How to gain back your mental clarity and overcome bad habits that are destined to destroy itDec 26, 2021
Picture this; you’ve got a deadline looming with a big prospect. A prospect that has the potential to double your turnover overnight if all runs smoothly and your company is awarded the project.
The deadline is next week, and you still have mounds of work before having a finished presentation worth its salt. You feel the stress rising because it’s also the birthday of one of your kids this weekend and you have a staff issue to deal with.
You need focus time without interruptions, but your mobile has notification overload and there’s ill-ease in the world with a continuing pandemic.
Where has the time gone? This presentation has been in the diary for weeks so how is it now less than seven days away? There’s too much going on and you need to gain back your mental clarity – quick!
Are you letting life happen to you or by you?
Feeling overloaded with work and life is a sign of modern Western society. It doesn’t affect everyone, but it always affects those who let life happen to them or by them.
What I mean by letting life happen ‘to them’ or ‘by them’ is that some people live feeling that they never have enough, that problems are too difficult to overcome and that good things never happen to people like them. You know, that grass is greener on the other side analogy. It is never greener, you just assume that you are the one with the unfair deal, the disadvantage, the stressful life. On the surface that may seem true but are you doing what you can to change it? In many cases, people aren’t. They are being carried in life and letting aggro happen to them.
Does any of this ring true with you? If it does (and be honest because it happens to most of us at some point in life), removing frequently occurring negative habits will improve your mental clarity, enhance your mood, and encourage you to seek happiness and easefulness in abundance.
Starting the day under a cloud
The start of your day will impact how it progresses – good or bad.
Picking up your phone to check emails and social media as soon as you wake up in the morning almost always puts you on a wonky path for the day. A study conducted by Harvard University (Brendon Buchard) found that people who did this were 40 per cent less productive in their day.
Imagine what your day would look like if you were 40 per cent more efficient? You’d get shed loads done, right? That presentation would have been completed two weeks ago!
The same can be said for mobile and desktop notifications. Having notifications enabled for even two or three apps equals constant interruptions, distracting you from the task at hand.
Consuming too much negativity on screen
Most news outlets, whether it be the television, radio or newspapers focus on negative stories. Unfortunately, it’s what sells because people get captivated by the latest scandal, fuelling fear and uncertainty. Look at the panic buying of toilet rolls and pasta during the Covid pandemic and the recent petrol crisis. This is a prime illustration of the negative effect news reports have on society.
The reason why this can happen is that many reports do not share the full story, preferring instead to focus on the parts they think will get attention. Another unfortunate circumstance is that humans are wired towards thinking negatively – it’s the path of least resistance, which is why so many are drawn in by negative news. Think about how many news outlets use the colour red in logos, headlines and graphics. The colour red is known to enhance danger and it has the effect of causing readers and watchers to catastrophise.
Following the news every day will programme your mind to stay safe and look out for threats, therefore, reducing your ability to think clearly, negatively impacting your behaviour.
Equally as damaging as the news can be getting addicted to soap operas. These longstanding dramatised TV shows focus heavily on the negative aspects of life. Some hard-hitting storylines can help to improve awareness of issues in society or minority groups, but in the main, they too catastrophise events. Watching daily soap operas promotes a sedentary and passive approach to life that dulls creativity and positivity. Who wants to be part of a slanging match with the neighbours every night? And is this really an accurate reflection of reality?
Meeting your needs in negative ways
We all have six essential needs to meet in life. These needs are commonly attributed to Tony Robbins and linked to the traditional model of the physiological hierarchy of needs developed by Maslow:
People meet these needs in positive and negative ways. Challenges and problems arise when negative behaviours become the dominant way to meet the needs. Take drinking alcohol or taking drugs as an example. Social drinking and recreational drugs are deemed harmless by many but when excessive quantities or extreme drugs (whether prescribed, legal or illegal) are used, this impacts the brain and the body.
Drinking alcohol, having the odd glass of wine when cooking dinner or the extra bottle of lager in the evening may start innocently but when does it become a problem? Often, people drink alcohol because it acts as a coping mechanism to numb reality. It helps people feel better and forget daily stresses, but it also affects how information is processed, how quickly you react and how you judge situations. Alcohol and drugs affect your ability to be present, to experience the ‘real deal’ and can often lead to consequences you would rather not remember.
Consuming a diet of convenience foods and refined sugar is also a bad habit. The human body wasn’t designed to process added flavours, preservatives, excess sugars and fats. Look at the Western diet today. It’s highly processed and created to taste as good as it can – and that’s not natural.
A healthy diet is one of variety, single ingredients and food constituents that you have heard of and can pronounce! Too much sugar, especially, can play havoc with efficient brain and digestive function.
Multi-tasking is never a good behaviour
Being able to multi-task is often spoken of with a feeling of pride. Is it an accomplishment to multi-task, or is it in fact a sign of being less productive? Think about it, when you multi-task are you truly doing two or multiple things simultaneously, or are you very quickly fliting from one task to another? If you are truly multi-tasking, then I’m going to stick my neck out and say you’re not being 100 per cent present with both tasks. How can you be? And therefore you are being inefficient.
Answering phone calls mid-project or shifting your vision and focus to check out the latest ping notification or email landing in your inbox inevitably causes you to lose track of where you were and what you were doing before the shift. Although it may seem a small thing, imagine that it takes you between 30 seconds and a couple of minutes to refocus your attention on the first task. How many minutes (or even hours) will that equate to each day?
Structure your day so that you can have intense focus time on important projects and tasks. Go as far as scheduling dedicated time to read and reply to emails, make phone calls and check social media. Inform colleagues and staff that you are unavailable during certain periods of the day. You could even turn your phone on silent, putting it out of sight or leaving it in another room.
Create more freedom by being structured
Having a laid-back approach to your working day, week, or month by letting events unfold without planning outcomes and processes (to get you from where you are now) is futile.
Creating structure in your business will create more freedom so that you can enjoy the rewards of running a business.
Review your daily practices and for a week, log your activities as 15-minute chunks. You’ll soon see what tasks are repeated, what takes longer and where you waste time. Use this knowledge to build processes, delegate more and be productive with your time. Create structure.
How to gain back your mental clarity
Some people need structure to focus. Often, it helps to have an external party or work colleague to keep you accountable and walking the productivity track. You still need breaks and free time to gain clarity, but they too need to be effective and free from interrupting bad habits.
If this is an area you think you would benefit from reviewing and putting in new steps, let’s have a chat.