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What to Do When Your Mind is Preoccupied at Work

I’d like to wager that we have all been there before. You come into work, sit down at your desk and say to yourself, “How in the world am I going to get through this day?” Be it a -personal issue, a stressed out, frazzled mind or a simple lack of desire, it can really bring you down and negatively effect your work productivity. More times than not, it’s an issue in our personal lives that occupies our minds and hinders our focus on work. While I’m not ignorant enough to say that you simply need to forget it in order to get your work done, to a certain degree that is exactly what you need to do. There are a number of things you can do to help yourself when your mind is preoccupied.

Unfortunate events come up every day- that’s just how life is. Your significant other wants to break up with you; you had an awful fight with a family member and it’s eating away at you; you’re planning a wedding and you feel like you can’t possibly think of anything else. These are all things that can hinder our productivity at work and drive our minds crazy. However, no matter what the issue is that’s eating away at your mind, part of being professional is leaving your personal issues at the door when you walk into work.

Easier said than done though, right? The first piece of advice I have to give is to take a deep breath and relax. You may come into the office with all of these thoughts and issues, but the second you realize that this issue is eating away at your work and productivity, you need to squash it. Sit down at your desk, relax and take in a deep breath. Close your eyes and continue to take slow, deep breaths. Listening to your own breath helps kill all of the other thoughts invading your mind and relaxes your nerves. It’s a good idea to sit here and do this for at least a couple of minutes. If you have the time, sit at your desk and practice this breathing exercise for five minutes: sitting, breathing and listening. You may be surprised at how calming this exercise is if you’ve never done it at work before.

Once you are calm, open your eyes and start fresh. Make a list of all of the tasks you have to complete for the day so you have it all laid out in front of you. That way, all you have to do is look down at your list and know exactly what you need to do. Once you complete one task, it’s on to the next! I find that it’s so much easier to get through my work if I have a clear list for the day, especially when my mind is preoccupied with personal issues. Then there’s no time or room for my mind to wander.

Always the optimist, I find that there is definitely an upside to working while you are dealing with something that is eating away at your mind. If you keep yourself busy, and I really mean busy, then your mind has no room to wander. If you truly focus on your work, then you can push your personal issue to the side for awhile until you leave work. Then you can get back to tackling it at home. It’s certainly not an easy task, but it’s something you must do to remain professional and on top of your work. Of course, if your personal issue is something that you truly can’t push to the side, such as a death or an illness in the family, then you need to know your limits. If you need to take a personal day to cope with what you are going through and to rest, then do it. Your employer will probably appreciate you taking the time off rather than coming in for the day and not really being there.

Know yourself, but also know that you can get through this for the day. Small, dramatic issues impact our lives everyday, but the successful, and I might add professional, person learns to not let it affect their work.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Cognitive Therapy Online

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter