“Starve your distractions, feed your focus” – Unknown
Last week, I shared some of my thoughts on the word enough and how I let my limiting beliefs toward it pervade my thoughts and dictate my life for years. But it’s not just that word. Mental clutter is something I’ve never seemed to master. My mind has always been somewhere else, pin balling between the past and the future, rarely ever landing in the present.
When I started simplifying my life and paring down my possessions, I felt a weight lifted on my shoulders in the truest sense of the phrase. However, the relief that came from getting rid of my things soon subsided, and I was left wondering, what’s next?
Simplifying your life is not just about getting rid of your stuff. It’s about making room for what really matters by removing what doesn’t.
CLEAR YOUR PHYSICAL SPACE
Having an uncluttered space around you is the first step to an uncluttered mind. Clear off all the surfaces in your surrounding space and put back only what’s essential.
To maintain a clear space, finding a home for everything you own is just as important. Most of the time we throw things on the floor or on the first surface we see because we don’t have a place for it. Designate a place for your purse when you get home, a place for your office supplies when you’re done using them, and so on. That way when you look around you, you won’t be distracted by unnecessary clutter and you can focus on the task at hand.
IDENTIFY YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS
Everyone has negative, otherwise known as limiting, beliefs. Think about areas of your life that stress you out the most, or times where you’ve felt the most crappy or stuck. Then dissect these further into why you think these beliefs exist in the first place and why your brain continues to believe them.
When I was identifying my own limiting beliefs, I told myself that nobody would pay attention to my blog if I made one, and my brain felt like it was gaining something from this because it allowed me to stay in my comfort zone. Then I determined that it’s not that I would suck at blogging, I simply don’t make the time everyday to write and be creative. I had to come up with evidence to negate this belief. I physically wrote down, people have told me many times that I’m a great writer and full of creativity.
Going through that process of identifying, dissecting, and invalidating old beliefs, and then forming new beliefs, allowed me to cultivate one of my passions into a reality. One week later, I took the leap and created my own blog, and I continue to make time for it. And because of that, I have an outlet for my creativity and my passion for writing.
Ditch multi-tasking once and for all. It’s not as easy as it sounds, I know. Slowly incorporate small single-tasking habits into your everyday routine.
Try doing simple tasks without checking your phone, such as eating breakfast or watching TV. Even better, turn off the push notifications on your phone so you won’t get distracted every time your phone lights up or vibrates. Ever since I shut off all of my notifications, I can now focus on and complete individual tasks without once checking my phone. I’ve also noticed that I don’t check my phone as much anymore in general, and my mind is cleared up to focus on the present moment.
Divide and conquer. Make a to-do list every single day and check one thing off at a time (this goes back to single-tasking). A model I like to follow is writing down my three MIT’s, or “Most Important Tasks,” every morning and focus on those three goals throughout the day before moving on to anything else. I find that when I don’t write things down, I go back and forth in my mind about everything I need to do and, surprise, I get nothing done.
If you often feel like you have too much to do, I also suggest doing a “brain dump” where you think about what you have to do and write down everything that comes to your mind. Then you can go back and eliminate the things that don’t matter, and prioritize the things that do.
FIGURE OUT WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY, DO MORE OF IT
Most of the time, we go about our day-to-day lives and never put much thought into what makes us happy. But when we learn to pinpoint them, we can learn to add more of it in our lives. Write down a list of every moment you remember where you felt happy. Were you surrounded by people? Were you in a hot bath surrounded by candles? Were you reading a book? Were you in nature?
A good way to remember and pinpoint what makes you happy in your everyday life is to make a list as you go about your day. Every time you feel happy add it to the list in your phone, on your computer, or physically write it down somewhere you look often. When you get in the habit of tracking what makes you happy, and you look at it regularly, you’re reminded of what lights you up and they become cemented in your brain.
For example, I stopped reading for awhile when I became too caught up in the perceived “busyness” of my life. In these past few months I decided to make time and energy for what matters most to me, what lights me up inside. I recognized that reading has always a source of happiness for me, and now I schedule about 30-45 minutes everyday just to sit down and read. And I’m significantly happier because of it.
Busy does not always mean focused. As Henry David Thoreau said,
“It is not enough to be busy. The question is: What are you busy about?”
We need to remind ourselves to slow down and focus on what’s truly important and adds value to our lives. Simplifying your mentality will grant you the brain-space to identify what you do and don’t care about, and prioritize happy-making habits in your everyday life.