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9 Ways to Get Rid of All the Crap in Your Life That’s Holding You Back

9 Ways to Get Rid of All the Crap in Your Life That’s Holding You Back


    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    Published on February 17, 2020

    How to Stay Focused on Your Goals in a Distracting World

    How to Stay Focused on Your Goals in a Distracting World

    In this digital era, distractions can seem impossible to avoid. Just figuring out how to stay focused on your goals and ambitions can feel as difficult as actually achieving them.

    These days, constant distractions can lead to a massive loss in productivity.

    Statistics show that employees, on average, waste 28% of their time dealing with and trying to recover from unnecessary interruptions.[1]

    And that’s at work, where you’re paid to be productive, and where some of us are monitored too much or too closely for comfort.

    So, one can only imagine how much time is lost or wasted when we are left to our own devices.

    A World of Distractions

    Speaking of devices, how many times have you grabbed your cell phone at the very moment you hear a notification, wasting precious time scrolling through social media when you should be using that time working on your goals?

    I can bet a lot.

    But we’ve all been there.

    Sometimes, even with the best of intentions and efforts to stay on task, we still find ourselves being chronically distracted.

    Chances are you’ll be interrupted before you can even finish reading this article.

    The reality is as undeniable as it is unavoidable: we live in a world full of distractions!

    But how can you take back control of your time and attention to avoid these distractions and learn how to stay focused on your goals?

    There are several strategies for overcoming distractions and reclaiming your focus, such as avoiding social media, prioritizing emails, meditation and more.

    You can read about them in detail in our article, How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide).

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    Some of these methods have been discussed ad nauseam. But one method in particular hasn’t been talked about enough.

    How to Stay Focused on Your Goals

    Your Environment Is a Major Factor

    Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us are mostly a product of our environment. Our environment impacts us far more than we realize.

    It’s made of a multitude of things, from the space we live and work in, to the people we spend the most time with, to the things we read, listen to, and watch, to even our profiles on social media, and more.

    All of these elements of our surroundings influence our focus, thoughts, mindset, belief systems, and the goals and standards we set for ourselves. They all serve as triggers for certain behaviors, tendencies, and moods. That’s how many of our habits are formed.

    We’ll always take on aspects of the environments we continually place ourselves in.

    Willpower and Motivation Is a Broken Approach

    What a lot of people have gotten wrong about trying to achieve their goals is that they often focus only on what needs to be done and how to get it done – outcomes and willpower.

    Many think that willpower and motivation in their own right determine success.

    While both are great and necessary virtues to have to navigate this increasingly difficult world, willpower is largely a short-term solution, while motivation is great to get you started but is also fleeting.

    This is one of the main reasons why so many people’s New Year’s resolutions go belly-up by the end of January.

    Your willpower is like a muscle, which means it’s finite and will deplete with use. [2]

    Using the willpower approach to stay focused on goals centers on increasing personal efforts to overcome the environment, not on modifying or changing the environment.

    The harsh reality is that your environment is more powerful than your internal resolve. No matter how much discipline you have, eventually, you’ll succumb to your environment despite your greatest efforts.

    Setting Yourself up for Success

    In an environment that’s incompatible with your goals, its negative influence will sabotage your success.

    On the other hand, a compatible environment is one of the most important strategies you can utilize to stay focused on achieving your goals.

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    Creating an environment that is conducive to success will trigger your desired behaviors and, most importantly, will decrease distractions.

    Inevitability Thinking

    In fact, productivity expert Eben Pagan believes that designing the right environment will create conditions that make it impossible for you not to achieve your goals.

    The multi-millionaire, entrepreneur, and investor regards this as the next evolution of goal-setting that will move us away from focusing on willpower and outcomes.

    He calls this concept “Inevitability Thinking,” which is thinking and acting as if what you are doing is a foregone conclusion because you set up the conditions for it to happen.

    What he means by “setting up the conditions for success” is designing an environment that’s conducive to you achieving your goals.

    Building Your Environment

    World-renowned leadership coach and author Dr. Marshall Goldsmith believes if a person doesn’t create and control their environment, then it will create and control them.

    He suggests having a vision of achieving the goals you want to accomplish. Then, think about designing the structure of your environment, your situation, or your organization in a way that would organically bring that vision to life.

    “If [you] can design your life [and] behaviors well, [you] don’t need to rely on willpower.” – BJ Fogg, Social Science Research Associate, Stanford [3]

    “But I’m not a designer,” you might be thinking.

    Don’t get intimidated, it can be done – by you or anyone! Designing or modifying your environment so you can better stay focused on your goals is not like designing spaceships – it’s not rocket science.

    Here is how to make it happen.

    How to Stay Focused on Your Goals: Designing Your Environment

    1. Find the Environment That Supports Achieving Your Goals

    Real progress occurs when we fully understand and align with what, whom, and where best support our goals.

