August 22, 2014

How to Gain Clarity and Focus Quickly and Easily

“For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.” ~Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

If you follow the advice in my article, Trying to Move Forward? Try Stopping, then next step is what I call, a “Brain Dump.” I know what you’re thinking – after a week away clearing your head, there isn’t anything to dump, right? Wrong.

The purpose of clearing your head is so to gain clarity. The “Brain Dump” brings it all into focus.

journal graphicThe “Brain Dump” Process

1. Grab a notebook or a pad of paper and a pen and go someplace quiet where you won’t be disturbed. Play some quiet relaxing music in the background. Be sure your phone is shut off, too. Give yourself plenty of time for this exercise.

2. Open your notebook, uncap your pen and start writing. Just write whatever comes to mind. This is called “stream of consciousness” writing. At first you might just write, “I don’t know what to write” but soon the thoughts and ideas, dreams and goals will start to flow.

The key is not to try.

Don’t force the words; just let them flow. Write whatever comes into your mind and keep on writing and keep on writing and then write some more. The first time I did this I wrote over 30 pages, single spaced, of stuff.

But when I was finished I had more clarity than I ever had in my life. What I wanted to do and my game plan was in those pages. My purpose and my dreams came alive in those words.

This is an amazing process that is almost indescribable. I think you really need to do it in order to appreciate how powerful it is.

Keep it up.

If you don’t already keep a journal, I highly recommend that you do. I do both an audio and a written journal every evening. I have a voice recorder on my iPod Touch and I just ramble about my day. Then I also write. And no that’s not typing; it’s pen-to-paper writing. I find both extremely helpful in collecting my thoughts, celebrating my successes, figuring out my next steps and just generally getting clear and focused.

The “Brain Dump” and journaling are effective processes that help you connect with your true self. They also help you to be calm and reduce stress. Something we can all use a little more of.

If you give this a try, please let me know how it goes for you.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please be sure to share them in the comments.

And don’t forget…

you can opt-in to receive my goodies here:

Please don’t worry – I promise I will never sell, give away, fold, spindle or mutilate your information!



Trying to Move Forward? Try Stopping.

“It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.” ~Bear Bryant

When you start a business, you need passion, purpose, and planning. But what happens when you have been in the game for a while? Does the work that was once effortless feel like a struggle? Do you feel overwhelmed by all that you want and need to do?

Maybe it’s time for a vacation from business.

I know this sounds really, really hard. We are professionals. We are committed. We are driven and determined. We are doing all of those things that all of the marketing and success gurus tell us we’re supposed to do.

All of them.

All at once.

And that’s the problem.

We find ourselves overwhelmed, frustrated and stuck. We no longer have a clear picture of what we wanted to accomplish or how to get there.

I often use the analogy of a ladder when I talk about setting goals. In order to climb the ladder you need to know what’s at the top. You need to know why you want to climb the ladder and you need to know what the first rung is. You might have an idea of what the second and third rungs are but you also know they may change as you go. And you know that you can only climb one ladder at a time.

What happens when you suddenly realize that you are trying to climb more than one ladder? What happens when you realize that you have lost focus and direction? The ultimate goal is probably still the same but in trying to figure out the next rung of the ladder we often get sidetracked and start trying to climb a different ladder or several different ladders at the same time.

And then we usually land on our butts.

If you think you might be trying to climb too many ladders or you’ve already landed on your derriere, don’t give up. Just stop.

Recently, a friend of mine was experiencing a similar situation. She has wonderful ideas and services to offer but she had lost perspective and focus. Here is what I recommended and if her situation sounds a bit too familiar, then consider this..

Maybe it’s time to just step away from the keyboard (and the touchscreen!) for a vacation.

At least one week.

Yes, you can. (Shhh, just listen for a minute.)

Just stop working, for one whole week. Don’t get bogged down in planning it. Just stop.


Here’s How…

  • Reschedule meetings and appointments. Just say, Hey, I have a scheduling conflict, can we reschedule this to X or Y date? Short and simple.
  • For most of us, there isn’t anything in our professional email that can’t wait a week. You can set up a vacation auto-responder if you wish. Just say you will be unavailable until X date and that you will be in touch then.
  • If you have a newsletter list or a community that expects to hear from you regularly just send out a short little message to let them know what’s going on.

