Advertising
Advertising

Published on December 8, 2020

Mental Blockage: 9 Practical Ideas To Clear Your Mind

Mental Blockage: 9 Practical Ideas To Clear Your Mind

“My daughter forgot her Chromebook at home. Trump’s latest tweet is going to cause a media storm. The space heater is making me sleepy.” This laundry list of random thoughts flips through my mind while I’m trying to focus my brain on writing this article. How do I clear this mental blockage?

If you could peek through my computer screen, you’d see me slumped over my keyboard and staring at my fingers. Yes, I’m the perfect image of writer’s block. Even if you don’t write, I bet you’ve experienced the feeling.

A mental block is the inability to complete a train of thought. It’s frustrating. Your thoughts are derailed by something. In my case, today it was a Chromebook, Trump’s Twitter feed, and a space heater.

But life keeps moving and deadlines don’t change because you feel like taking a nap. Big breakthroughs often wait just on the other side of these blocks.

Try these quick fixes the next time you need to get your thoughts back on track and get rid of mental blockage:

1. Remind Yourself That Mental Blocks Don’t Actually Exist

I know I just gave you a list of reasons I can’t write at the moment, but the reality is I’m still writing.

I pushed through the mind games and just put my fingers on the keyboard. I forced myself to write and got rid of all my expectations. In fact, I expected to move the cursor with sheer crap.

That’s the key. Refuse to accept that your mental block exists and do the work anyway. Let’s apply this technique to something outside the literary world.

Advertising

Say you are having trouble parenting your teenager. Nothing you’ve done is working and you’re pulling your hair out trying to get through to them. You’re worried changing your parenting game will screw them up.

Just try something. Get over your need for perfection. Maybe you write her a letter and pour out your frustrations and love. It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture. Like Seth Godin wrote, “Start small, start now.”

Once you start, you will have feedback. You’ll have that glorious feeling of progress. Either you can keep making small steps ahead or scrap that idea and try something new.

2. Avoid Your Crutches

Coffee, alcohol, sugar, and drugs can get you through a moment, but they don’t clean up the clutter.

Don’t panic. You don’t have to give up the cup of your morning ritual or the piece of cake to celebrate your loved one’s special day. It’s the moment you want to reach for that extra cup of coffee to churn out that big presentation.

STOP!

If you’re stuck, mental stimulants won’t guide you through. They will add to the clutter and may only worsen your mental blockage. Instead, stick with good nutrition.

3. Time to Turn In

Instead of heading to the kitchen to jump start your mind, try crawling under the covers instead. Sleep is one of the best ways we can sweep the cobwebs off our minds.

Advertising

I love naps, but I know not everyone is in the same camp. When your foggy brain is begging you for that caffeine fix, try laying down for 20 minutes. You may not sleep, and that’s okay—just let your mind drift. This break from problem-solving mode might just be the breakthrough you need.

When you’re burning the candle on both ends, the best thing to do is to call it quits.

Let’s say it’s 10 pm and you’re slumped over in front of your laptop. Doing your best to stay focused on the design details of your client’s website. Instead of agonizing over subhead text options for another half hour, shut it down and head to bed.

You know when it’s been too long. Even if you’re up against a hard deadline, a well-rested mind will make better decisions in a heck of a lot less time.

4. Exercise

It’s a clique to say, “I’m going to take a walk to clear my head.” It’s a clique because it works.[1]

Is walking too mundane for you? Try running. Is running not your thing? Jump on the Pilates reformer. There are a lot of exercises out there even if you’re too busy to do them regularly. It doesn’t matter how you chose to move your body. Just move!

5. The Headshake

Have you ever caught a teenager mid daydream while studying? A quick “hey” breaks into their stream of consciousness. They shake their head and go back to math homework.

It’s a simple gesture—and almost automatic.

Advertising

Next time you catch your focus stuck on the same problem playing over and over in your mind, try shaking your head. Imagine that as a way to reset your brain. Try again.

6. Write It Out

You’ve heard the advice to write out what’s on your mind before, but there’s a twist. There are different ways to write. You just have to choose one that will move your mental blockage.

  • Brainstorm: Grab a piece of paper or a digital notebook, and write whatever comes to mind. My favorite way to brainstorm is by mind mapping.
  • Journal: The big brother of brainstorming. Here you are writing about your mental blockage in complete sentences, but there’s no formal structure to your writing. It’s just a stream of consciousness put into words on paper. Don’t know what to write? Try writing “I don’t know what to write” repeatedly. It might do nothing, but it might also spark an idea.
  • Pros/cons list: This is a favorite for the indecisive.
  • The good old-fashioned essay: Yes, it’s like you are back in junior high. Imagine that your English teacher wants you to write a persuasive essay about your mental block.

7. Get Comfortable Being Alone

Mental blocks linked to a complex problem require both focused and diffuse thinking.[2] Diffuse thought happens when your brain is on autopilot (like those “aha!” moments you have in the shower).

Focus thinking takes more effort and a quiet workspace. For those of you living in quarantine with a house full, this will be a challenge. When was the last time you reached a flow state while working from a laptop that’s propped on your kitchen counter with a household buzzing around you?

