Ten Tips on How to Recharge
by Suzanne Zoglio, Ph.D.
Your mind is racing at a breakneck speed...changing
direction every few seconds. Perhaps you are plagued by phones
ringing, kids demanding attention, customer complaints, employee
tiffs, or simply too much on your plate. Whatever your situation,
it’s as though you need a traffic controller for your brain.
One thought takes off. Another crosses into the same path. Several
others circle in a holding pattern, waiting for permission to
land. If only you could close your thought-port...just for a few
moments. It would give you time to sort things out and see more
clearly what is most important. You’d feel more in synch
from the inside out.
You can calm mental fireworks by practicing techniques
that help you to turn down the noise, hear your inner voice, release
past concerns, and focus on your priorities. Whether you “shut
down” for one minute or ten, you’ll notice the difference.
Try two short breaks throughout the day, or take one longer break.
It’s up to you. Whatever time you can spare will add to
Just don’t fall into the trap of postponing
your refocusing break until you have more time. No matter how
rich or poor, how wise or uninformed, we all have the same 24
hours each day. It’s how we choose to use that time that
makes the difference. You can race from activity to activity without
taking a breath, or you can choose to stop all incoming mind traffic
long enough to assess what is best for you next. Imagine what
a few minutes of centering might do for you. Lift your mood? Improve
productivity? Enhance your creativity? Boost your confidence?
When you can’t think straight, it’s
time to reset your inner compass. Here are ten quick-lifts to
help fine-tune your focus. Some take as little as two minutes;
none take more than ten. A small investment for clearer direction,
don’t you think?
Working with a mind in overdrive is like playing
a bull’s-eye is unlikely and mistakes
can be painful.
10 Ways to Find Focus Fast!: These
quick-lifts will help slow your brain traffic to a normal pace,
making you more effective in directing your energy. Read over
all ten and then pick one that appeals to you. In just a few minutes
you’ll feel less scattered, more focused, and full of energy.
1. Practice “Morning Intent”
How often do you start each day by hitting the bricks running?
Before your feet even touch the floor, you’re probably reviewing
your have-to list: what you have to pick up, whom you have to
call, which projects you have to complete. If that’s your
normal routine, your day is likely to be busy, but not necessarily
on target with your priorities. Thinking of all you have to do
is not the same as making room for what is really important to
you. To sharpen your focus, begin each day by planning from the
inside out...using a practice I call “morning intent.”
• Each morning, before you get out of bed,
while you shower, travel to work, or land at your desk, set your
compass for the day, by answering these questions:
What kind of person do I want to be today?
What two to three things do I want to accomplish
Note: The operative word here is “want,” not “should.”
Where can I make a difference in someone’s life?
If you start each day briefly focusing on what is
meaningful to you, your personal values will shape your choices
all day, helping you to stay grounded when your mind threatens
to carry you away. You will feel more in control and less likely
to get caught up in just putting out fires.
2. Do, Defer, or Delegate
When your brain screams, “Hurry up. You’re not doing
enough,” it’s time to stop and prioritize. This three-minute
planning break will put you back in the driver’s seat. Instead
of reacting to every “fire,” you’ll finish what’s
important first. With less on your plate, you’ll be able
• Write down the top ten things you’d
like to complete today.
• Rate each item 1, 2, or 3. (1 = must-do today; 2 = must-do,
not necessarily today; and 3 = doesn’t necessarily need
to be done by you at all).
• Now, “actionize” by priorities (1 = do, 2
= defer, 3 = delegate or dump).
For a quick-lift, try this prioritizing break right now, and then
again later in the day. See if your priorities change throughout
the day. To maintain focus every day, consider making the 3Ds
3. Learn To Really Breathe
When you are hassled, your breathing becomes shallow and your
brain is deprived of much-needed oxygen. No wonder you can’t
think! Try this cleansing breath technique.
• Close your door or go to a quiet place. Sit in a comfortable
chair with your feet flat and your spine straight. Close your
eyes and place your hand just above your waist. Now inhale slowly
– to the count of six – and feel the air inflate your
rib cage, as if it were a balloon pushing against your hand. Relax
your chest or lower your shoulders.
• Hold for two seconds in the inflated state. Now, slowly
exhale to the count of six, letting your “balloon”
empty slowly and your hand sink closer to your spine. Let any
tension in your neck and shoulders melt away. Say, “ahhhhh”
silently, or “God,” “peace,” or “yes.”
• Repeat for a total of eight deep breaths (in two to four
When your mind is in overdrive, taker a breather...literally!
4. Complete One Thing
When we can’t think straight, it’s often because we’ve
got too much stuff on our plates. Decisions deferred or actions
delayed don’t go away; they just add to your pile. One way
out of this clutter is to complete things systematically, before
starting something new. Decide, act, complete.
• Make or review your to-do list for the week...or
the day...or the hour.
• Now pick one item that you can complete or one decision
you can make in five minutes or less. Make a phone call? Send
an email? Decide what to have for lunch? Order a birthday bouquet?
Jog in place?
• Great! Now cross it off your list and say out loud: “Done!”
No matter how small a task, give yourself credit for completing
it. As your list shrinks, your sense of control and competence
expands. One success sets you up for another.
As you become a master of completion, you will be
spurred on by your obvious progress. Feel your head clear as you
cross one more thing off your list. Every time you complete something,
you reduce the number of things you have to remember to do. When
your mind has fewer incompletes to keep track of, it won’t
need to keep switching tracks.
5. Throw One Back
When your mind is racing, it is often because you have caught
too many little fish while you were casting for the big ones.
It’s up to you to know when to say “no” and
throw the little ones back.