    So, the next time you’re in your environment, whether at or outside of work, try to pay attention to how you feel while you’re there. Note if that feeling changes when you leave that environment.

    Examine your surroundings. Look at all the infrastructure and ask yourself these simple questions:

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    • Am I in an environment that’s conducive to me achieving my goals?
    • Is it detrimental to me maintaining my focus on my goals?
    • Is it on par with people who have already achieved what I want to achieve?

    Also, examine your lifestyle and habits. Are you placing yourself in environments and situations that spark personal growth?

    If the answers to these questions are anything but a definite and resounding yes, then you should seriously consider modifying or completely changing your surroundings.

    The more you understand yourself, the more aware you’ll be of the environment that’s most likely to help you stay focused on your goals.

    2. Let Your Goals, Not Distractions, Distract You

    If you constantly lose focus on your goals, you pretty much render them useless. Distractions and interruptions are the biggest culprits of losing your focus.

    One of the most practical ways to maintain focus is to allow your goals to constantly distract you.

    You’ll inevitably lose focus from time to time. But you can limit the number of times it happens and the duration by facilitating your goals to distract you back to your focus.

    Now, how do you do that?

    It’s simple: make visual cues.

    There’s a saying that if you don’t see it, you’ll probably forget it. Science agrees; the eyes hold the majority of sensory receptors in the human body. Therefore, the eye is a major component of focus.

    The following cues are simply things that will trigger you to focus or refocus your attention back onto your goals.

    What type to use will largely depend on what works for you, but below are a few common ones:

    • Tape your task list or habit tracker to your desk or onto your refrigerator at home.
    • Hang motivational posters at frequently visited sections of your house or workspace.
    • Post-Its – write your goals in a one or two-word phrase on them and stick where you’re sure to see them.
    • Set cues to constantly remind you to stick with your productive habits.
    • Digital devices – alter the screensavers of your computer, smartphones, tablets, or any other digital device you use regularly to display something about your goal.

    Read more about how to stay focused on your goals: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

    3. Modify Your Inner Circle

    Multiple studies have proven that our mindset, behaviors, and motivations are largely influenced by our peer group. Therefore, the people in our lives have an enormous impact on our ability to reach our goals.

    “You are the average of the five people you associate with most…” – Tim Ferriss [4]

    Since people have such a significant influence on the direction of your entire life, if you’re really serious about achieving your goals, you may have to adjust your inner circle. This is where designing or modifying your environment for success becomes tricky.

    Unlike upgrading your iPhone, changing the makeup of your inner circle can be a lot more complex.

    One of the most difficult things to do in life is to sever ties with friends, especially against their will, even if it’s for the betterment of the self.

    It will likely foster resentment because it will require you to betray the very virtue that served as the keystone of the friendship in the first place: loyalty.

    But we must remember that above all else, when we set important personal goals, we must be loyal to ourselves if we are to achieve them. Loyalty to friends, family, or even to your spouse that is detrimental to your success in life will only slow your growth.

    By consciously deciding whom you want in your inner circle, you are taking control of the ultimate direction of your life.

    4. Change Your Environment Completely

    This method is the most extreme, but it can also be the most effective.

    While modifying your environment for it to become less distracting is ideal, sometimes it’s just not enough. Certain elements in your environment, such as your social circle, are harder than others to modify. In fact, some elements that are nearly impossible to adjust.

    There are times when these elements are so out of your control that the only thing you can do to stay focused on your goals is to make more radical and thorough changes. This can mean changing your environment completely.

    Here are some examples of changes you could try to make (only if necessary):

    1. Change your physical possessions (ex.: get rid of your TV)
    2. Create a new virtual set-up (online)
    3. Change your physical workspace (work, home, co-working, cafes, etc.)
    4. Join a new social group
    5. Change locations (home, co-working space, café, etc.)
    6. Change jobs or switch branches
    7. Drop distracting friends or family from your inner circle.
    8. Change your spouse
    9. Move to a different country

    Of course, these are some extreme steps to take. So, only resort to these if you have tried everything else to stay focused on your goals but are still unsuccessful.

    Conclusion

    If you’re struggling to figure out how to stay focused on your goals, it’s a lot harder to make a significant, lasting change without altering some elements of your environment.

    By taking control of the set-up of your environment, you can influence your levels of motivation, enthusiasm, drive, and desire towards the goals you have set.

    Optimizing your environment creates powerful conscious and subconscious motivators that make staying focused on your goals easier. And for many of us, easier is always better.

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    More Tips on Goal Setting

    Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Information Overload Research Group: The Cost of Not Paying Attention – How Interruptions Impact Knowledge Worker Productivity
    [2] American Psychological Association Study: Willpower, choice, and self-control
    [3] BJ Fogg on Twitter: @bjfogg
    [4] GoodReads: Timothy Ferriss: Quotable Quotes

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