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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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    Last Updated on December 9, 2019

    7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

    7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

    The world has become a very distracting place, you don’t need me to tell you that. Where once we could walk out of our house or office and disappear into our own world with our own thoughts, we are now connected 24 hours a day to a network that’s sole purpose is to make us available to anyone and everyone at any time they choose to disturb us.

    Of course, it is very easy to sit here and say all you have to do is turn off your electronic devices and just allow yourself several hours of quiet solitude; but the reality is far harder than that. There is an expectation that we are available for anyone whenever they want us.

    However, if you do want to elevate yourself and perform at your best every day, to produce work of a higher quality than anyone expects and to regain control over what you do and when you will need to regain some control over your time, so you can focus on producing work that matters to you…

    The good news: You do not have to become a recluse. All you need are a few simple strategies that will allow you enough flexibility in your day to stay focused to do the work that matters and still allow you to deal with other people’s crises and dramas.

    Here are 7 ways you can stay focused and be less distracted.

    1. Find out When You Are at Your Most Focused

    According to research, brilliantly documented by Daniel Pink in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, our brains have a limited capacity to stay focused each day.[1]

    From the moment we wake up to the time we turn in for the day, we are using up our brain’s limited energy resources and, depending on the time of day, we will be moving between strong concentration and low concentration.

    This means that for most people, their optimum time for sustained concentration and focus will be soon after they wake up. For others, it could be later in the evening—a kind of second wind—but that is rare.

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    Once you understand this, you can take time to learn when you are at your best and to protect that time on your calendar as much as possible. If you can, block it off and use that time for the work you need to do that requires the most concentration each day.

    2. Get Comfortable Using ‘Do Not Disturb’ Mode

    We have the ability to switch our electronic devices to do not disturb mode. Where all notifications are off and your phone or computer will not alert you to a new email or message.

    Now after testing this function for a number of years, I can happily report that it does work.

    When I sat down to write this article, I put all my electronic devices to do not disturb, closed down my email and began writing. I am safe in the knowledge that until this article is written, and I turn do not disturb off, there will be no interruptions or distractions.

    Of course, it is not really about whether do not disturb works or not, it is whether you are willing to turn it on or not.

    Most people believe they have to be constantly available for their boss or customers. This is not true at all. What has happened is because of your always available status, you have conditioned these people to turn to you first whenever they have a problem.

    You are not actually helping them at all. You are preventing them from having to think for themselves and develop the skill of problem-solving. By not being so readily available, you help them a lot more.

    What it comes down to is your boss and customers are going to be far more positive with you, if you deliver your work to the highest quality and on time than you being available 24/7. Trust me on that. I also tested that one.

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    3. Schedule Focus Time Every Day

    This technique is a lot easier than you may think.

    First, you figure out when you are least likely to be disturbed. For me, that is between 6 and 9 am. for a lot of my clients, they find the first 90 minutes in the morning at their workplace is when they are not likely to be disturbed. This is important because you want to be building consistency.

    Most people start their day by checking their email and other messages. While they are doing that, they are not going to be bothering you. Now there is no rule about when you should be checking your email. The chances are email is not going to be where you want to spend your most focused time, so you can decide to check your email at say 10:30 am.

    Dedicate 30 minutes from 10:30 am to 11:00 am for email processing and use the first 90 minutes of your day for doing your most important work. You will surprise yourself by how much work you get done in that ninety minutes.

    4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

    One of the inevitabilities of life is there is always a plan for the day. The choice is whether the plan you have is a plan of your own making or not. If you don’t have a plan, then the day will take control of you. Other people’s priorities, urgencies and dramas will fill your day. As the late Jim Rohn said:

    “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

    If you take control and make it a habit to plan out what you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, you will find yourself staying more focused on your work and be less likely disturbed.

    Now when I say plan your day the night before, I do not mean you need to spend an hour or so planning and mapping out every minute of the day. Planning your day should only take you around 10 to 15 minutes and you only need to decide what 10 things you want to complete — 2 “must do” objective tasks and 8 “would like to do” tasks. What I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique:

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    Do not be tempted to go beyond 10 tasks for the day. When you do that, you do not have enough flexibility in your day to handle crises and other unknown issues that will pop up throughout the day.

    When you do not build in flexibility, you will soon stop planning your day. Only plan tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your work and projects.

    5. Learn to Say “No”

    I am sure you’ve been told this before. We are wired to please and this results in us wanting to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. The problem is we cannot do everything and every time you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to another opportunity. You cannot be in two places at the same time.

    Jay Shetty shared an inspiring video on JOMO “Joy Of Missing Out”. Here’s the video:

    Rather than allowing ourselves to be succumbed by FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), we should replace that ‘fear’ with the “joy” of missing out. Because of our need to please, we say yes to things we really don’t want to do; yet when we do that, we miss out on doing things that bring us joy—creating something special, spending time educating ourselves and just having some quiet alone time with ourselves.

    Learn to say “no” every time you get a notification to your phone. Ignore it. Learn to say “no” to your colleagues when they want to gossip. Learn to say “no” to volunteering when the thing you are being asked to volunteer for does not excite you. Just learn to say “no”.

    By saying “no” to opportunities, distractions and interruptions, you are saying yes to better and more meaningful things. Things you do want to focus your attention on.

    6. Create a Distraction-Free Environment for Your Focused Time

    This has been possibly the most powerful tip I learned when it comes to focusing on what is important. Have a place where you do only focused, high-concentration work.

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    Now this place needs to be clean and only have the tools you need to do your work. If it is writing a report or preparing a presentation, then it needs a table and a computer, nothing more. Files, paper and other detritus that accumulates on and around people’s desks need to go. A clean, cool and well-lit environment is going to do a lot more for your focus and concentration than anything else.

    The dining table in our home is where I go for undisturbed, focussed work. I take my laptop or iPad, and only have my writing app open. Everything is closed down and the computer is in “do not disturb” mode. There is nothing else on the dining table just my computer and my water tumbler.

    Because that is my designated focus area, I only go there to work when I have something that needs total focus and concentration. I am there right now!

    7. Be Intentional

    The reality is, if you absolutely need to get something done then you need to be intentional. You have to have the intention of sitting down, focusing and doing the work.

    There’s no magic tricks or apps that will miraculously do all your work for you. You need to intentionally set aside time for undisturbed focus work and do it. Without that intention, you can read as many of these articles as you like and you still will not get the work done.

    It is only when you intentionally set yourself up to do the work, turn off all notifications and do whatever it takes to avoid distractions will the work get done.

    The Bottom Line

    The strategies and tips I shared in this post will go a long way to helping you become better at focusing on the important things in your life. No matter what they are, you are in control of your time and what you do with it and where you spend it, never give that control away to anyone else.

    Protect it and it will be your servant. Give that control away and it will become your master and that is not a good place to be.

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    Featured photo credit: Manny Pantoja via unsplash.com

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