• What’s one “little fish”
you recently picked up from a boss, subordinate, friend, or family
member? Maybe you’re already wishing you hadn’t said,
“yes.” It might be going to take more time than you
originally thought. The circumstances may have changed since you
• Okay, here’s where the rubber meets the road. Contact
that person who lured you into a “little fish” commitment
and give it back. Of course it’s hard – none of us
wants to risk disappointing someone – but bite the bullet.
Pick up the phone or walk down the hall and tell the person that
it is not possible for you to help out after all.
If you start to feel embarrassed, don’t! You are righting
a situation that was wrong in the first place. Okay, you made
a mistake. Any discomfort you feel will be offset by the relief
of clearing one thing off your plate. Next time you’ll think
before you get hooked. Maybe you’ll even learn to say “no,”
more often or at least not volunteer when you have a full plate.
6. Get Physical
When our minds race so rapidly that we don’t know which
way is “up,” it often helps to get physical. It may
seem ironic, but it works. As you focus your energy on a physical
task, the “traffic” in your mind will begin to thin
• Go for a walk.
• Run up and down a set of stairs, or hit the treadmill,
if you have one handy.
• Dig in the garden, play with the dog, or wash a floor.
• Wherever you are, stop for three minutes of push-ups,
sit-ups, or jumping jacks.
• At work, shoot a few baskets (into the wastebasket) or
sprint down to the corner café to pick up that latte or
If the energy drain is all in your head, get the
lead out, and move the rest of you. It’s astounding how
much mental clarity you can bring about by getting your body involved.
See if you don’t feel more self-directed after shifting
your energy from your head to your feet.
7. Accept A Helping Hand
When we really need a break, it’s often because
we are trying to do everything alone. We might not know what we
want, hesitate to ask for help, or hint rather than ask for the
kind of help we’d like. Also, we may be too critical about
how someone helps. In the interest of your mental and physical
health, try a more effective way to getting the help you deserve.
• The first step to getting what you want
is to know what that is. What do you truly need today? Could your
spouse take over a task at home? Would a coworker represent you
at a meeting? Might a friend meet you for lunch? Could you use
• The second step is admitting that you need help –
to yourself and then to someone else. The jig is up. You are not
a Superhero. You need some help.
• Now ask specifically for what would help you most. No
hinting or implying. Be assertive. Whether you’re asking
for divine guidance or help from a mere mortal be clear about
what you’d really like.
Remember, if an offer of help does arrive, don’t insist
that it be done precisely your way. Try not to second-guess or
nitpick. You’ve caught a break—and you deserve it.
Now give the “helper” a break. Be grateful.
8. Get Rid of the Ghosts
One common challenge to managing mind traffic is keeping ghosts
of the past at bay. No matter how hard we try to stay in the moment,
our attention often wanders back to the past. For clearer thinking,
you’ve got to become a Ghost buster.
• Jot down on the top of a card: “I
wonder why...[somebody did something].” List as many possible
answers as you can in sixty seconds. Finish with a “letting
go” statement, such as “Whatever the reason, it’s
done...time to move on.” Rip up the card, and if the thought
returns, try repeating your letting go statement.
• On another card write: “I wish I’d said...[the
brilliant response you thought of later].” Now, either follow-up
on the earlier interaction with your new response, or save the
new comment for a future interaction.
• On a third card, write: “In hindsight, I didn’t
make the best choice when I decided to [whatever behavior you
now regret].” Write as many regrets as surface in sixty
seconds. Review your list, and shift your attention to decisions
you now face. If your mind wanders back, try repeating something
like: “That was then; this is now. I’ve got bigger
fish to fry.” Then bring your focus back to the present.
Carrying around thoughts of the past is a problem
of sheer volume. Clean out your mind clutter so you can see what’s
best for you next.
9. Stop Shoulding On Yourself
When you can’t think straight, “should” is a
good word to eliminate from your vocabulary. It resonates with
judgment and guilt, and is often followed by a knee-jerk reaction
rather than a deliberate decision. First, post this reminder on
your telephone or daily calendar: “There are no shoulds.”
Then try this quick-lift.
• Check your to-do list for any “shoulds.”
If you find any, ask a few questions: Am I doing this to avoid
conflict? To look good? Out of guilt? Because I want to?
• If you answer, “Because I want to,” why are
you perceiving it as a “should”? Reframe how you think
about it, making it a choice. “I want to” energizes;
“I have to” depletes.
• If you can’t say, “Because I want to,”
don’t do it! Risk displeasing someone, ignore your ego,
or find another way to deal with any guilt.
“Shoulding" indicates you have surrendered
your power of choice and are following someone else’s rules.
The next time you find yourself thinking, “I should,”
ask yourself, “Who says?” The answer may surprise
10. Plan Tomorrow Today
When you can’t think straight it’s so important to
plan before you move into action. That way, you won’t make
hasty decisions or let others pull you off course. The irony is
that when we’re feeling frazzled is precisely the time when
we avoid planning because we haven’t the time. One way to
increase your sense of control and add a little order to your
day is to make a habit of planning your tomorrow at the end of
• At the end of the today, review all that
you have accomplished. Then write out your plan for tomorrow:
what has to be done, when, and about how long each project will
take. In what order should you tackle each project? When will
you schedule in a quick renewal break? Any pre-appointments you
need to work in? Don’t forget to schedule in some “emergency
response” time. If you’re like most of us, you’ll
After ten minutes of planning, you should be able
to release your fixation on tomorrow’s tasks and focus on
enjoying your evening. When tomorrow does come, you’ll come
out of the gate with direction and energy. You’ll know where
to start and have a plan for getting important things done.
Excerpted from Recharge in Minutes by Suzanne Zoglio,
Ph.D. Copyright © 2003 Suzanne Zoglio, Ph.D. Excerpted by
arrangement with Tower Hill Press. $19.95. Available in local
bookstores or call 888.370.8807 or click