Zen Habits To Improve Your Focus

morning lotusLack of focus is a serious worldwide problem in this age of multiple distractions: multi-tasking and constant connectivity. Call it the other edge of the double-edged sword of technology. With the explosion of technology and communication, humans, always a social species, have scaled new peaks of virtual social interactions – from phones to electronic mails to instant chats to the ever-mushrooming web-based social sharing platforms. With uninterrupted 24×7 reach to technology we mostly lack some quiet time with our own selves.

In such a scenario, it’s hardly surprising to see a lack of focus becoming a common problem. But one can beat this challenge of lack of focus by applying some simple Zen habits.

Zen philosophy of inner calm
Let us first understand what Zen means. Zen stands for inner peace, focus, emotional balance, and happiness that emanates from within. It emphasizes on what it terms as the ‘Buddha-nature’ and its expression in every act of one’s daily life as opposed to philosophies that stress on doctrines and rituals.

Over the years, Zen practices have gained immense global appreciation for their effectiveness in clearing away mental distractions and winning back lost focus. Zen habits are based on quieting inner turmoil and focusing on the task at hand with silence and determination.
Let’s take a look at some Zen habits that improve your ability to focus:

Eliminate Distractions
Before setting out on any important task, resolutely eliminate all distraction. Nothing great can be achieved till you give it your complete attention. So, put your phone on silent, shut down unnecessary browser windows and tabs, close your doors and immerse yourself in the job. Not only will you get good results but you’ll also most certainly complete the said task within shorter time duration than you would have in the presence of distracting elements like text pings, e-mail notifications, television noises from the adjoining room, etc.

Practice silence and meditation
If you’ve been constantly struggling with regaining focus, start practicing silence and meditation every day. The best times are usually early morning or right before going to bed in the evening. In this way, you would cut out the worries of the daily chores lined up for the day and struggling with each other for your attention. You should also take out sometime when you’ll be your only company. A lot of people prefer to go out on nature walks, where they spend some time amidst natural beauty and quiet. Again early morning hours in a public garden or your own terrace could be the perfect time and place for such an activity.

Focus on your breath
Just before undertaking anything important, retire to a quiet corner and take a few moments to focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly, concentrating on each inhalation and exhalation. Do this for two to five minutes. This will instantly calm your mind and increase your focus.

Don’t lose sight of the target
A famous Zen story talks about a Zen master’s lesson to his students on the importance of never losing sight of one’s target in order to score a hit. As the anecdote goes, the Zen master would never miss a single target. One day, he summoned his students and asked them to cover his eyes with a cloth. With his vision blocked, he aimed at the target and missed it. The students were surprised to see their master miss. The Zen master then told them that what he wanted to convey to them though that exercise was the importance of always having one’s sight on one’s goals for success.

So, whenever you feel your focus shifting from your target, take some quiet time to realign and reassert your goals to yourself. If needed, write them down on paper and pin it up where you can see them often.

Go for calming walks
Often in the midst of difficult and time consuming assignments, you can feel our mind beginning to drift away. This is a cue for you to take a break right then to relax your mind and pump up some energy. A good way would be to go for a walk. A walk will increase your heart rate, clear away your mind as you focus on the repetitive motion of your legs, up your alertness, and also give you the time to internally mull on the problem in a stress-free environment.

Begin your day with yoga and exercise
Yoga and exercise have a way of calming your mind. The Zen philosophy says that there’s a lot of pent up energy in the body. If we lead a sedentary life, this accumulated energy tries to find a way out by channelizing our minds towards fruitless, distracting thoughts and pursuits like aimless internet surfing, repetitive chat session with friends or simply loitering around and dissipating our energy and focus. On the other hand, a good invigorating yoga and exercise session in the morning will set your mind straight and channelize your body’s energy is a positive direction, helping you stay focused all day long.


green shade tree - Dragana BiočaninDo one thing today that you have been procrastinating for awhile.

People often say that they want options. When it comes to getting things done, however, options aren’t always a good thing. When everything is a possibility, it actually becomes harder to make the right choice (or any choice at all). This is the paradox of choice. But, when we place a constraint on ourselves, it can become much easier to get something done. This is especially true if it is a constraint that forces us to start small. Constraints can make it easier to stick to good habits by eliminating the number of decisions you need to make to move forward. We often think that we want an open road and the ability to choose any direction for ourselves. But sometimes, what we need is a tunnel that can reduce our choices and send us in a focused direction.

“It is one of the unexpected disasters of the modern age that our new unparalleled access to information has come at the price of our capacity to concentrate on anything much.” ~ Alain de Botton


Discussion ~ “The Nature of Consciousness”, by Alan Watts

“To go out of your mind once a day is tremendously important, because by going out of your mind you come to your senses. And if you stay in your mind all of the time, you are over rational, in other words you are like a very rigid bridge which because it has no give; no craziness in it, is going to be blown down by the first hurricane.”  ~Alan Watts


In order to come to your senses, Alan Watts often said, you sometimes need to go out of your mind. Perhaps more than any other teacher in the West, this celebrated author, former Anglican priest, and self-described spiritual entertainer was responsible for igniting the passion of countless wisdom seekers to the spiritual and philosophical delights of Asia and India.