The Mayan Calendar proclaims 2012 as the Year of New Beginnings.

But it doesn’t say that in your overloaded planner, now does it?

Too much to do, too many responsibilities, too many meetings, deadlines and far too little time. Too much crap in the way. Feels more like the end of the world then a new beginning, right?

It felt like that to me when I landed in the hospital over Christmas. Needles pierced my skin begging me to make changes. Three surgeries and weeks of healing later, I decided to cut the crap that is holding back my life and make 2012 the Year of New Beginnings.

From now on all my decisions and time need to be dedicated to those matters most important to me: my health, my family, and my purpose.

Anything not aligning with these areas had to be culled and cleared.

When you face an illness or relationship breakdown (or any other life challenges), you start to understand the importance of prioritizing. So much of our precious and limited time is taken up with unimportant tasks and people pulling our attention this way and that.

The good news is that you have control over where you give your attention. Wake up now and only focus on the essentials.

What are your three most important focus areas?

Decide on your three highest priorities. Then take action using the following nine ways to clear out the crap so you can relish every waking minute as you realign your time and energy with your priorities to recharge your life.

1. Remove Yourself From Negative Environments

Travelling for many years put me in a happiness bubble where everyone was friendly and kind.

As soon as I returned to the real world (and the blogging world), I realized that there are a lot of people who love to argue. I soon found myself getting swept up in the negativity. I thought I was contributing in a positive way — or at least being helpful — but really the very act of me contributing meant that I was taking in and expending negative energy.

It’s not just the arguing in the moment, but the processing of it afterwards that consumes many of your waking hours. I’ve learned that I can’t change people, but I can change my focus and where I hang out.

I have since culled several communities from my online space.

Don’t let people rent space in your head. Make the decision to stay away from any environments that don’t serve you. Hang around only those who help you grow and are positive and encouraging.

2. Shut Down Social Spaces

I’m big on having as many windows open as possible when I’m working online. It drives my husband crazy, but it helps me to keep on track and not forget any important tasks I need to get back to.

But it also ensures that I stay connected to the social sphere.

The notification numbers flash at me and before you know it…I’m distracted by ridiculous status updates about lunch selections, tweets directing me to yet another interesting article, and the explosion of a new online argument.

Take control and shut down the windows of your social communities. Log out. Designate times of the day to check in.

Take advantage of some useful tools like Post Planner to schedule your updates for the day.

You’ll soon be so involved in being productive that you won’t even notice that the social world has disappeared.

3. Forget About Checking Email Five Times an Hour

Why do we feel like we need to check our emails multiple times in an hour? The fear that we are going to miss out on the next big opportunity grips us as we go and check one more time.

Just in case.

Did we ever check the mailbox multiple times a day? No…because we trusted that whatever was wanting our attention or needing us for the next big opportunity would arrive at approximately 3 pm every weekday afternoon.

I have found a great deal of resistance to letting this one go, which I think flags another needed change: a “desperate” mindset.

I have organized set times during the day to check email, and outside of those times I log off and shut down. My productivity levels have increased dramatically as a result, and I could do better still.

Turn off all your email notification pop-ups (don’t forget those phone apps) and schedule in times to check your email. I promise you are not going to miss out on anything.

4. Get Back To Pen and Paper

I wrote this article sitting on a beach chair by the pool. The afternoon breeze blew the sticky heat off my skin and the rainbow lorikeets sang a sunset song to me from the banksia bushes.

I locked the computer away inside and I let the thoughts write freely on the page with the help of my pen — the trusty one that writes well. (Admit it — we all have that one pen that we’re attached to…)

It might seem like extra work because I will have to eventually retype the piece, but it’s not really. I am relaxed, the thoughts are flowing easily, my eyes aren’t turning square, and there are no distracting flashing neon notification lights.

To increase your productivity, it is important to remove yourself from your normal environment and go to a creating space that does not involve technology. You will banish that stilted electronic energy and use a more natural form.

Grab a pen and paper, a hammock (and maybe even a beer), and get creating. You’ll be amazed by the quality of your word flow.

5. Go to Bed Early

If you are a parent like me, you are probably thinking I am crazy for suggesting this. When the cherubs are safely tucked in their beds that is really the only time you have for productivity.

But if you are culling in other areas, then your work hours will be filled with more space for greater productivity. Now you have time to go to bed at a decent hour.

