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10 Ways to Reclaim Your Mental Space Amidst a Busy Schedule

10 Ways to Reclaim Your Mental Space Amidst a Busy Schedule

Is today’s landscape of over stimulation (media, smart devices, multitasking, high-stress work environments) making you increasingly anxious? Do you find yourself fleeting through a busy schedule, meeting tight deadlines and being constantly contacted while barely getting the time to be present, enjoy an experience, or live in the moment? You’re not alone. And what’s more—living in such a state of excessive stimulation can leave you mentally fatigued and lower your productivity.

Try these easy tips to find your calm and reset and reclaim your mental space amidst any busy schedule.

1. Start an easy breathing technique.

This simple 4-2-4-2 breathing technique increases focus, energy and promotes relaxation. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 2, exhale for a count of 4, hold for 2. Feel the air fill your lungs as you breathe in and feel the air leave your lungs as you exhale. Repeat this 5–10 times and feel your mind and body instantly relax. Do it at least once a day to get your body and mind in a calmer and more focused state of being.

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2. Less is more.

If you’ve got a schedule that doesn’t allow you any wiggle room any day of the week, then you need to do less. Rushing from task to task without  a break can lead to multiple unwanted outcomes. You could start to burn out. Mental fatigue can make you to take longer to complete your tasks, getting even more anxious. As you rush through your activities, you may not complete one or more the way you would like to because you’re moving on to the next. You’re impatient and snappy when that’s not the real you.

So, start to prioritize your tasks and let a few of them go. Perhaps move some to another day. They will always be there for you when you wake up tomorrow. You’ll find yourself being more productive, more efficient, and more content.

3. Reclaim your morning.

If your morning starts with reading the news or checking your email while sipping your first cup of coffee or tea and solving problems on your drive to work, then you might be jolting your body into a state of over-stimulation before it is ready. Ease it in and reclaim your morning. Enjoy your shower. Sip your beverage slowly. Nourish the smell and taste. Take a moment to enjoy your breakfast. Start your work activities only when you’ve moved through your morning space.

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4. Do something fun every day.

We’re generally wired to give 100% attention to something we consider fun to do. Even spending 20–30 minutes on something you enjoy—like gardening, wood carving, cooking, baking or whatever hobby you cherish—can have you unwinding from your day’s stress and training your mind to focus wholly without distractions. Shifting your thoughts to something totally different from what you generally do all day will also help you unwind completely and feel mentally refreshed.

5. Rest your mind with sounds of nature.

Anxiety surmounts when we’re surrounded by a lot of activity and navigating a bustling world every day. You need to get away and clear your mind without having to go on a vacation. If you can get to a park, lake, beach or river, then sit by the water and listen to the sounds and environment. If you can’t, then step back anyway. Put those headphones on and listen to calming sounds like trickling water, waves washing ashore or other sounds. Zone out the world and listen to sounds of nature. Feel your stress melt away as you realize and appreciate nature.

6. Try a few yoga stretches.

Yoga is an age-old proven technique for disciplining mind and body. Many yoga websites offer easy poses with pictures and instructions for a beginner or even the advanced yogi. Try a few simple stretches to start your day with energy of even relaxing stretches to unwind at night. Whatever you fancy, you’ll start to slowly develop a rhythm that will help you clear your mind and enhance your focus.

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7. Connect with friends.

We’re social beings. Human interaction is paramount to our wellbeing. Positive human interaction is comforting, soothing, and even calming. Friends do just that. Step out and meet a friend for coffee or dinner. Listen to them talk and appreciate the safety net of friendship and have a good laugh. Get a good mental reset.

8. Unplug from devices.

We’re always “plugged in” and this is one of the main culprits of over stimulation in today’s culture.

Disconnecting can be hard. Start with ½ a day every week to be unplugged from your phone or computer.  Fill that time with something, or someone, fun. Take a walk or sit at a café and watch people go by. Browse an old bookstore or antique shop. Maybe you’d like a long drive out to the country. Let the time pass without Wi-Fi. Enjoy the space and feel your inner Zen bloom.

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9. Read a book in bed—the old fashioned way.

Good sleep rests your mind and body. Lack of sleep increases anxiety, reduces concentration and interferes with your productivity. When you’re getting ready for bed, your brain triggers the production of Melatonin, a sleep hormone that signals your body to get ready to sleep. Blue light emitted from your tablet or phone can suppress melatonin production. Over time, this leads to disrupted sleep/ wake cycles (circadian rhythm) or a restless night. Try an old fashioned page-turner instead. Keep your room dim and cool. Create a cozy environment to get the best sleep you can so you wake up well rested and alert.

10. Identify your “happy place” reset.

There’s something that makes you happy—a place you loved, a place you long to be or an experience you cherished so much you would love to have it again. Whatever your happy place is, it’s your mental safety net. Think about this once in a while. Take a good 5 minutes at least to visualize your happy place. Imagine yourself there, taking in the sights and sensations. This will reset your thoughts and help guide you to what you really want and what you really enjoy.

Conclusion

Disengaging and anchoring your thoughts to achieve mental well being is a step by step process. Don’t worry about being perfect. You’ll get better at it with practice. As part of the safety briefing on airplanes, they always tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Your mental well-being is just as important so you can be your best for all that rely on you. Don’t ever give up your mental space.

The whole purpose is to reach a state of happy gratitude and calm, a state that you can control and command at will so you can be well while you’re being productive.

Featured photo credit: Jill Wellington via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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