Here’s a secret for those of you in this current situation. You need to block off time while everyone else is asleep. Set your alarm for 5 am, and sit with your mental block. For you night-owls, stay up and get that alone time in after everyone is asleep.

8. Fix the Actual Cause

Sometimes it’s just that simple. Say your mental block is on how to improve sales. You’ve scheduled time to meet with your marketing team, but this new product launch is falling flat. Your creative muse is hidden by the replay of the fight you had last night with Dad.

It’s time to pick up the phone and rehash the argument about the family gathering plans. Your brain won’t stop replaying this loop until you’ve let it play out.

If it’s an obvious problem, that is what’s preventing you from moving ahead—an issue that comes into your head every time you sit down to work. I said it’s simple, but I didn’t say it would be easy.

Advertising

9. Take a Fresh Perspective

Try looking at your problem through the eyes of a child. Better yet, ask your kid for ideas on how to move your mental blockage.

Kids have a sense of wonder when they look at the world. Lacking years of experience from looking at the same problems, their opinions are unfiltered.

Imagine giving a toddler free access to a cabinet full of Tupperware. They will entertain the kiddo for hours (if you’re lucky) building towers, knocking them down, banging on them, and maybe even pretending they are cars zooming around the kitchen. The last thing they will think of is filling it with last night’s pulled pork and plopping it in the fridge.

Of course, you can’t expect a toddler to figure out a marketing strategy for your product launch. However, I bet you could get some interesting ideas from a ten-year-old if you took the time to listen. Sometimes, all you need is a fresh perspective.

Final Thoughts

Funny story in the midst of writing this piece, I got a phone call from my son’s school. He complained about a tummy ache, and they sent him home. I spent the rest of the afternoon managing covid testing and accepting the reality of a 14-day quarantine with my 5th grader.

Time to practice what I preach!

Listening to my son’s take on the situation, “quarantine is boring”, I followed his lead. He used the time to write out a gratitude list he plans to share at Thanksgiving, and I buckled down and wrote this article.

I write all this not to ask for sympathy, but to show that it’s possible to move the blocks and clear your mind.

More Tips on Clearing Mental Blockage

Featured photo credit: Nik Shuliahin via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jennifer Theuriet

Writer and productivity coach for creatives who hustle.

How To Generate Great Ideas Like An Ideas Machine Mental Blockage: 9 Practical Ideas To Clear Your Mind

Trending in Focus

1 How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus 2 How to Eliminate Distractions for Achieving Your Goals 3 How To Log Your Daily Activities And Manage Your Time Better 4 How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media 5 13 Things to Put on Your Daily Checklist for Boosted Productivity

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 21, 2021

How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

You sit at your desk, ready to finally get some work done. “Okay, lets do this,” you think to yourself. You scroll over to Word (or Excel, or Office, etc.) and open up a fresh document. You have some idea of what needs to be done, but what happens next?

You write a few words down but just can’t stay focused. Then you say “Maybe I should wake myself up with something fun.” You go to Facebook, 20 minutes gone. Then comes Youtube, 60 minutes gone. Before you know it, lunchtime has come and half the day is gone.

Does this seem familiar? Do you ever find yourself wasting your day?

Well it doesn’t have to be this way, all you need to do is focus on finishing this article to find out how to not get distracted easily.

But before we move on to the tips, here’re some important notes you need to know:

  • Avoiding distraction is tough. You’re not alone when it comes to distractions. It’s not easy staying on task when you need to work for hours at a time, but some people are able to do it. The question is: why them and not you?
  • You were never taught how to focus. It’s funny how all throughout our school days we were never taught HOW to learn and be focused, even though that’s all we did. It was just assumed, and ultimately it was hit or miss on whether or not you ended up knowing how to do those things at all.
  • The tools to help master your ability to focus. Since everyone’s left to their own devices, it’s up to you to find ways to master your focus ability. That’s what these tips are for, so you can finally stay focused and on track with what we want to accomplish for ourselves.

So without further ado, let’s get started. 

1. Keep Your Vision and Goals in Mind

First things first, why do you even need to focus? Do you want to become a skilled guitar player? Do you want to write a novel? Do you want to start working from home?

Think about it.

Knowing why we need to stay focused can help us push through the tough and tedious parts of accomplishing our goals. That’s when our ability to focus is really tested and when it’s most needed.

2. Reduce the Chaos of Your Day by Focusing on 2 to 3 Important Tasks

If you have 20 tasks you need done everyday how effective do you think your focus ability will be? Terrible, right?

Advertising

You can’t expect to do those things with sophistication if you’re too scatterbrained to focus. You need to break it down to the essentials.

Focus on only doing 2-3 important tasks a day (even one is okay), but no more than that. It’s all you need to take steps towards accomplishing your goals. Slower is much better than giving up early because you took on too much, too early.

3. Do Those Tasks as Soon as Possible

In order to make sure you get those 2 to 3 tasks done, you need to do them early. This means as soon as you wake up, you’re already plotting how to do them.