Studies have proven that the human being cannot function optimally if it does not get adequate rest. Burning the candle at both ends is not going to help you progress forward. You might think you are being productive but the quality of your work will suffer — not to mention the dark circles that will develop under your eyes.

The more sleep we get, the more energy we have to create amazing work and complete tasks. Make an effort to get to bed before 11 pm every evening, aiming for no less than 6 hours sleep. Besides, going to bed early will help you achieve the very next important way to increase your productivity.

6. Get up Early and Utilize this Focus Time

Grab the vibrant energy that arrives with the sun. As the world is not quite up and creating chaos around you, this is the perfect time for you to snap up some hours to be highly productive.

Leave the emails, the social sites, and the reading of other posts. Get straight to the creation work; the work that is best going to help you achieve your goals.

You may also wish to use some of this time for exercise or meditation work. I find meditating first thing in the morning helps to clear my mind and gets me feeling relaxed, connected and fresh.

If you get up at around 5 am this will give you a good solid two hours of focused work; it is amazing what you can achieve in this time.

7. Say No More Often

Life comes with a never-ending supply of parties, coffee meetups, meetings, phone conversations, dinner dates, conferences, press trips and every other imagined opportunity demanding our presence.

It is wonderful to feel wanted, but at what cost?

Attending all these functions will have a detrimental effect on your lifestyle and productivity.

Last year, I was laying the foundations for our blogging business so I said “Yes!” to everything.

The four months previous to ending up in the hospital, I had a baby, was a single parent for two weeks, went overseas twice, travelled domestically for business three times, spoke at four conferences, and had meetings and events non-stop.

We don’t want to miss out or let others down, so we say “Yes” instead of “No.” But this will quickly lead to a case of burnout.

Saying “no” to those things that aren’t that essential will open up the way for those more important opportunities to take priority.

I’ve said “no” several times this year already, and I feel less overwhelmed and more laser-focused. The right opportunities and teachers are now arriving.

For each new invitation or request, ask yourself the following:

“How will saying yes to this help me grow and improve in my three most important focus areas?”

If it doesn’t, then say “no”.

8. Improve your Diet

Have you ever stopped to think of the crap we put into our bodies? I’ve paid attention to this recently while implementing some very specific dietary lifestyle changes.

After a week, it became glaringly obvious the reason for my slump in energy and frumpiness, when I lost 4 kilograms and my natural energy levels shot through the roof.

My productivity levels were now matching my energy.

Reduce the animal fats and sugar in your diet. Eat to live, not live to eat. I now follow the diet of the Okinawan race in Japan who have the longest life expectancy, and little incidence of heart disease and diabetes.

Basically 2/3 of your diet should be plant food and 1/3 meat, comprising of mostly fish.

Your health is your most important asset. Don’t push it to the side any longer.

9. De-clutter your Environment

You’ll notice that up until now you have culled in order to improve your work and health, now it is important that you clear up that stale energy around you.

Letting your head space be taken up with so many unimportant tasks means that we allow the papers to build up around us. And it’s not just the paper, but the clothes, the toys, the gadgets — all those things we haven’t used in months or years.

Usually, we are holding onto them either because we are too lazy (or busy) to clean it, or we have that “lack” mentality that tells us to hoard…just in case.

If you haven’t used it in a year, then you don’t need it. I like to assess my belongings on the basis of a year to account for the change of seasons — mostly in regards to clothing. All other items can be assessed on a shorter period of time.

As a traveller, I want more memories and less stuff. Culling comes easy for me.

I recently discovered old journals filled with the pain of past mistakes and regrets. I am focused on moving forward; holding onto a past I no longer want does not help me with that. I threw them directly in the bin to free up that positive energy space for me.

What are you holding onto that you no longer need? Start with a different section of your room every day to declutter.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I really use you?
  • Is holding on to you going to help me move forward and enable me to be productive?

In Closing

The end of the Mayan Calendar does not really mean the end of the world. It just signifies another cycle; a cycle that gives us permission to break free from the crap that holds us back.

All you need to do now is decide. Are your dreams worth it? Do you believe in them enough? If you do then the choice becomes pretty simple.

No more crap. Just new beginnings.

(Photo credit: Conceptual Image of Papers Coming Out of a Man’s Head via Shutterstock)

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