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7 Irritating Thoughts That Throw You Off Track

7 Irritating Thoughts That Throw You Off Track

We’ve all been there. One minute you’re sailing towards achieving one of your major life goals and then before you know it a sneaky, irritating thought has crept in to throw you off track. The thing is, the mind is a wily instrument, and if we don’t take the time to train our minds, then our minds will end up training us!

In fact, how much time do you even spend paying attention to those thoughts inside your head? Because if you’re not careful, your negative thoughts will throw a spanner in the works when it comes to achieving your goals.

Think about it. Thoughts essentially drive our behavior—before we do something, anything, we have to have a thought first. And when we’re thinking positive thoughts, life is generally pretty good. Those irritating, negative thoughts, however, are the ones that will do us the most harm. Don’t underestimate the power of a series of irritating, negative thoughts one after another, because they can literally throw you off track and turn your life upside-down!

Here’s a list of 7 irritating thoughts to avoid and 7 more helpful, positive thoughts to choose instead.

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1. “I should…”

The word ‘should’ is highly negative and is not conducive to achieving goals in life. When you think the word “should,” you’re essentially criticizing yourself, so its best to avoid this in everyday thoughts.

Replace with: “I have decided to…”

Instead of worrying about what others think you “should” be doing, consciously make your own decisions in life. Take control of what you really want to be doing with positive and empowered thoughts such as “I have decided to.”

2. “I’ll try.”

When we say I’ll try what we really mean is “I’m not prepared to commit to this.” Have you ever tried to get up and walk? Try it now. Try and get up and walk. Did you do it? I’m guessing not. Because it’s not possible to “try” and do something. As Yoda from Star Wars once said: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Replace with: “I will.”

Consider for a moment how much more powerful the words “I will” are, compared to “I’ll try.” When you say “I will,” you’re demonstrating your desire to commit to something wholeheartedly and your goals suddenly feel “possible.” Don’t worry too much about whether you actually reach the goals or not—this is about you taking action so you can move forward.

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3. “I can’t…”

I love to tell people that “there’s no such word as ‘can’t.'” “Can’t” is such a debilitating word that sees you failing before you have even begun. If you’re a perfectionist, this might be your worst enemy because perfectionists often don’t even attempt to try new things for fear of failure. Remember this saying: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So take a chance and delete “can’t” from your thought processes.

Replace with: “What if?”

This is a great alternative to thoughts that begin with the words “I can’t.” Instead of limiting us, the phrase “What if?” opens up a world of possibilities. It encourages solution-oriented thinking, which helps us to solve complex problems. Next time you feel like you’re in a hopeless situation, try saying to yourself “what if” and see what solutions pop up. You might be surprised!

4. “I wish I wasn’t / didn’t have to…”

This is nothing more irritating than a nagging, complaining voice twittering away inside your head. Plus, it’s pointless. If you don’t like something, then take action and try to change your situation. Otherwise, may as well get on with life with a smile on your face!

Replace with: “I choose not to..”

You always have a choice in life. Instead of wishing your life away, take control and make an active decision to either do something or not do it. In the end, you always choose.

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5. “I need…”

How often to you declare that you ‘need’ something and how often do you really, really need it? This word need creates dependency where it’s often not required. Next time you hear yourself think this, have a re-think to determine if you genuinely need what you’re talking about. If you don’t, then let go and minimize any negativity.

Replace with: “I have everything I need.”

By thinking about what you need a lot of the time, you are focusing on what’s missing in your life. This is essentially negative thinking in action! Put a stop to this by reminding yourself that you have everything that you need to get by.

6. “I’m not as good as…”

When we compare ourselves to others we are essentially de-valuing ourselves. These thoughts can leave us feeling like we’re just not good enough. The reality is this: every person on the planet is different and has their own skills & talents, so instead of comparing yourself to other people’s talents, look for your own skills and focus on these.

Replace with: “I’m good at…”

Train yourself to focus on those things that you are good at instead of making comparisons all the time!

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7. “I’ll never get everything done!”

When we have a lot on our to-do lists, it can be easy for overwhelm to kick in. Negative phrases such as this one only add fuel to the fire and build the anxiety associated with lots of tasks. By allowing these sorts of thoughts into your head, you’re essentially taking your focus off the present and are worrying about the future. This can actually paralyze you and stop you from making any progress.

Replace with: “Everything is under control.”

Instead of worrying about whether you’ll get everything done, simply repeat a calming phrase like “Everything is under control” and then slowly and methodically tick each task off one-by-one. All you need to do is take action and stop worrying!
Do yourself a favor and kick these irritating, negative thoughts to the curb and adopt these more useful, positive phrases!

More by this author

Zoe B

A strategist, coach and blogger who shows people how to stop what isn't working for them in life and to start to plan the life they really want.

How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain 6 Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills Effectively How to Stop Procrastination By Overcoming Boredom 12 Inspiring Quotes from Richard Branson that Enrich your Life 7 Irritating Thoughts That Throw You Off Track

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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