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Decluttering Your Working Brain

It wasn’t until I started working for myself that I realized how much mental clutter was killing my productivity. I worked as middle management for a medium-sized corporation. I’d gotten where I was because I knew how to look like I was working and at times make others, even my boss, feel like they needed to work harder.

But the truth was, I wasn’t productive. I spent a lot of time doing tasks that I told myself helped productivity, but didn’t. And yes, I was always busy and often exhausted and overwhelmed.

I was lying.

Then I began working for myself, after a corporate takeover. And this is long before the pandemic, back in 2014. I think a lot of people are coming to this realization now. Long hours don’t equal productivity. I actually have to finish something to get paid.

You know, common sense back before modern work transformed into multiple layers of management, all vying for the C-suite while hoping no one realizes they really have no idea what they’re doing.

So after five years of working on myself…Yes, really working this time, these are the key things anyone who’s trying to make it out there as a 1-person show needs to know.

1. Take Care of Your Mental Health

Seriously, without it, you don’t have much. Your outside work life reflects what’s inside. So if it feels disorganized and cluttered out there to the point that it’s hard to get stuff done, that starts on the inside. You’ll feel tired, agitated, and sometimes just plain unmotivated.

What’s the use?!

I could go into all kinds of details here. But then I’d use up my space for other points, so I’ll let you figure out what mental health means to you. But self-compassion is huge. Be willing to forgive yourself when you’ve made mistakes, learn from it, and move on. You’ll be a better, more productive person for it.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate

When you’re self-employed “time is literally money”. Yes, that is the correct use of the word literally, despite what pop culture tells you.

Working in the Gig Economy, if I don’t work, I don’t eat. But I’m also a driven person. I will spend hours trying to solve a problem, or months trying to teach myself a new skill. In fact, I’ve mused that this would be my humble brag in an interview.

Interviewer: “Tell me. {clears throat and looks down at me across the desk over their dark acetate glasses} What is your greatest weakness?”

Me: “Well, I like to solve problems.”

Interviewer thinking, well that’s not a weakness.

Me: And I can’t stop until I’ve solved it, no matter how far it takes me down the rabbit hole. It’s a compulsion. But I’m aware of it and working on it. {Big Grin}

My point here is no one is good at everything. And there are certainly times we need to delegate tasks that others can do better than us. If someone else could solve that same problem 1000X faster, would that be a good use of my time?

Sometimes, that means investing some money in technology or hiring social media management services Dallas.

Either way, it’s a better use of my time if I focus on what I’m good at most of the time. That’s not to say that I don’t try to learn new things. I’m always game for a good online course and some online detective work. But I shouldn’t count it towards work time. Or stop an otherwise productive day to learn something new.

It would be a waste of my time.

3. Eliminate Distractions

So for me, this was visiting news sites. Later it was Quora. Ohhh, Quora. How you tempt me to answer some random question I’ve answered 1000 times!

So I told myself that I was just taking a break from the drudgery of the constant output of content….Hmmm to create more content on Quora. Interesting.

I didn’t realize I had developed a horrible mental trigger that was causing me to do the dreaded productivity killer, “multi-task”

I’ve heard other online content creators describe this phenomenon more recently. So, apparently, it is “a thing”.

You’re working just fine. You’ve achieved that transcendent state of flow. And smack. You hit a roadblock, and you’ve just gone from 100MPH to 5 in less than a second.

So without thinking, you escape that emotion of having the wind abruptly sucked out of your sails. That’s an emotion, right? To make your escape, you open a Google search, and you’re off to social media, news, forum, or whatever your cup of green tea.

And there goes your afternoon content calendar. Now, sometimes it’s a quick escape, and I’m back. But either way, instead of letting myself feel that emotion, so I could, you know, keep on keepin’ on, I circumvented it, and so it keeps on happening.

But what can I do? I live on Google. I can’t work as a content creator without it. I knew I had to break the cycle. So I chose to download an extension to block my trigger pages. And I downloaded a habit app that uses positive reinforcement to break bad habits. Very effective.

So yes, sometimes it is absolutely worth it to stop doing what you’re doing and solve the problem. Now, get back to work!

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