A 5-Word Phrase That Will Help You Focus + Chill

This one mindfulness quote has helped me re-focus, re-center, and tune back into my life - and I'm not even particularly zen or new-age-y! It's a great mindfulness trick for all of us, no matter where you fall on the spirituality spectrum. Click through and try it for yourself >> yesandyes.orgThe term ‘mindfulness mantra’ gives me The Eye Rolls.

Why? I’m not a particularly zen person. I multi-task like a tornado. I talk really fast. I FREQUENTLY START PLANNING MY NEXT TRIP WHILE I’M ON VACATION.

Add to this my deeply pragmatic nature and you can imagine how proclamations about ‘Serenity Now!” sit with me. I get all embarrassed and blushy and all “Is this really working? Is there a hidden camera somewhere?”

But I don’t particularly enjoy being a whirlwind of multi-tasking.  I don’t enjoy working so hard I have to put myself to bed at 8 pm. I don’t enjoy my self-created never-ending to-do lists.

Last week, while I was simultaneously making toast, texting, and checking my email (and doing a poor job of all) the tiny voice inside my head said: “For the love of Pete, just do what you’re doing.”

A mantra for the distracted and un-zen among us: Just do what you're doing. Share on X

Just make the toast

Stand next to the counter, put the bread in the toaster and wait. Look out the window while the bread is toasting and think about how you’re going to put tahini and honey on it. And then do that.

Just text your friend

Think about the message she sent you. Write her back using full words. Think about the awesome show you’re texting about.

Just watch the tv show

Appreciate that well turned phrase, the impeccable costuming, the complex characters. Sit on your couch. Snuggle into the pillows. Laugh.
Mindfulness is not a new or mind-blowing concept. Spiritual gurus and therapists have been telling us to notice and acknowledge our surroundings and experiences for, oh, ever. But most mantras give me The Eye Rolls and meditation puts me to sleep.
But for some reason “Just do what you’re doing” works for me. It’s a casual, real-world, judgement and lingo-free reminder to give each activity the attention it deserves. Even a pragmatist like me can handle that.
How do you handle multi-tasking and the pressures of day-to-day life? Do you have any sort of mantra or reminder to re-center yourself?

P.S. The one other phrase/mantra I use to help me appreciate the best moments in my life.

photo credits: jason briscoe // rosan harmens // cc

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  1. Rachel @ Suburban Yogini

    As a yoga teacher I'm meant to tell you how Zen I am right? How mindful I am? How I live in the moment?

    ahahahahaha!!! I am sooo busy *cries a little*

    All I can say is "just breathe". 🙂

  2. Elizabeth.

    My psychologist has me doing this stuff. It feels REALLY stupid but it works REALLY well.

  3. Jasmine

    I've had countless fuckups at home because I was multi-tasking and just forgot to return to one part of what I was doing. Leaving water running in a sink, leaving the iron on, walking out of the house with my slippers still on. I think the first hour of every day is just one giant multitask – switch the computer on, pop the kettle on, go the toilet, open all the blinds in house, return to the computer and enter the password, pop a teabag in my mug and leave it to brew …

    I could do with just focussing on what I'm doing!

  4. Erin

    I hear you, I'm trying to make my life a little more zen and less hectic, but it doesn't always work out. I feel like I always get hit with four things at once!
    But I'm working on it. Maybe I should start talking to my apartment too?

  5. kathrynoh

    I can't NOT multitask – I go mad. I've got like 50 bits of my brain working on different things at the same time.

  6. Joey

    I dig the idea of mindfulness. I'm reading a book about it, written by Thich Nhat Hanh, which talks about mindfulness in short little vignettes. It is new-agey, but I don't mind. Yeah, I don't relate to everything because I feel a little silly sometimes, but I love the core ideas he puts forth.

  7. Gene

    Actually, research is showing that giving your full attention to whatever you're doing is a lot more effective than multi-tasking. I'd say you're on the right track.

  8. Kim

    I try a bit, but as a single mom working full-time and taking 18 credits this semester, well, doing one thing at a time is nearly impossible.
    However, I ditched my Droid a few weeks ago in favor of a cell phone that texts and calls. My life is a zillion times simpler, calmer, and I really do feel less anxious. It's amazing. Remember to actually check my email was a bit weird for the first week or so.

  9. Kim

    Typing with a bandaid on my pinky = major fail. My URL is way screwed up. 🙁 Hopefully I kept the typos to a minimum.

  10. Monster Girl

    an obvious idea, but one I really needed to read right now. Thank you! x

  11. whiteoak

    Funny you say this, because I'm just starting to get into meditation (I stress/worry waaaaaaaay too much) and am finding it helpful and quite peaceful. I say, keep doing what you're doing 🙂

  12. Marthe

    I combine multitasking with doing nothing at all sometimes. Or, getting nothing done that is.

    I have these moments when I'm doing everything at once. Followed by moments when I can't do anything.

