Finding focus?

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Some tips for how to engage your senses to help bring on a flow state

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You have an ocean of attention that never seems to flow in the direction you want it to go

What we can do about it:

By engaging your physical senses, the mind becomes easier to direct. In this way, it's sometimes possible to bring on hyper focus, or the flow state.

Some ideas for sensory engagement

Sound: instrumental music (or music in a language you don't know IF you don't know the lyrics), binaural waves, ambient sounds

Smell: candle, coffee or tea, chewing gum

Taste: coffee or tea, chewing cum

Touch: fidget toy - purchased or homemade, a smooth stone, putty, a pen, literally anything

Sight: watch your candle, watch your fidget, close your eyes and visualize your work project (helpful for art, making videos, writing fiction, etc...)

When my senses are all engaged, and my mind is focused on what I want to write, after a few minutes, my mind can't hold back any more. It's like an itch in the back of my brain that I have to scratch immediately, and only writing can scratch that itch.


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If you have plenty of attention, it just doesn't always go where you want it to go, then this is the show for you. This is Ex-Gifted.

I am again, recording this during my coworking session in my discord group. Go and join that group. It is free it's for everyone. And I do these coworking sessions every Tuesday morning at nine o'clock Eastern time just so that I have that two hours a week that I know I'm going to be dedicated to getting stuff.

So I mentioned the discord group in particular this week because of what we're going to be talking about. I used to call it manufacturing motivation, but that's not really the best name for it because as we talked about last week, motivation is just the reason you have, or I have for wanting to do something. Motivation is it's based on the word motive, right? It's just the reason why.

So what I'm talking about here is not manufacturing, motivation. That's what last week was. The manufacturing motivation is the conversation between you and yourself about why you want to do something. This is more about finding flow or finding focus.

I've heard a lot of creators saying that you shouldn't really wait for that focus, flow state, what people usually call motivation, to come around and that you should just do your stuff. And there's honestly a lot to that. Not in the, just force yourself to do it sort of way, but like what I was talking about last week that you don't need inspiration to wash your dishes, don't waste your inspiration on that.

Use it on important stuff. Even on important stuff, even on the stuff that's driving your passions, you don't want to just sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. And a lot of the advice that I hear is saying to just get started and that the inspiration may come.

I agree with that wholeheartedly. I have even said a lot of times, myself, that action begets action. And that means that if you want to do something, you have to take the first step. And that that may be a literal step, or it could be a figurative step. But to just get started, not even necessarily on the task that you're trying to do, but to just get started on anything is going to make you have an easier time doing the next thing to do the thing that you're trying to do.

The worst thing that I've found for writing, the worst thing that I, that I can do is sit around and consume other media with words. That can get me a lot of ideas, but it doesn't actually get me writing. This is also where having a notebook to write down in can be really great. Because when I have those ideas, if I just leave them in my head, they will generally evaporate into the ether.

If I write them down, not only will I remember them, but it also turns reading into less of a passive activity and more of an active activity. Taking action. And that makes me. It makes it a lot easier to switch into another active activity like writing instead of just nonstop, passive consumption.

But specifically what I want to talk about today are the things that we can do to get into that flow state instead of passively waiting for it to strike.

Everyone's running around upstairs.

This is why we wear headphones. Boop.

And the headphones are a huge part of my process.

When I want to start writing or anything else that really. Commands my full attention. Anything else that does need, or at least is improved by having me in that inspired state. Having my full on hyper-focus mode activated.

There are things that I do that help me get into that state.

It's worth noting that this isn't something that I have complete control over. And that's not what I'm trying to tell you here, this, and as such, it's not something that is going to have a hundred percent success rate. There are days that I have severe brain fog and there's nothing that I'm going to do to clear it.

But it helps a lot of the time. It takes just a few minutes. And even if I'm not going to fully dip into that flow state, it at least helps me clear my mind and feel calmer and more at ease, even if I'm dealing with a lot of brain fog on that day.

Basically what I do is just one or sometimes two at a time. Start to engage every one of my senses. This is a ritual practice that the more you do it in kind of the same way each time, the more powerful it will be. To be clear, I don't mean like in some kind of magic way. I just mean in associations, in your brain. Connections being reinforced and expecting that, okay, when this happens, then this happens, then this happens, then I'm going to start writing.

So you can do it using whatever you want that helps you. Some of the things that I do.

I light a candle. I use a scent candle. You actually do not have to use a scented candle because a candle can be a great thing to just add some oomph to a ritual in general. It is really good at signifying a start and stop point because you light the candle, that's what it starts. And then when you blow it out, that's the nice end point.

So I think that candles are really great for establishing the boundaries of a ritual. Even if you're not using it as one of your sensory things. To start off with. The sound. So I light the candle and put on my headphones. I like to listen to lo-fi music or rain sounds or cafe sounds, or ideally all three of the them together, like lo-fi music in a cafe on rainy day. That's that's my jam.

Ideas for engaging the sense of smell. Lighting a candle smelling some coffee or tea. Having a drink with you to use for your sense of smell, also for your sense of taste is very useful. Drinking is less distracting usually for me than eating.

