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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Mental Blockage: 9 Practical Ideas to Clear Your Mind

Mental Blockage: 9 Practical Ideas to Clear Your Mind
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My daughter forgot her Chromebook at home; that 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, creating a solid case of writer’s block. You’ve likely experienced this kind of mental blockage, as well.

A mental blockage is the inability to complete a train of thought. It gets frustrating as your thoughts are derailed by something. However, life keeps moving, and deadlines don’t change because you feel like taking a nap. Furthermore, 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 and fear of failure.

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

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.

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Just try something, and get over your need for perfection when experiencing a mental block. Maybe you write him/her a letter and pour out your frustrations and love. It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture.

Once you start, you will have feedback. You’ll have that glorious feeling of progress. Either you can keep making small steps forward, 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 or help you overcome mental blocks for more than a few minutes.

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 that’s your greatest barrier.

If you’re stuck with mental blockage, mental stimulants won’t guide you through. They will add to the clutter and may only worsen the situation. Instead, stick with good nutrition and stay hydrated to keep your brain in optimal form.

3. Time to Turn in

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

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.

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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 lot less time.

4. Exercise

It’s common to hear someone say, “I’m going to take a walk to clear my head,” and that’s because it works when you’re feeling stuck.[1]

Is walking too mundane for you? Try running, and if that’s 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.

If you’re living a busy life but still want to get into the exercise habit, check out this Lifehack course: Busy Yet Fit Programme. It will help you jumpstart your workouts and get into a great fitness routine.

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.

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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 and 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, and you 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: This is 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.
  • Pros/cons list: This is a favorite for the indecisive.
  • Essay: Imagine that your high school English teacher wants you to write a persuasive essay about your mental blockage.

7. Get Comfortable Being Alone

Mental blocks linked to complex problems 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).

Focused thinking takes more effort and a quiet workspace. For those of you living in quarantine with a full house, 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

Say your mental blockage 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 your spouse.

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 spend time letting it play out.

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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.

9. Take a Fresh Perspective

Try looking at your problem through the eyes of a child to tap into a new creative process. Better yet, ask your kid for ideas on how to move your mental blockage or solve a problem.

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 as they build towers, knock them down, bang on them, and maybe even pretend 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

Mental blockage can come in many forms, and it can even manifest as stress, depression, or anxiety. When you notice you can’t get your thoughts to flow in the right direction, it’s time to choose one of the strategies above and try to punch through the mental clutter. This can take hours, or even days, but once you’ve pushed through, you’ll get back to being productive and less stressed.

More Tips on Clearing Mental Blockage

Featured photo credit: Nik Shuliahin via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Jennifer Theuriet

Writer and productivity coach for creatives who hustle.

Mental Blockage: 9 Practical Ideas to Clear Your Mind How to Train Your Brain to Be More Creative How To Generate Great Ideas Like An Ideas Machine

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Last Updated on July 27, 2021

Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better

Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better
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What comes to mind when you think of learning how to focus better? Do you think of the attention or concentration it takes to complete a task? Do you consider the amount of willpower needed to finish writing a report without touching your phone? Do you think it requires sitting in complete silence and away from distractions so that you can study for an important exam or prepare for an interview?

I’m sure many of you can relate to the above statements and agree that the ability to focus is about staying on task for a given period of time. Breaking that concentration would mean that you’ve lost your focus, and you’re either doing something else or trying to gain back that focus to finish up the intended task.

With an ever-increasing amount of information—that is easily accessible online and offline—we’re faced with a lot more opportunities and avenues to create possibilities to experience things on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, that can make it a lot harder for us to make progress or get things done because we’re either easily distracted or overwhelmed by the constant influx of information.

That’s why many of us end up having problems concentrating or focusing in life—whether it be on a smaller scale like completing a task on time, or something much bigger like staying on track in your career and climbing the ladder of success. We’ve all found ourselves in situations where we blame our failures due to a lack of focus.

Learning how to focus better doesn’t have to be too complex. Here is some information to help you get started.

Focus Is Not About Paying Attention

What if I tell you that you’ve been doing it all wrong this whole time?

Focus isn’t just the attention span of giving 20 minutes to a task. It actually goes far beyond that.

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The real reason why we focus is because we need to do something that exceeds our existing capability. We need to devote large amounts of time and energy to move the needle in life, to make that progress and positive change.

And why do we want to do that? Because we want to spend time becoming a better version of ourselves!

At the end of the day, the reason why we stay focused on any task, project, or goal is because we want to succeed. With that success comes progress in our lives, which means we eventually become better than what we were a month ago, or even a year ago.