    I think I need some balance in my life.

  13. mylifereinvented

    This is something that I battle everyday. Even now as I write this I'm thinking "more coffee, what do I need to get at the store, wait I haven't heard the baby in a couple of minutes what is she up to?"
    I love idea behind Buddhism and zen, but when it comes to the application of it in my life I'm usually the person sitting in the corner with the dunce cap, but I'm getting better. Even looking for a Buddhist temple to attend.

  14. Luinae

    I'm so bad for that- my browser is a testament to it. Even now, I have 7 tabs open. I've been getting better at, and surprisingly (wait for it) you actually get MORE done. I think it's because you do something and then you move on, and you do it well instead of 4 half-ass jobs.

  15. Julie Buz.

    Oh, Sarah, I discovered the concept of mindfulness a while ago, and I can tell you, it's SO much better than multitasking! I actually get more done when I focus on one thing at a time, never mind the layer and layer of stress that I shake off when I don't try to get a zillion things finished RIGHT NOW. It's liberating, really.

    Thank you for sharing – I hope you enjoy these last days! (Only 45 – eeeeek! I'm feeling butterflies in my tummy for you!)

  16. Julie Buz.

    Oh, Sarah, I discovered the concept of mindfulness a while ago, and I can tell you, it's SO much better than multitasking! I actually get more done when I focus on one thing at a time, never mind the layer and layer of stress that I shake off when I don't try to get a zillion things finished RIGHT NOW. It's liberating, really.

    Thank you for sharing – I hope you enjoy these last days! (Only 45 – eeeeek! I'm feeling butterflies in my tummy for you!)

  17. pavotrouge

    I'm not a born multitasker like many (women?) supposedly are. In my private life, I am all about doing one thing at a time. However, I work in events – something I truly love- and in this environment, you don't last in any job without being amazing at multitasking. I guess it's one of the key skills of the job, and I worked hard to be able to do it. Doing a little bit of everything, steadily and properly.

  18. meliasaurus

    i don't think i'm a very good multitasker. i'm very good at focusing on only one task, my problem is getting my priorities straight and focusing on the right one first.

    today i was taking a test and the teacher was talking to someone above a whisper and i could not read and listen to her talk. my brain just doesn't do two things.

  19. Joanne

    Wow, I'm in exactly this place at the moment! Lately things have been so hectic for me and I've been going through so much change and I found myself close to a panic attack on a bus because of all the things I still had to do that day. But I somehow(!) reminded myself of the little I had read about mindfulness and I forced myself to focus on exactly what I was doing at that moment. "My feet are on the floor, the sun is shining through the window, I'm holding my bag on my lap etc etc…" and it somehow untied the knot in my stomach and unclenched my throat.

    I also get all squirmy around spiritual airy-fairy stuff but as a simple mechanism for coping with stress, mindfulness is quite remarkable.

  20. Hope

    I spent way too many years doing it "all" (and missing most of what really matters in the process).

    And you do if you are not completely and thoroughly enjoying each moment. And every thing in our life is to be cherished.

    Yes, it sounds all new-age, but it isn't – it is techniques that have existed for centuries. And it works.

  21. Lovers, Saints & Sailors

    You're the second person to bring this to my attention. I think I might just need to do something about it.

    I'm terrible for thinking about all of the things I should be doing while I am busy doing something else. Or worse, when I actually take a moment to sit and relax.

  22. Operation Smiley Face

    THANK YOU Sarah. This post is so perfect for where I am right now. I always try to practice mindfulness, and in general to live mindfully BUT I'd fallen off the wagon recently! A few days ago my inner me gave me the same reminder you got and I've been consciously working on it ever since. Your post showed me that I'm not alone, AND I take it as another reminder from the Universe that this is what I need to be doin. I know that the more I do it the happier I'll be, and I am already pretty happy. 🙂

  23. Heidi Rose

    I think that most of the new age stuff is a load of garbage. Things like 'Serenity Now!' are appealing to what people want: Peace. Instantly. Which you can't have. Everyone knows that anything worth having, you have to work for. People are lazy. Too much modern art is stuff that anyone could have done in three hours, but THIS person did. It's horrible.

    I look for those people and places that offer: Peace, but you have to work for it. And artwork that looks like it took serious thought and planning.

  24. Jacklyn Lee

    This is awesome advice. I've learned recently that to really, truly get stuff done at work (and to get it done right!) I have to just do it. Sit down. Write the article. Send the e-mail. It also helps to be mindful of why you're doing what you're doing. Why am I doing this today? How does this make me a better ME?

    Love it.

  25. Elizabeth Sensky

    Ah this sounds just like me! I wrote a blog post about the phrase, "let me" so similar to your "just" I think using certain language around our to-do list helps lighten the burden of doing the things. A trick of the language can make our mind ease a bit.

    Thanks for sharing! I totally understand your hesitance in typing the words about mindfulness!

    Warm Wishes,


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