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5 Reasons to Clear Mental Clutter Periodically

5 Reasons to Clear Mental Clutter Periodically

Of course you will clear your desk, room and garage regularly of clutter. The space you free up is sometimes astonishing and you wonder how on Earth you actually put up with it. The mental clutter and chaos in our minds is not dissimilar. Once we manage to do a mental clear out, we are amazed at the liberating effect and it really can help us to live happier and more fulfilled lives. Here are 5 reasons to clear all the mental clutter at regular intervals and some tips on how to actually do it.

1. You need to detox.

There are too many things to look after and being super connected with a smartphone just aggravates the situation. We will look at methods of actually clearing it out but first you should consider how physical exercise will help you because the mind and body are inextricably linked. If you read Daniel Amen’s book called Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, you will realize that exercise, proper diet, and restful sleep will help you detox. Once you feel better physically, the mental clutter will begin to clear away. This is so liberating.

2. You need to let go of negative experiences.

Most experts call this closure. It means clearing out the grief, the resentment and the regrets about wrong decisions. These are occupying too much space and they are preventing you from concentrating on new projects and achieving objectives. You will need time for healing after a bereavement. Learn to let it go and walk through the pain. Simple meditation techniques are a great way to help the transition to positivity and hope.

3. You need to get your attention back.

Daylight robbery! This is what the Internet and the smartphones do with our attention. They steal it all the time. We are so districted that it becomes impossible to give projects and relationships our undivided attention. Distractions are useless clutter and compete shamelessly for our focus. These distractions are destructive in that they murder creativity and problem solving. They have been called continuous partial attention by one psychologist. You really have to make a conscious effort not to let them take over.

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4. You need to let go of fears and worries.

These are great busybodies. The ‘what ifs’ are always present. The fears mount up. Yesterday, the train stopped on a high bridge over the motorway and the lightning was scary. I could not clear my mind of what might happen. Nothing did and I regretted that I was not disciplined or mindful enough to dismiss those stupid fears. Fear and anxiety are toxic and they cannot affect the outcome in any way. One expert believes that we can thrash up to 30% of our worries.

“How would your life be different if…You stopped worrying about things you can’t control and started focusing on the things you can? Let today be the day…You free yourself from fruitless worry, seize the day and take effective action on things you can change.”

—Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

5. You are in fight-or-flight mode.

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.”

—Mark Twain

All those troubles, problems and regrets are taking up an enormous amount of space. You are in a constant state of fight-or-flight. When you are in this mode you are always ready for emergencies so blood pressure and stress levels rise. Once you manage to get this into perspective, you will be able to “rest and digest” mentally which can help limit the damage and steer you towards mindfulness.

Tips to help you de-clutter your mind.

1. Try deep breathing.

Did you know that Navy Seals have to use this technique to help them cope with a stressful situation? They are told to use the STOP technique. ‘S’ is to stop what they are doing. ‘T’ stands for taking a deep breath, ‘O’ is for observing what is going on around them and ‘P’ stands for proceed.

“We win in our mind before we enter the battlefield.”

—Navy Seals motto

2. Become aware of the present.

As we said above, worries are pretty useless pieces of baggage and will have no effect whatsoever on the outcome. The best way to get a clear, calm and alert mind is to practise mindfulness or present moment awareness. One effective method is to give your mind the job as gatekeeper and tell it that certain thoughts are not to be let in. You can repeat the mantra “Now is the time to be aware of the present moment. I let go of the past and the future.” Then focus on sounds, bodily sensations and thoughts so that your mind is becoming more disciplined and tidier. As you do this you will become aware of your deeper breathing which is essential. Many people find great benefit in doing yoga and meditation in various forms to achieve this mental de-cluttering.

3. Get rid of regret.

But how do you do this? The US Army has one of the answers in that it teaches its soldiers to do the After Action Review. It is a simple technique to help them learn from the past mistakes and resolve to do it better the next time. Regret is useless so it is booted out pretty fast. The soldiers ask themselves about what was supposed to happen, what actually happened and then they ask how they would do it differently the next time.

4. Make a list.

This is a very important task. You have to make a list of all the situations and relationships which are occupying your mind with negative and useless thoughts. They no longer bring you happiness or contentment. As you look at the list, think of how you can make stronger boundaries in relationships. You may have to have a conversation with someone or you may actually have to de-clutter a physical space to help you gain mental clarity. It is also wise to prioritize certain items as they will need more systematic sweeping. Many of the items on your list can be crossed off as unimportant and they can be dealt with quickly. Promise yourself to come back in a month’s time and see what progress you have made.

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5. Find time for unconscious thought.

Do you have an important decision to make or are you tempted to call in a colleague for a showdown? The best way to clear the decks is to give yourself time. Take time out and also make sure you do something completely different before jumping in head first. When you are in the gym, you start the process of what is known as unconscious thought. Your best ideas come from these moments. It also brings to the surface new approaches, techniques and ideas.

Now, how about some mental tidying up every now and again? Time you got back on track so your priorities are at the top of the list again and that you can think clearly without all that clutter.

Featured photo credit: 301/366: Headache by Gonzalo Malpartida via Flickr via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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