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Achieving clarity of thought

Achieving clarity of thought can be immensely difficult at times, it apparently seems the most difficult to achieve when we need it the most. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts right now it’s ok, take a few breaths, count to 10 and work through the following steps.

What is your overarching goal?

A muddy mind can often be caused when striving towards something and feeling as though you are not moving any closer to the goal you are trying to achieve. Take a moment now to think about what it is you are trying to achieve, what is the overarching goal?

Scale your goal back

To remove the feeling of being overwhelmed understand that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. You may want to run a marathon and find you are frustrated because you can only run continuously for a mile. From that you may possibly enter into a spiralling cycle of self doubt and negativity, even worse you may start to feel feelings of anger or jealousy towards people running past you or people who have already completed a marathon. It’s ok to have these thoughts and feel this way but you need to bring yourself back to a state of calm where you are balanced in your own emotional state.

The next meaningful step

Now take your initial overarching goal and think about the smallest meaningful step towards this goal. What is meaningful will vary from person to person, all that is important at this point is what is meaningful to you. That being said your next meaningful step should be more molehill than mountain, it should be something that is achievable in a relatively short period of time.

The next meaningful step is now your goal. Focus you mind on this meaningful step towards your aim or goal and let it become the only focus in your mind. It’s ok to be aware of the overarching goal but try to see the next meaningful step as the only current priority. This should hopefully allow you to remove some if not all of the emotional baggage that come’s with wanting to achieve something that is massively out of our reach.

Break it down into tasks

Now that the problem has been reduced in scope and your goal much smaller in size, working out what needs to be completed to achieve said goal should be much easier. It’s time to break the goal down further and work out what needs to be done to complete the next goal. Think about the steps to complete your goal, the steps shouldn’t be too small that they can be completed in minutes but shouldn’t be so big that you become overwhelmed again.

You should find that the goal can be broken down in to around 5 or less steps to completion, if it’s any more than that you may want to consider revisiting the next meaningful step part of this exercise and reducing the size/scope of your next meaningful step.

Completing the tasks

You may be tempted to start putting deadlines on your tasks e.g I will complete this by Tuesday, that by Thursday and will be finished by next Monday. I urge you not to do this, in my experience all that will happen is you will find yourself repeatedly putting things of to the last minute, which eventually leads to missed targets and a bombardment of negativity that will surely follow.

Instead, try to think about timed actions that you will complete which will lead to completion e.g I will spend 30 minutes working on x each day. There is some element of risk involved (as with anything) that you will miss a day, but missing one 30 minute session will not be as detrimental as missing the target completely. You will often find that after each 30 minutes you are ‘in the zone’ and will carry on for longer.

By setting such a small obstacle you will reduce the chance that you will procrastinate in order to avoid attempting the obstacle at all.

Keep the Goal in mind

It can be easy to start working on a task an end up forgetting about the goal you are working towards, this is not helpful. Put steps in place to ensure that you do not forget why you are doing what you are doing.

It may help to have a dedicated place for your goal and break it down by overarching goal, next meaningful step and subsequent tasks. Then to set a reminder to make sure you look at it every day. You could use Trello or a notepad this is down to your own personal preference. But, you should break it down in such a way that only your active ‘next meaningful step’ has tasks.

Here is an example:

  • Overarching goal
    • Next meaningful step
      • Task 4
      • Task 3
      • Task 2
      • Current Task

Rinse, repeat and reflect

Now that you have spent the time working through your thoughts you should have achieved a much better clarity in your mind. Work on the tasks you’ve given yourself in small, consistent, timed chunks. Make sure you reflect at regular intervals to assess the situation and make changes as appropriate.

Once you have completed your current ‘next meaningful step’ repeat the process above from start to finish to work out your next next meaningful step and task. Then, keep repeating until you complete your overarching goal.

Hopefully this article has helped you to stop feeling overwhelmed and improved your thinking about your goals, if it has or even if it hasn’t reach out to me on twitter and let me know!