“The challenge right now is focus and motivation. You may think, ‘why can’t I just tune it out?’ But it’s not you. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s very difficult to focus on things that matter,” said Mel Robbins, Author and personal development expert, at the Massachusetts Conference for Women.
The pandemic has pushed us past our cognitive limits. And she shared three simple rules to help us regain some control. She went onto explain one of the reasons we’re struggling to concentrate and practical steps we can take, “You’re experiencing something right now that psychologists call, moral fatigue.”
Moral Fatigue Zaps Energy (and Motivation)
Moral fatigue, is like the mental load’s evil cousin. Our brains are not comfortable with having every decision, including small ones, carry life threatening consequences. And in Covid-19, when ‘normal’ activities bring the risk of illness or death, it’s draining. Mel said, “If you’ve got parents or relatives that you’re worried about living through this pandemic, while working from home and doing everything that you’ve been doing, it requires more mental fuel for your brain to get through the day.” Right. Why aren’t we used to this by now?
When Getting Milk, Got Complicated
Mel explained why, “So, let’s go back to when there was no pandemic and think about what it was like to go get a gallon of milk from the store. You just hopped in the car or walked down the street and got your milk. Now, you go through about 20,000 steps to get a gallon of milk. It’s taking about 100 gallons of mental fuel to do the things that you normally did without thinking.” Sigh. And, unlike the persistent mental load, Covid introduces new moral choices and dark consequences. Mel added, “That’s why when it’s only three o’clock you feel like, holy cow it’s time for a martini. Or feel like you’ve taken two college entrance exams.” Exactly! She said, “It’s important for you to understand what’s happening, in your mind, from being worried about the changes.”
Rule #1, Start Days Unplugged from your Phone
“Under no circumstances are you to be sleeping with your phone. Look, I get it, most of us sleep with our phones. And if people tell you not to sleep with your phone, you’re like, ‘But please it’s my alarm and what if my kids need me?’ You have to listen to me, because of moral fatigue you’ve got to protect your brain and manage your mindset by not having your phone next to bed. Because if your phone is next to bed when you wake up in the morning, what do you do? You pick up your phone and you look at it.” Sigh.
She explained the problem with that, “Let’s say you’ve got 500 friends on Facebook, would you ever let those 500 friends walk into your bedroom in the morning while you’re in bed? Of course not. But if you’re looking at the phone, you’ve let them into your mind and it’s the same thing. Plus, what else is on the phone? It’s everybody else’s stuff. All the emails that came in last night, the sales of stuff you don’t need to buy and other people’s problems. You’re waking up overwhelmed, stressed and feeling out of control, because before you even get out of bed, you have let the world into your mind. So, rule number one when it comes to managing your mindset for maximum success, joy, happiness and fulfillment, is get the phone out of the bedroom.” Beautiful!
Mel encouraged us to use an old-school alarm clock and to let go of the worry we won’t be accessible. She said, “If people need to reach you in the middle of the night here’s how you handle it. You put the phone on the ringer, tell people don’t text you and if it’s an emergency, call.” If you’re worried about your kids not being able to reach you, Mel added, “Here’s the funny thing about your kids, they’ll text you all night, especially if they’re in college. But if you tell them to call you, they’re not going to call. So, you can sleep easy until the alarm goes off in the morning, because the phone’s in the kitchen or the bathroom, it’s not next to you.”
Rule #2, Meet Your New Morning Routine
Engage your 5 senses. Mel said, “When it comes to managing your mindset for maximum success, joy, happiness and focus; you’ve got to think about your morning routine. I know everybody in personal development talks about a morning routine, the reason why, is because it works.” Amen! She said, “How you set your day up is how it ends up. So, I have a simple morning routine formula that I want you to adopt for yourself.”
She shared an uncomplicated way to get a mindful start, “Wake up in the morning and put your five senses to work before you let the rest of the world into your brain.”
“So, when you wake up, what’s the first thing that you see? It had better not be your phone! The first thing you see, should be something that brings you joy or happiness. It could be a photo of somebody that you love or your family, it could be a beautiful quote, a book of prayers or meditations that you read every morning. But curate what you see.”
“The second thing is I want you to think about what you hear. And what I want you to hear, is not the television or the outside world, I want you to hear silence. Because, I want you to have a mindfulness practice. Wake up your mind. Pray, meditate, gratitude chant, think, journal, do whatever works for you to move your mind.”
“The third is smell. Light a candle or some incense, do something to awaken your senses. You’re waking up for you, not for an obligation!”
“Think about what you need to drink or eat that actually serves you, right now in this moment of time, not drains you.”
“What does that mean? I want you to feel your body moving. All of the research shows that one of the fastest ways to increase your focus is simply to move your body for 20 minutes. And now we don’t have an excuse, because we’re not commuting and there are all these free virtual workouts. Just move your body for 20 minutes and your own brain will release chemicals proven to increase your focus for at least two hours. “
Rule #3, Choose Daily Progress
She explained, “The third thing to manage your mindset, when it comes to focus and tuning out the negativity, is to get intentional. Before you pick up the phone or turn on the TV, now that you have not slept with your phone and you’ve had five senses around the morning routine, choose the one thing that you’re going to make progress on today. The one thing that you’ve identified.”
Go On, Claim Your Day
Mel said, “Guess what? You’re now welcome to pick up the phone, turn on the TV and let the rest of the world in. But after you have set your day up for success, joy, happiness and feeling in control.” Brilliant. She added, “And you do it one morning at a time, that’s how we do it during the pandemic!”
Share your experiences of how life has changed during social distance, it’s quick and the results from this study will be used to advocate better support for parents.
Many thanks to the amazing Mel Robbins for her wonderful breakout session at the Massachusetts Women’s Conference! I discovered Mel when I read her book last year, “Stop Saying Your Fine.” It takes a deep dive into uncovering goals that are meaningful to you. Then introduces her practical riffs to change self-limiting habits. She also has a series of other books and podcasts on Audible.
Mel Robbins is the international best-selling author of The 5 Second Rule and four #1 audiobooks on Audible. Her online courses about confidence, courage, and mindset have been taken by more than half a million students. The first print run of her science backed productivity planner, The 5 Second Journal, sold out worldwide within minutes. She’s one of the most booked motivational speakers in the world and is the CEO of a media and digital learning company serving a global consumer audience and Fortune 500 brands.
This year, she launched a nationally syndicated daytime talk show, The Mel Robbins Show, with Sony Pictures Television. Her work on behavior change has been translated into 36 languages and is being used by veterans organizations, pediatricians, and other medical professionals in clinical settings, and by top brands like Starbucks, JP Morgan Chase, and Microsoft to inspire organizational transformation. Her social media platforms inspire more than 60 million people every month and her TEDx Talk is one of the most popular of all time, with more than 25 million views.