One of the biggest oppositions to making forward progress in your life is distraction. It takes your mind off your goals and onto something of less value.
Often time these distractions come from the clutter around us which becomes clutter in our minds. So here are some ways you can mentally and physically clear out the cobwebs to pave a clear path to your goals.
1: Edit your day.
This first one is kind of a foundational step. You can use this step to build more steps to declutter.
Keep a notepad and pen with you for an entire day (or multiple days if necessary). Throughout the day try to stay in tune to anything that is either out of place, unnecessary, or just needs to be organized.
When you come across such a situation make note of it and move on. The goal at first is to list it and not actually fix it. This will be done once the list is completed. Once you feel confident that most of the real problem areas have been noted you can start chipping away one item at a time.
Before you know it you will go though a whole day without coming across a major distraction (at least one that you could have prevented).
2: Clean out and organize your bookmarks.
Most of us probably use browser bookmarks or favorites in one way or another. And if you’re like me you have amassed a plethora of links. Over time you end up with about 10% of links that you use on a regular basis and about another 25% that you refer to from time to time.
So chances are you have a bunch that you can get rid of. So go through them, delete what you don’t need and organize what you have left. And when you organize them, try to keep the most commonly used ones together. This will make your web surfing much more efficient!
You might not think this is a big deal but try looking at it this way. Let’s assume you can save yourself a few seconds every time you go to click on a bookmark by not having to search through your bucket-o-bookmarks.
Now think of how many times you click on different links in any given day. You can see how this time can add up.
But more than the time it’s the unnecessarily wasted brain power you used to search for something that shouldn’t have to be searched for in the first place.
3: Get rid of books you no longer need.
If you’re reading this blog I have to assume that you like to read. And if that’s the case you probably own a few books.
And if that’s also true I can make an educated guess that you have a few books that you don’t need anymore (this may be a huge understatement for some).
So if any of this is true, go through the books you have and mercilessly get rid of everything you have no more use for.
Then, once this has been accomplished, organize them and, just like you bookmarks, try to keep a shelf full of just the books you are currently reading or that you most often reference.
And, also like the bookmarks, you will find that you spend less time searching for a book as well as less distracted by the multitude of options, many of which shouldn’t be there in the first place. And, unlike the bookmarks, this will clear up a lot of space as well.
4: Decide on the undecided.
Write down all of the things in your life (decisions, opportunities, etc…) that have yet to be decided.
This could be something small like whether or not to cancel a magazine subscriton or what to do about carpooling to work. Or it could be a more important decision like whether or not to change doctors or accept a job offer.
Then go through the list and pick out the easy ones. Now give it a few minutes thought and then right down your answer. Then move onto the bigger questions.
Here, you may need to consult a spouse or colleague, but, if you can, give it a few minutes thought and then write down your answer.
Then over the next couplf of days/weeks use this a guide to make these decisions once and for all and get them out of your head for good.
You might be wondering about the why I think that a few minutes is sufficient for making, in some situations, big decisions. The fact is, you’re subconscious had probably been chewing on this for weeks and already made the best decision for you.
It then only takes a few minutes to let your conscious mind become privy to this valuable information.
5: Go through your clothes.
One of the most common distractions for humans is what to wear. Part of the problem is that, just like the bookmarks and the books we probably only use half, if not less, or our clothes in our closets.
This can be done in a 3 step process. First, pick out everything you wear on a regular basis. Second, pick out the items that you wear on occasion.
Finally, pick out the clothes that are left that you have worn in the last year (I say a year because some items might be seasonal). What’s left, GET RID OF IT!!!
6: Reduce junk mail.
Nothing is more distracting (and annoying) than getting those phone calls from telemarketers. This, like any other distraction, can pull you away from the important things in life. For this, you just need to go to http://donotcall.gov and sign up to get your name off “The List”.
Then there’s spam! This can be just as obnoxious. At Least you can delete them instantly. But what if you have hundreds a day? There are a few good options here.
Get some spam filtering software. This software filters emails as they are downloaded to your computer and moves the junk to a different folder than your inbox. This option is OK but can be a distraction in and of itself.
Go to your webmail and see if you can turn on or configure server side filtering. Server side filtering is when your email provider uses the filtering software on their end so your computer never even sees the junk.
The advantage is that you have less emails to download and less to mess with on your end. Just make sure to periodically check your spam folder, either on your computer or on your webmail, to make sure it’s not filtering legit mail.
Get a new address.
This is by far the most effective way to stop spam in its tracks. The problem is that you will have to contact everybody and let them know of your new address. And if you have business cards or other forms of advertising with this info you may not want to do this.
But if you can hack it, get a new email address. I would suggest a gmail address if possible. This is Google Mail and it has a great server side mail filter. It’s free and is independent of services. So if you change from cable Internet to DSL you won’t have to change your email address.
The key is to keep your old address as a junk address. Then, next time you need to use an email account for registration or signup you can use this address. If it then gets sold to advertisers you won’t care. You can just go into that account every week or so and wipe all the mail out without batting an eye. It feels good!
Finally, you have paper mail. What about this? There isn’t a do-not-mail is there? Well, yes and no. I recently came across this website http://donotmail.org. It’s a petition to get one established. It also has some great info on the issues of junkmail and other tips. But for now, recycle, recycle, recycle!
7: Don’t put things off!
Try to look at tasks like a hot potato. When they get put in you hands make sure to take care of it ASAP. Try to see that you will get burned if you don’t. One of the biggest distractions is a build up of unfinished tasks.
Not only do they need to be done but they weigh you down more and more. The lighter the burden the more you will get accomplished. So if something comes your way that you will need to do at some point in time, get it done NOW and you’ll never be weighed down again.
This doesn’t have to be a religious experience or anything (though it certainly can be). I just know that to stay focused and on task you need a clear mind.
And there’s no better way of clearing your mind that sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing, and just letting your mind relax. Do this for about 15 minutes a day (same time is even better) and you will find yourself feeling more focused and clearheaded throughout the day.
9: Fix things that need fixing.
You know what I’m talking about. That creaky door, the wobbly table, that leaky toilet. These are the things that remind us that something isn’t right. These are the things that, every time we notice them, make us feel like we are behind on our responsibilities.
But getting them done and out of the way has the opposite affect. When you get this stuff done you get this sense of accomplishment and feel like you’re ready take on bigger and more important tasks. So make a list of all these items in your life and start with the simplest, work your way to the more challenging tasks and get it done.
10: Let It Go.
Sometimes there are things cluttering your mind that you have no control over. These may be hurtful memories from your past or worries about the future. Either way, you need to let go of these burdensome thoughts and feelings and move on. They will only eat at you if you don’t.
And if you can’t don anything about them than there is no benefit to holding on. I know this is easier said than done but I also know that this is ability is a skill that can be acquired by anyone.
So learn it and use it. Your mind will thank you!