So get up, use the bathroom, eat breakfast, and do it (Yes, BEFORE work is the best time to do it).

It’s tough, but waiting to do them only invites distraction to take over. Those distractions WILL come, and they will drain your willpower. This makes working on your goals harder to do, so don’t wait do work on your goals, do them as early as possible.

4. Focus on Only the Smallest Part of Your Work at a Time

An easy way to kill your focus is to see a goal for the big giant accomplishment that it is. Most goals will at least take a few weeks to months to accomplish, and knowing that can make it feel like it’ll take FOREVER to do.

This will cause you to do one of two things:

  • You become discouraged because the goal is too big; or
  • You fantasize about what it’ll feel like to achieve the goal

Either way is terrible for your focus and always a potential problem when focusing on the big picture or using visualization.

So what should you do? Focus on doing a very small, minimum amount of work instead.

For example, which seems easier:

Advertising

Writing 200 words per day or writing a minimum of 2 sentences per day?

20 pushups per day or a minimum of 1 pushup per day?

The key here is to use minimums. Chances are you’ll push past them.

Eventually your minimum will increase, and you’ll slowly improve your ability to stay focused on the bigger tasks.

5. Visualize Yourself Working

I briefly mentioned in tip #4 that visualization techniques can hurt you more than help you sometimes. But there is a proper way of using visualization, and it’s by visualizing yourself actually WORKING (not as if you’ve succeeded already).

Champion runners use this technique to great effect, usually by working backwards. They imagine themselves winning at first, then they act out the whole process in reverse, feeling and visualizing each step all the way to the beginning.

A quicker and more relevant way to apply this would be to imagine yourself doing a small part of the task at hand.

For instance, if you need to practice your guitar but it’s all the way across the room (let’s assume maximum laziness for the sake of this example), what should you do?

First, imagine standing up (really, think of the sensation of getting up and then do it). If you really imagined it, visualized and felt the act of standing up, then acting on that feeling will be easy.

Then repeat the visualization process with each step till you have that guitar in hand and you’re playing it. The process of focusing so intently on each step distracts you from how much you don’t want to do something, and the visualizations “ready your body” for each step you need done.

Advertising

All you need to do is apply this process to whatever it is you need to focus on, just start with the smallest motion you need to do.

6. Control Your Internal Distractions

Internal distractions are one of those problems you can’t really run away from. You need to find ways to prepare your mind for work, and find simple ways to keep it from straying to non-essential thoughts as well.

A good way to prime your mind for work is to have a dedicated work station. If you always work in a specific area, then your mind will associate that area with work related thoughts.

Simple enough, right? When you take breaks make sure to leave your work station, that way you’ll know when you’re “allowed” to let your thoughts roam free as well.

Deadlines are useful here also (use Pomodoro method for example, see tip #9). This method helps keep your mind from wandering around since you’ve got that looming deadline coming along.

Ultimately though, silencing those unwanted thoughts is all about getting some traction going. So instead of focusing on what’s happening internally, focus getting something done (anything!). Once you do that, you’ll see that all your thoughts will be about finishing your task.

7. Remove External Distractions

This tip is straightforward, just get away from things that distract you.

Is the television a distraction? Work in another room. Are the kids distracting you? Get up earlier and work before they wake up. Is the Internet distracting? Turn off the modem.

It’s usually obvious what you should do, but you still shouldn’t overlook this piece of advice.

8. Skip What You Don’t Know

This is a tip I don’t see often enough, if you hit a snag in your work then come back to it later. Focus your attention on what you CAN do, keep working “mindlessly” at all costs. All this means is that you should focus on the easy parts first.

Advertising

Eventually you can come back to the more difficult parts, and hopefully by then it’ll have come to you or you’ll have built up enough momentum that it won’t break your focus if you work on it.

9. Improve Your Discipline With Focus Practice

There’s a few focus exercises you can do to improve your overall discipline.

The first one is meditation, which is basically the definition of focus in practice. Think about it, you’re literally just sitting there doing nothing. It’s a great method for building focus ability, de-stressing, and giving you greater control over your emotions. You should definitely give meditation a shot.

The second exercise is the Pomodoro method. These are basically “focus sprints,” and each one is followed by a solid break. Like real sprints, you’ll get better and better at doing them over time. Each interval improves your ability to stay focused when it matters, so it’s more than worth your time to try this out.

10. Manage Your Momentum

Momentum is like a discipline lubricant‒it helps ease the process of sticking with goals. That’s why I think it’s important that we never take true breaks from our goals; we end up losing momentum and relying on discipline to get back on track (not an easy thing to do).

This means each and everyday we need to do something significant to further our goals (yes, even weekends and holidays). And when I say “significant,” I don’t necessarily mean a big task‒but rather, any task that brings us closer to our goals.

For instance, if your goal is to be a freelance writer, then write one single pitch on a weekend. If your goal is get healthy, then go for a short 5 minute walk even on Christmas day.

Nothing big, nothing crazy, only stuff that is significant enough to contribute to the success of your overall goal.

More Tips on Staying Focused

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Read Next