Let me give you an example:

Say you’ve been tasked to manage a project by your boss. You have targets to meet and favorable outcomes to achieve. Your focus and attention has to be on this project.

Once the project has been completed, your boss is happy with the results and your hard work. She rewards you with praise, a promotion, or maybe even a year-end bonus.

That’s your success right there, and you feel good about your achievements. Looking back at who you were before and after the completion of this project, wouldn’t you say you’ve become a better version of your previous self?

Focus Is a Flow

This is what focus is and how where learning how to focus better starts. It’s not a one-off, task-by-task mode that you jump into whenever needed. Rather, focus is a flow[1].

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Focus is the way in which you deliberately target your energy to push progress in something you care about. Because focus takes energy, time, and effort, whatever it is that you need to focus on should be something meaningful to you, something that’s worth shutting down phone calls, text messages, and social media for.

So, why is it that we sometimes find it so hard to focus?

Usually, it’s because we’re missing two major elements. Either we don’t know where we want to go—in that we don’t have a clear goal—or we do have a goal, but we don’t have a clear roadmap.

Trying to improve your focus without these two things is like driving to get somewhere in a foreign country with no road map. You end up using a lot of gas and driving for hours without knowing if you’re getting anywhere.

Let’s go back to the example of your boss assigning you a project to manage. The company is opening a new office, and your boss wants you to oversee the renovations and moving-in process of this new location.

Now, if you didn’t have a clear goal or end result of how the new office should look, you could be busy arranging for contractors, interior designers, or movers to come, but have no clue what to assign or brief them on.

The second scenario is that you know exactly how the new office should look and when it should be up and running. However, because you don’t have a clear roadmap to get to that end result, you end up working all over the place; one moment you’re arranging for the contractors to start renovations, the next moment you’ve got furniture coming in when the space isn’t ready. What do you focus on first?

The Focus Flow

Without a clear goal and road map, things can turn out frantic and frustrating, with many wrong turns. You also end up expending a lot more mental energy than needed. But, having a Focus Flow when learning how to focus better can help.

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Let me show you how theFocus Flow works.

  1. It starts from a clear objective.
  2. This becomes a clear roadmap.
  3. Then it manifests into a state oftargeted attentionand effort.
  4. This results in pushing your progress towards your ultimate destination.

Setting a Clear Objective

To start off, you need to set a clear focus objective. If you don’t have an objective, how can you decide on which things are worth focusing on? You can’t focus on everything at the same time, so you have to make a choice.

Like driving a car, you need a destination.

In this case, you don’t want to drive around aimlessly. You want to arrive at your destination before you run out of gas.

A good focus objective, therefore, needs to be concrete. This means that it should be something you can visualize, such as determining how the new office is going to look after you’ve completed the renovation and moving in. If you can visualize it, that means you have a clear enough picture to know what’s needed to achieve it.

Drawing a Focus Roadmap

The second step is to lay out a practical focus roadmap. Once you have your ideas, setting an objective is easy. The most difficult part is determining how you’re going to achieve your objective.

There are lots of things you can do to work towards your goal, but what comes first? What’s more valuable, and how long will it take?

That’s where having a roadmap helps you answer these questions. Like driving, you need to have at least a rough idea of which major roads to drive on, and the order in which you need to drive them.

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Yet, creating a roadmap can get tricky because you have absolute freedom on how you’re going to achieve your objective.

To create a good road map, you should include major milestones. These are targets you need to hit in order to achieve success. Your roadmap should also include feasible and realistic actions that you can achieve as you learn how to focus better.

Need a little help in drawing this Focus Roadmap? The Full Life Planner can help you. It’s a practical planner to help you stay focused and on track with your most important goals and tasks in an organized way. Get yours today!

Power Up Your Productivity

I hope you now have a better understanding of how focus truly works. By harnessing your focus using the Focus Flow, you’ll be able to work on a task more productively, not because you’re able to concentrate, but rather because you know exactly what your end goal is, and you have a game plan in place to make that happen.

Once there is clarity, I can assure you that you’ll be less likely to get distracted or lose focus on your tasks at hand.

You may think it’s going to take you extra time writing out an objective and setting out a roadmap. You may believe that you are better off getting right down to the actual work.

However, as I’ve mentioned, there’s no point in rushing your efforts that lead you to nowhere or cause you additional detours. You’ll end up expending more mental energy and time than needed.

Once you’ve made your roadmap and found your focus, follow it up with unbreakable determination with Lifehack’s Actionable Motivation On Demand Handbook.

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Featured photo credit: Paul Skorupskas via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Very Well Mind: The Psychology of Flow

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