Another really, really good thing though, for smell and taste is actually just chewing a stick of gum. It actually, it's engaging your taste and smell and touch. It's got your central pattern generators kind of going. So gum kind of acts as of fidget in the first place, gum can be really, really great for this purpose. If you like to chew gum, I highly recommend it to incorporate it as part of your work practice.

For touch and also depending on what it is for sight as well. I have a bunch of wooden block puzzle things. I just fidget with them. Sometimes I actually try to solve them. Sometimes I want my mind to kind of be somewhere else. And so I just use it as a fidget toy. Just move it around in my hands.

Also great for both of those things is a Rubik's cube. Even if you're not solving it, just moving the Rubik's cube around in your hand is a great fidget, I have found. So if you are thinking about something else, if you are brainstorming what you're about to be working on, that's really, really great for that.

So once I've got that going, I've got the auditory sense with the music playing. I've got the smell of the candle and, or the taste of some chewing gum. I've got my hands moving on something.

Okay. Yeah, we did 1, 2, 3, 4, and then, vision can be a tricky one because you're looking at everything all the time. And for me, it depends just specifically what I'm doing. I may watch and focus on my fidget. I may watch and focus on my candle.

I also might just close my eyes and, I like to have a visually organized office space, which means I have a lot of stuff around, so I can always put my hands on whatever I want right away, which means that actually my office can be kind of visually overwhelming.

And so once I've got all of the other, I've got all of the other senses focused on some time on something. Sometimes I will just. Close my eyes and think. And the engaging, the visual senses will be more of a mental practice than an actual physical thing. And I will visualize what it is that I am trying to work on.

The idea here is that I'm not working. I'm just playing. I'm just experiencing the environment around. This helps to kind of reset my, my nerves. Bring me back down to earth for a minute and get kind of lost in my thoughts. And of course, when you're a writer, your thoughts are pretty much the most important part of the whole practice.

So from there, when I have my eyes closed and I'm visualizing what it is that I want to be working on, I start to form connections. And I start to come up with all of these ideas that I want to write about and other ways to express the things that I'm trying to say, and everything starts coming together, but I'm not working yet. I've got my eyes closed. I've got my hands engaged. At some point, I get overwhelmed with all of the stuff that I am thinking about, and I can't continue to not write, I have to start writing it down.

And that's the goal, right? The goal, what we're trying to do here is to reach that point where you can't not work anymore. That's, that's that feeling of inspiration, that feeling, not a thought anymore, but that feeling like you are being compelled to get started right now on your work.

And so that's my process.

There are a lot of different ways that you can do these things that engage the senses. I have talked before about my like walking brainstorm, where I like record myself while I'm out on a walk. And then transcribe my audio notes. That's the same kind of thing. That you are engaging your body in one thing so that your mind can find that flow state and work on whatever it is your work is.

So specific things that you can use for this. I have already said like the candles, coffee and tea, gum. You can, if you like slime, that's an option. Although you don't want anything too sticky, cause you want to be able to use your hands after, after you're done. But you don't have to like go buy fidget toys. You can just like tap your hand with a spoon or something.

It's just literally anything you have lying around that you can do in kind of a mindless fidgety sort of way. You can just snap your fingers like this. You can flip the pages in a book. If you've got a, like a strand of beads. You can just pull them through your fingers. I, these are all of the things I have in my room that you can do this with. Just make it your own, make it whatever you already have or that you know, that you like to play with.

For sound use, whatever you like, if you don't like the kind of stereotypically calming music, then use what works for you. I would caution against using something with obvious words, unless the words are in a language that you don't know, because something that is registering like the speech centers of your brain are, is going to distract you in a different way than what you're going for here. But like, it can be instrumental heavy metal or German metal. If you, if you don't speak German and don't know the words of the song.

Or if you don't like music, then just ambient noise is fine. Or the like whatever binaural waves stuff, any of that stuff is fine. Just take what works for you, what you enjoy.

And also play around with it. It might be that you find out that something you enjoy is not necessarily something that's going to help you the best in these circumstances. If it seems like it's not working, maybe try something different, try a different flavor of gum, try a different kind of music, try a different kind of fidget. Try a different type of tea.

Because your favorite thing might not be the thing that's going to help you find flow easiest, especially if you like things that are really strong sensory experiences like metal, or I don't know, like Earl gray tea or something that has a lot of flavor in it. Something more subdued might actually be easier to help you get into the flow state. But it also might not be, just do, do whatever works for you.

So I really want to hear, from anyone that tries this, give it a few chances because of course, the point here is this is a ritual thing. So. The more you do it, the more often you do it in the similar way, the more likely it is to actually work.

The first time it's going to be a little bit weird. Your mind is actually probably going to be a lot on the, doing the things because you're trying to get it right. Give it a few tries. And once you, once it starts to feel easy to do all of these things, then I want to know if it also seems easier to get to that point where you've got the, the itch in the back of your brain that tells you like, okay, I have to, I have to start right now.

So. As I said at the start, go and join my discord because the first 10 minutes of these coworking sessions every week is dedicated to doing just this. You don't start working at all in those 10 minutes, we spend the time just on. Setting the mood getting ready to work. And then when you can't stand it anymore and you have to actually start getting to work that's that's when we get to it.

If you want to join me for next week's co-working session. Go to You can get the link to the discord there, or it's in the show notes. And like I said, that is open for everybody and I do it every week. I hope I see you there next week until then.



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