. Then, once they are tuned in to themselves, they can much more easily start to apply good nutrition principles in their own context. Self-awareness is a powerful tool for building confidence in a person’s own decision-making.


Similarly, in business, it’s easy to slip into the grind and stop paying attention to where your time is going or what goals you are moving toward.

Build self-awareness + stay focused on your goals with these 4 sign posts throughout your work day. Setting sign posts throughout the day as reminders to let those thoughts (and their accompanying emotions) go will help you focus on your why and keep you from wasting emotional and mental energy throughout the day.

Increasing your self-awareness as a daily practice can be a simple step with dramatic consequences for your time and energy. A couple of ways this can happen:


  1. With clearer vision of how the present relates to your business’s future, you’ll spend your time on the important tasks.
  2. Knowledge of self can help you predict times of higher stress (mental, emotional, physical) and put together systems for dealing with them in a way that doesn’t throw your business off course.

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So what is self-awareness?

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Self-awareness is conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.”
Our ability to be self-aware is an element of our humanity. We have a part of our brain that is more developed than any other mammal – the frontal lobe. In that area of the brain lies our ability to reflect, plan, judge, and regulate our emotional state. Specifically, the prefrontal cortex – the front of the frontal lobe – helps us regulate our behaviors and our emotions. Other mammals can’t do that. They must rely on their instinct. In a world of flashing lights, high stress deadlines, and melt-in-your-mouth M&Ms, we get to supersede our instincts.
A daily practice of self-awareness enables you to assess yourself and your environment while making decisions that align with who you are, what you believe, and where you want to go. It acts as a filter to how you spend your time, who you do business with, and how you present yourself and your business in those interactions. It’s the why behind your business.
Self-awareness practice allows you to take into account your own habits, triggers, and current level of skill. Does the approach of a deadline leave you snapping at your kids when they don’t go right to sleep? How does a client rejection affect your ability to focus on work? Are you frustrated with lack of progress in a separate area of your life? Each of these (and so many other possibilities) have effects on your decision-making and your ability to bring your whole self to your work. They need to be predicted so they can stop hamstringing your business and relationships.
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4 sign posts for building self-awareness throughout your day

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So if you want to perform more consistently in your business – in order to spend more time on the important stuff – you need to start getting to know yourself better. The first step I recommend – based on the findings of psychologists and neuroscientists – is that you make it a part of your day to bring your attention back to the present.
Getting present is described as voluntarily dropping out of the thought stream. So often one thought leads to the next and you can’t figure out why you are ruminating on that thing you read on Facebook yesterday but you are and it’s getting in the way of your creating (and making you sound a little edgy in your emails!). Setting sign posts throughout the day as reminders to let those thoughts (and their accompanying emotions) go will help you focus on your why and keep you from wasting emotional and mental energy throughout the day.
Here are a few ideas for daily sign posts that make self-awareness practice easy to implement –


  1. Make reciting or reading your why for business a part of your morning routine.

    Before you sit down to begin your work day, remind yourself why you are here. With the bigger picture in mind, you’re more likely to respond effectively to the people and situations that you get the opportunity to interact with. Yes, in this moment you may be trying to sell a course or close a deal but what’s the bigger goal? How do you want your clients to feel about their experience? What do you want to be known for?

    For me, it’s a burning desire to see people reach their potential by habitually showing up and pushing the edges of their abilities. At home we celebrate getting socks on all by our-(3 year old)-selves because yesterday they ended up upside-down. As a personal trainer it was hearing a client ask for more weight because they just wanted to see if they could do it.

    Why statements can be tough to write. If you, like me, grew up hyper-focused on a letter grade, it takes time and effort to really dig into why you are so passionate about your work. If that’s where you are at, keep seeking. Imagine what kind of world you want to live in. Make it a part of your daily routine to observe what things get you excited to go to work or engage the people around you.

  2. Use day-to-day habits like meal times and showering to practice checking in with yourself.

    Where are your thoughts running to today? What seems to be the reigning emotion? What fruit are you noticing in your behavior as a result? Then ask yourself this: can you do anything about it, how long will that take, and is it worth the mental, emotional, and financial cost?

    Is your home life out of sync and causing anxiety? That’s worth your effort. Is your classmate from high school posting uninformed opinions on social media? That’s not likely to be worth your effort. Are you sick of the cold and dreaming of the day you can afford a beachside office? It’s a motivating image but not your why – give it its proper perspective so you can enjoy the thought while continuing to give the present your whole self.After checking in, choose to step out of the thought stream and tune in to your senses. Notice the tastes and smells of your food. Experience the heat of water on your skin. Look up at the light and shadows of the room. Let your mind be renewed by the concrete world around you. There are reasons for contentment right here in the present. And just imagine the works you can produce when you stop chasing joy and instead live the life you have!

  3. Install systems into your life that give you the freedom to clear the mental clutter.

    Whether you are pen + paper, all digital, or a mix of the two, get yourself organized so you can spend less time going over all the to-do’s in your head. Suddenly remembering a deadline (even an unimportant one) can set off your body’s fight-or-flight response, which makes focus on anything else much more difficult (and dangerous if it occurs chronically). Give yourself the opportunity to use your energy for moving your business forward (or graciously making your 3 millionth peanut butter and jelly sandwich).I’ll be honest that I’m still experimenting here. So far I’m a mix of digital + paper. Digital for the running lists and action items while paper is for at-a-glance daily docket stuff. When I’ve fully vetted my system, I’ll share it.

    Systems are gifts. When you have a predictable method for getting through all there is to do, you give yourself the gift of focus. No more running from project to project – one thing at a time that gets done and keeps you ratcheting forward.

  4. Set regular dates with yourself to assess your efforts in your business.

    Perhaps you set a goal for January but now we’re halfway through and you’ve already gotten side-tracked. Is it for a good reason? Or did you just get distracted by all those “Instagram marketing for 2016” posts? If you have a habit of looking up from the grind, you’ll waste less time getting back on the path you meant to follow.

    Regular assessments that keep you focused on the important projects and loosen the grip of distracting tasks – like rewriting your social media bio for the 5th time (guilty) – can have a snowball effect on your motivation because you are seeing yourself learn and grow with real, tangible results.

    When it comes to growth, my heart goes out to the moms out there diligently working on building their businesses while also giving themselves to their kids. I’m with you. It’s hard and it feels like you aren’t getting to move forward at all. Don’t forget to also look at how your family is growing. The awesome thing about us humans is that we can learn in one area and transfer it to a new area. So all the time you are spending learning to be patient, selfless, compassionate, and humble can and WILL transfer to your business when the time opens up. And you will ROCK at taking care of your clients.