How to Combat Mental Overload


Mental overload sucks! Having too much on your mind can overwhelm you and prevent you from being effective with your work, creativity, and being able to enjoy the moment.

It’s having a clear mind that can really help you focus on what matters – in your work and life. Anything from “what project should I focus on today” to “what’s my true calling and purpose” can be more easily pondered with a clear mind.

Yeah yeah, sounds great and all, but how do you actually go about clearing your mind? Well, here are 5 steps to help you focus on what matters:

1. Decide What You Really Want to Accomplish

Answer the “so what?” question regarding your work, freelance work, and/or business. What are you really wanting to accomplish with what you’re doing? Write it out. It could be related to your mission, passion, life’s work, or it could be purely for the money – both are fine. The point with writing it out is to clearly know why you’re doing your freelance business.

challenges concept - Businessman cheering and looking rocky mountain with challenges

This will give you clarity as to what you’re doing and why. Writing out what you really want to accomplish serves as the foundation for the rest of the steps – and eventually clearing your mind and focusing on what matters.

2. Write out Tasks That’ll Help You Achieve

Now that you know what exactly you want to achieve with your freelance/work/business, write out tasks that’ll help you with that. Don’t know where to start? Use the 80-20 Rule: focus writing out the the 20% of tasks that will get you 80% of your desired results.

Be as specific as possible. The more specific you are with writing out the tasks, the easier it will be to clear your mind. The reason is because you won’t have ambiguity and won’t have to think about what needs to be done – you’ll just get down to business and do it.

Here are some simplified examples:

  • Bad: make more money, get more clients / Good: increase freelance income by $1000, get 2 new clients each month
  • Bad: become a better designer / Good: learn X to be able to design Y
  • Bad: build my website’s traffic / Good: do these 1 or 2 specific tasks every day or week for x hours

3. Write out Unessential Tasks You’ve Been Doing

The next step is to write out all of the unessential tasks you’ve been doing that aren’t important. Y’know, they’re the tasks that look important on the surface and pad out your to-do list nicely to make you seem busy, but they’re ultimately unessential to what you really want to accomplish. A big part of clearing your mind is to become effective, not just productive.

Again, if you’re having trouble, refer to the 80-20 Rule: write out the 80% of tasks that are unessential and only bring you 20% of your desired results.

Concept of difficult choices in business

Be as honest with yourself as much as possible. The more you try and convince yourself that some tasks is important but deep down inside you know isn’t, the more you’ll be holding yourself back. Suck it up, tear down the barriers, and ruthlessly analyze all of your time-wasters and unessential tasks.

The purpose of this step is to see what to stop doing. To identify tasks that could be small things you don’t even notice yourself doing until you actually write it out and realize it’s not important.

4. Start Doing Only the Essential Tasks

Start putting the 80-20 Rule into effect: only do the small handful of essential tasks from step 2 each day. The tasks that actually bring you closer to your desired results (your answer from step 1).

Next, ruthlessly stop doing the unessential tasks from step 3. If you can’t stop them all at once (and who can – we’re all human, with our hard-to-give-up time-wasting pleasures), then reduce little by little, one unessential task at a time. Start with the easiest unessential tasks that you can drop, then move onto the more difficult ones. This way, you’ll feel better because you’re making progress, and that will encourage you to reduce unessential tasks even more.

Of course, you should strive to reduce all unessential tasks, but even if you can’t get all, something is better than nothing.

5. Begin Enjoying Your Increasingly Clear Mind

If you are doing step 4, then you’re starting to do less tasks during your day – while still getting desired results and thus getting more of what you want to accomplish with your freelance business. Basically, you’re being effective, not just productive.

business man success on top of mountain

So now, by doing less tasks, you’ll have less things to juggle or worry about, and you’ll have less on your mind. You’ll also have less guesswork (no more of those “what else should I be doing” moments) because of your specific game plan from step 1.

You’ll have more time and mental energy to enjoy the moment and think about the really important things in your work and life:

  • How to do more of the work you really want with the clients you’d really love
  • How to expand your side business
  • How to start executing that great idea that’s been on the back burner
  • How to develop your ideal lifestyle
  • And whatever else that’s important to you

Clear Your Mind and Focus on What Matters

Again, through trial and error over the years, I was able to move away from a constantly-cluttered mind and endless to-do list to a clear mind. And hopefully these steps will help you to clear your mind and focus on what matters as well.

To have great clarity with what you’re doing. To be effective with your work. To enjoy the moment. To have a clear mind, and be able to focus on what matters to you.

To refresh, here are the 5 steps to clear your mind:

  1. Decide what you really want to accomplish
  2. Write out tasks that’ll help you achieve what you want
  3. Write out unessential tasks you’ve been doing
  4. Start doing only the essential tasks
  5. Begin enjoying your increasingly clear mind

Your turn: what other ways have helped you to clear your mind and focus on what matters?

All images from BoBaa22’s potfolio on Shutterstock.

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