5 Tips on How to Be More Productive: Improve Focus Using Your Breath

By Elizabeth Herman | Posted: March 29, 2019

Is there a formula for becoming more productive and enjoying life in the process? Art of Living teacher Annelies Richmond offers a beautiful one in this video about meditation, breathing, and being 100%. She breaks it down into 5 tips, with 2 extra ones, to help you get closer to your goal of greater focus and productivity.

Make simple changes

On campuses and in companies all over the world, people need to focus and be productive. In the video linked above, you can find great wisdom on how to improve these aspects of your character:

  1. Close all distracting things. There must be a million beeps, buzzers, and little sounds to take your mind away from your focus. They usually go off many times a day in modern life, and include all kinds of alarms, notifications, internet tabs, etc. Be ready to do “deep work.”

  1. You’ve got to be 100%. This skill comes not through effort, but through being 100% in the moment with whatever’s happening. Minimizing distractions, as in tip 1, sets up the right conditions to enable our minds to be 100%. In activities you really love, you have already experienced being 100% (i.e. skiing, cricket, etc.). You become 100% with the action in front of you; you become present. Accept where you are in the moment, whether in a boring meeting or studying for an exam, and bring that skill of being 100% to that activity.

You may ask, “How do I be 100%?” You know what your own individual 100% is, so explore it through experience and action. With time you can stretch it and make it easier to apply to other pursuits. It will grow.

Most of the time your mind is wandering to the past or future. It goes back and forth, vacillating most of the day, research shows. But where’s life? It’s really in the present moment. The mind makes us miss out on our present life, by vacillating so much between thoughts about the past and future.

But forcing the mind to focus doesn’t really work. An ancient Vedic law says, “What you resist, persists.”

  1. Meditate regularly. By letting go of everything, your mind gets a chance to settle down and rest from daily tasks and distractions. By taking a break from concentration, your mind gains energy with which to concentrate more effectively when needed. The more you practice meditation, the more easily you will focus and produce.

  1. Use breathing techniques. As we pay attention to the breath, we have no other choice than to be in the present moment and focus the mind. The secret to having influence over our mind without effort is the breath.

How do you breathe when you feel certain ways? When you’re upset, the breath goes faster and shallower; when you’re depressed and sad, the breath moves slower, is long and heavy, and you find yourself sighing a lot. And the breath changes when you’re angry or in love or happy.

Sometimes you emphasize the inhalation, sometimes the exhalation. The breath is a tool we can explore for controlling our minds. As Annelies says, “Our breath is intimately connected to our emotions. Every emotion or state of mind we experience is connected to a rhythm, or pattern, in our breath.”

A useful technique is called Victory Breath (ujayyi breath in Sanskrit). It’s made by slightly constricting the muscles in the throat. Annelies demonstrates how to practice this breath, by whispering and then breathing to make the sound of the ocean with a slightly constricted throat, as she puts it, “a slight snoring sound, a very light sound, like the sound of the ocean.”

After inviting viewers to practice this breath together with her, she asks, “Do you notice the mind is more present, automatically? Do you notice more focus on the present moment? You may notice that your mind isn’t vacillating as much, and isn’t racing as much. You may also feel a tad sleepy, because you released a layer of stress.”

Breathing techniques combined with meditation is the golden pair,” says Annelies in the video, and then she guides viewers through a 10 minute meditation.

  1. Be happy. All companies around the world are learning that a happy employee is 31% more productive than an unhappy one. How can you cultivate your mind to be happy? There’s some outstanding research into how happiness and productivity are linked. For unhappy people in the workplace, the turnover rate is 65%.

Extra tips:

Make a list. If you already meditate, you have a powerful intention to manifest good things in your life. If you don’t have a list, then many other urgent things might get in the way during the day. With the list, those distractions don’t seem so urgent.

The luckiest people get to do what they love. But the intelligent ones are the ones who learn to love what they do. The mind effortlessly focuses when you like what you do. How will you learn to love what you do? Find something interesting in what you are doing, no matter how much you disliked that activity before.

After a question from someone in the chat, Annelies also recognizes that heavy, processed foods can make us feel dull and lethargic. The good news is that you’ll notice the influence of food as you become more 100% in the present.

A discussion like this one is a pleasant way to learn hopeful, positive methods for becoming more present, having greater focus, and increasing your productivity. Enjoy Annelies’s friendly, relaxing approach to meditation, breathing, and crucial things you can do now to create a more focused mind and a more productive life.

By Elizabeth Herman - PhD in English, with concentrations in Rhetoric and Composition, and Literature, she offers writing support to clients, teaches locally, lives in Boone, NC, and volunteers for a better world.