How to Eliminate Your Mental Obstacles So That You Can Become 10x More Productive
“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
-John C Maxwell
There is tremendous freedom in eliminating nonessentials and obstacles from your life. Nearly everything in your life is, frankly, nonessential. In the big picture, only a few things matter.
You can start living a life on your terms, a life defined by freedom and choice — but first, you must remove your mental obstacles.
Sadly, most people are living with huge obstacles that are preventing them from achieving true focus. Most people’s lives are stuffed with merely “good” things, but very few “great” ones; as a result, their time, energy, and daily activities are usually spoken for — somewhere, a boss/colleague/family member is dictating most of their life.
But what do you do when you no longer want to be controlled by others’ agendas? How do you start living life on your terms?
By removing mental obstacles, distractions, and anything that will prevent you from fast progress and productivity.
Stop Celebrating “Being Busy.” Start Focusing on Learning, Listening, and Growing
“The most successful people I know are not busy — they’re focused.” -Jeff Goins
When you are “busy,” you are allowing the trivial to dictate your life, not the truly important.
#1 NYT best-selling author Tim Ferriss once wrote, “Being busy is a form of mental laziness.” It means you haven’t set firm boundaries and said “no” to things that, frankly, don’t deserve your time.
If you want to be more focused and productive, then stop celebrating “being busy.” Start celebrating doing excellent work on truly important things — learning, listening, and growing.
It takes discipline to not become “busy.” We’re all busy — with work, our families, our friends. It’s not bad to be busy. But when that busyness becomes your main focus, every area of your life will suffer.
If you have many priorities, you have no priorities.
If you let it, your world and the people around you will take all your time. Your time is not unlike your paycheck; if you don’t budget for things, you’ll have nothing left over by the end of the month.
This is how lives are wasted — by doing thankless work for ungrateful takers that didn’t deserve your time in the first place.
Are you focused, making tangible action steps towards what truly matters?
…Or are you just “busy?”
When you’re busy, you are on autopilot. You can’t see the hours slipping away, time you’ll never get back.
Wrote the ancient philosopher Seneca:
“Indeed the state of all who are preoccupied is wretched,but the most wretched are those who are toiling not even at their own preoccupations…If such people want to know how short their lives are, let them reflect how small a portion is their own.”
Who’s in charge of your time?
Or everyone else?
Why Most People Will Live a Life of Regrets — and How To Avoid That
You have a very short time here in this life. If you’re not careful, you might end up regretting a whole lot of it.
In his book Essentialism, Greg Mckeown described a well-known study where a research team asked hundreds of elderly people their biggest regrets. Not surprisingly, one of the biggest regrets was not spending time on the right things. Remember — at the end of the day, most things aren’t important.
I once heard a story of an old man who looked back on his life and saw regret. There was one memory that stuck out most to him — one December, his office gave him a chance to make an extra $10,000. Of course, that meant he’d have to work 12–16 hour days for the month. The man thought about it, and considered the cost — he wouldn’t be able to see his family for the holidays. Still, he decided to go for the money.
Decades later, he said he hardly remembered the money — he could’ve made an extra $100,000 dollars that month. It wouldn’t have mattered. What he remembered most was not spending time with his children — time he’d never get back.
Most things are unimportant. It’s your responsibility to find out what is truly important, and protect that time at all costs. Your boss, your projects, your income — in a few years, you probably won’t remember 98% of your problems you’re dealing with this week.
But you will remember a few things — your happiness, family, health, and free time.
Stop celebrating “being busy.” Focus on the important things.
Ignoring Distractions is a Conscious Choice
“How much you improve is up to you.” -Anders Ericsson
The idea of taking your thoughts captive is thousands of years old.
Paul the Apostle once wrote some advice to a struggling church. They were distracted with a good many things (not the least was persecution for their Christian beliefs).
“Take your thoughts captive,” he instructed. Paul encouraged them to make all their thoughts and actions obedient to their goals.
Ignoring distractions is a conscious choice.
Most people never take the time to build their self-discipline with controlling their thoughts.
Acclaimed author Cal Newport once wrote in his book, Deep Work:
“Network tools [social media, email, the Internet] are distracting us from work that requires unbroken concentration, while simultaneously degrading our capacity to remain focused.”
The routine of the majority is to wake up and immediately check their phone.Their email, notifications, the news, and social media dictate their thoughts.
This trains them to live reactionary lives, unfocused and frantic. If you condition yourself to always respond to whatever tasks come up — no matter how trivial or mundane — you make it 10x harder to focus and enter peak states.
Choose to ignore distractions.
Reinvest Your Free Time Into Learning and Growing
“Successful people don’t see it as free time, they see it as the only time they have to do the things they really want to do in life — and they don’t take a minute for granted.” -Nicolas Cole
Your goal is to create a shift in your mindset. This will create emotional momentum, which will manifest itself into extremely focused behavior.
Most people don’t reinvest the time they’re given outside of work — they’d rather be entertained and distracted. Choosing to learn and grow on your personal time isn’t common.
But this is exactly what the world’s most successful people and top performers do. They know their ability to focus and avoid distractions is the difference between making thousands of dollars a year and millions of dollars a year.
Ironically, most people’s personal time can actually be about as stressful as work. In the words of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:
“On the job people feel skillful and challenged, and therefore feel more happy, strong, creative, and satisfied.In their free time people feel that there is generally not much to do and their skills are not being used, and therefore they tend to feel more sad, weak, dull, and dissatisfied. Yet they would like to work less and spend more time in leisure.”
Csikszentmihalyi is saying work is a positive environment because there are specific goals and priorities that naturally keep you focused.
But “free time,” for all its freedom and lack of schedule, can actually become agitating for many people.
Most people don’t realize having positive, restful free time is a skill they need to develop.
You don’t have much free time outside your obligations. It’s very tempting to use it to binge on TV, sleep, or numb out on alcohol/drugs.
If you want to be someone who is extremely focused with no tolerance for distractions, this mindset starts with how you choose to spend your free time.
Focus on learning and creating, not entertainment and distraction.
You should make sure the outside of you is a good reflection of the inside of you.” -Jim Rohn
Removing distractions isn’t easy. Your environment will take from you as much as you allow it to take. You get what you tolerate.
If you want to become 10x more productive, then remove the obstacles standing in your way. At the end of the day, most people are stuck in “busyness,” not really getting anything done despite feeling exhausted and tired all the time.
One of my favorite parts of Greg Mckeown’s Essentialism is his simple solution to achieve better results: less but better. You must remove much if you want to accomplish much.
Choose the focused life — a life where you do few things very well, not a lot of mediocre things done poorly with bad results. Eliminate obstacles, and you’ll start moving faster and achieve more — without feeling exhausted all the time.
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