7 Ways to Ditch the Mental Clutter

Mental Clutter Happy Friday and happy Halloween everyone! 

The other day I came across this article – 17 Things People Born In The Late 80s Are Currently Experiencing – a lot of the points made me chuckle, but I also found comfort in the fact that I’m not alone in feeling stuck in a state of limbo.

I’m not young but I’m not old. I have a lot of responsibility but I am not necessarily tied down. I am too young to be an expert in anything but should be working on laying a solid foundation. This leads me to a big question we’re currently facing: should we continue to give our current situation a chance even though we don’t see much of a future in it?

I have friends who like me, feel stuck in their day-to-day job, but quitting would mean putting themselves at risk financially. I also have friends who have paved their own way and are doing what they love. This is the direction I would like to head in, but I’m still trying to determine how best to bridge the gap.

All of these thoughts have been on my mind lately, and have made things a little crazy around here.  Not so much “our schedule is packed and we don’t have time to even sit down” crazy, but more “fear of the unknown” crazy. I hope that makes sense. Without going into too much detail (this post is already long enough!), during these past few months I’ve felt more pressure to figure out what’s next for our life.

We love where we live but we’re ready for something new.

Our jobs here have been stable and we’re thankful for that, but they’re not something that motivates us to get out of bed every morning.

Not knowing where we might be in six months is scary, but also pretty exciting.

It all tends to come full circle each night when my head hits the pillow. Job searching, resumes, cover letters, studying, blog posts, email, social media, family, friends, and bills – the list goes on and on.  Most nights I find it difficult to just turn it all off before the alarm buzzes and everything starts over again.

I know most of us feel this way to a varying degree no matter what stage in life we might find ourselves, but I think it’s important to realize that life is a work in progress. I often find myself comparing our situation with that of others my age, which usually turns out to be a recipe for disaster. I have to face the fact that there will never be a giant flashing sign that will point us in the right direction. A girl can dream though, right?

Like I mentioned, we’ve got some pretty big questions facing us right now and to be honest, it is a bit overwhelming. I’m sure a lot of you can relate. So today I’m choosing to focus on the small changes I can make in order to gain some control back (and to hopefully get a little more sleep at night).

Here are seven techniques I’ve identified that help clear my mental clutter. I’ll be putting these into practice over the next couple of weeks as things get even crazier with the holiday season and I plan to do a progress update in a couple of months to check back in.

Ditch the Clutter

1.  Make a to-do list for the next day before you go to bed

Keep a journal, use the “Notes” app on your iPhone, do whatever works for you. Make a to-do list of what you can realistically accomplish the next day and accomplish it. Whether it’s applying for one job, writing a blog post or answering emails you’re behind on, do your best not to make excuses; set the priority and stay on task. You’ll feel better when you are able to physically cross things out on your list.

This is something I haven’t been doing and it has caused me to lay in bed thinking about everything I need to get done the next day. I stress out about the magnitude of the situation when I could likely accomplish so much more if things were just broken down into manageable steps.

2.  Take a hike. Literally.

Take a hike, go for a run, or walk around your neighborhood. Getting outside the house or office and away from your computer and smart phone can do wonders to clear your head (and for your body).

The majority of my 9-5 job is spent sitting in front of a laptop and there is little to no physical activity involved, but for some reason when I get home I am exhausted. Instead of giving into that part of me that wants to sit on the couch and turn on the TV for the rest of the night, I’ll leave the house for 30 minutes and get in some exercise. It will actually give you more energy (weird, right?) to get the things on your list done.

Find a friend that will do this with you and hold you accountable. It’s easier to make excuses when it’s only you.

3.  Cut out the noise

There are so many daily distractions that it’s often hard not to get sucked in by it all. We all have those guilty pleasures (I’ll be the first to admit it), but make a goal to only indulge yourself when everything on your to-do list has been completed for the day. Whether its reality TV or spending too much time on Facebook, try to evaluate what parts of the day could be more productive spent doing something else.

It might be a good idea to use that same to-do notebook to keep track of time sucking activities for a couple of days. Identify the things that are not adding any value to your day and make an effort to reduce the amount of time you spend on them. For me, seeing something physically written down on paper is more motivation to take action.

4.  Connect with people who inspire you

This point is something that motivated me to start a blog. Whether it’s someone you already know or perhaps even a new connection, there are so many inspirational and uniquely talented people out there who are writing, photographing and sharing their experiences. If you’re feeling in a bit of a rut like me, search for blogs or articles written by people who are interested in the same fields as you, or who are experts on a topic that could potentially interest you down the road.

Leave a comment on their blog, respond to one of their tweets or connect with them on other social media platforms. What are they talking and reading about? Who are they connecting with? If you’re unsure of where to go next, it can’t hurt to explore what others are doing and how they’re making it happen.

I am new to blogging so this is an area of improvement for me too.

5.  Create a productive work space

Similar to point number three, there are so many interruptions that can take your focus away from what’s important.

Make it a priority to create an organized workspace where you can knock out the tasks you need to get done. If you’re applying to a new job, writing your resume and cover letter is something that should have your full attention, not something that should be done while watching the latest episode of Scandal (I know, it’s hard and I’m totally guilty of this!). Try to keep away from the TV and kitchen and instead create an aesthetically pleasing space where you actually enjoy spending time.

This also goes for those of us that work in an office. An office setting can often result in a lot of distractions and wasted time. While it’s good to take a mental break to socialize every once in a while, it’s okay to politely let your co-workers know that you’re working on something important and time-sensitive and you’ll follow up with them as soon as you’re done. Put your headphones in while you’re working and people will be more apt not to bother you. Focus on getting your work done while you’re actually at work so you don’t have to bring it home with you. You deserve that time to work on other tasks that are important to you.

6. Let go of the things you can’t control

Personally I know that a lot of my brain power is spent worrying about things that are out of my control. For example, I recently applied for a job that has the potential to be my dream job or lead me down the path to my dream job. I spent days updating, analyzing and editing my cover letter and resume. I researched hundreds of resume tips online and had several people review my application. I took a break for a couple of days and came back to it with a fresh set of eyes, made a few more changes and finally hit submit.

That was a couple of weeks ago and so far there have only been crickets on the other end. In my experience this process can take a lot of time so I’m trying not to get my hopes up or take the silence as a bad sign.

If in a week or so there is still no change in my application status, I will follow-up with an email or phone call. Other than that, I have to recognize that I worked my butt off on that application, but it is now out of my control and whatever happens, happens.

All you can do is make a plan with the information available to you. If something throws the plan off track, realize that it is only a moment in time and it too will pass. Be flexible and adjust the best you can. Life will adjust with you.

7.  Reward yourself

I’ve always been a big believer in the phrase “work hard, play hard,” but I’ll be the first one to admit it’s often difficult to find the right balance. It has taken a while, but I’m slowly realizing how important it is to make time for the things you enjoy. Put it on your to-do list if you have to. There might always be that thought in the back of your mind saying, “I should be doing something else,” but taking a break can provide a fresh perspective and feeling of motivation when it’s time to get back to work.

So meet your friends for lunch, take a yoga class or have a date night. Whatever it is, life is short so make time for the people and things you love.

There is a lot of information out there on this topic, so I encourage you to find what works for you. These are the seven things that I am personally working on right now.

What do you do when life gets stressful or overwhelming? Do you have a big decision facing you? Are there certain strategies you use to stay focused?

Thank you to those of you that stuck it out to the end of this post. Have a great weekend 🙂 love, adrienne