Don’t explain, rationalize or justify. You don’t need to give a long, drawn out explanation (they won’t read it anyway). Just say that it’s summer and the blue skies and green hills or the ocean waves or whatever are calling to you and you are going to take a break.

And Then Do It.

Do not check your business email and don’t take calls. Don’t read anything business related – no books, no blogs, no newsletters, no nuthin’. And no excuses.

For one week. Yes, 7 days. No, not 5. No, not a long weekend. One whole week.

You need time to really relax and clear your mind and enjoy yourself. I know from experience, it’ll take a little de-tox time. So give it a week.

Yes, I am serious and I think you should seriously consider doing this.

My friend started her week long brain-break within hours of our phone call. She took one meeting that had been scheduled for a while, posted a blissful “see ya” on her Social Media profiles and sent a brief “sayonara” to her email list. And I haven’t heard from her since. And trust me, if she were cheating, I’d have found out!

Ya know, I meant it when I said No Excuses! If my friend can do it on a moment’s notice, you can too. I promise, the world will not come to an end. Yes, I guarantee it.

If you stay at home, let your family know your plans. Give them permission to tell you to Shut Up! if you dare mention anything even remotely business related. They love you, they will understand that this is good for you and they will support you. If not, then have them call me. I’ll explain it to ‘em.

I do this once a year. It’s not a week of family vacation, either. It’s a Me, Myself and I week. I read trashy novels (you know, the kind I don’t post to the Reading List on my LinkedIn profile!) I sleep decadently late, I eat really unhealthy food (chocolate!) and the most exercise I get is a walk on the beach if I really want to. But then again, just sitting on the beach is good too! I work on my family tree project (apparently my Grandfather was quite the dandy in his youth!). I update my family scrapbooks.

What do you like to do when there’s absolutely nothing to do? Or what would you like to do?

Is there a bookstore near you that you can just go browsing and find a few new friends? If you have a nice library then re-introduce yourself to its hallowed halls (except for the non-fiction and reference departments!).

Take a drive and see where you end up.

Watch all your favorite movies and eat unhealthy amounts of popcorn and ice cream – with hot fudge (on the ice cream, not the popcorn).

Well, you get the idea.

So, what are you waiting for?


Next up: Your mind is clear, now what?

If you have any questions or suggestions, please be sure to share them in the comments.

And don’t forget…

you can opt-in to receive my goodies here:

Please don’t worry – I promise I will never sell, give away, fold, spindle or mutilate your information!



It’s All About Me, It’s Personal and Best is Best

I just read this great post – Resolved: Stop Blaming the Pancake over on 43 Folders and It Occurred To Me…
It’s All About Me.
On New Year’s Day 2009 I made the resolution to never make resolutions. I’ve stuck to it and wow! what a difference it has made in my life. I have been happier, had less stress and accomplished more.
That’s not to say I am blindly stumbling along in life either (see Don’t Waste Your Time With Goals) but I am doing what I love doing, when I want to do it. I am learning not to worry about what I can’t control and focus on the commitments I have made to myself.
This frame of mind change is a work in progress since for years I used New Year’s Eve and Day to write my vision for the year and plan goals in every area of my life (personal, family, professional and community). But all that did was stress me out over things I couldn’t control and depress me when I spent New Year’s Eve dwelling on all the things I wanted to happen and didn’t happen – blaming prospects who didn’t buy, kids who, oddly enough, had their own ideas on what makes them happy (go figure) and a host of other things that didn’t happen the way I wanted them to.
I took to heart the idea of commitments (again, see Don’t Wast your Time With Goals) and came up with 8 that really are important to me. I didn’t set out to make a certain number of them or to make ones in certain areas of my life. They are just 8 things that I commit to doing for myself. They don’t rely on anyone else doing anything. These are for me. Some are personal, some are professional and some family but – wow – blinding flash of the obvious!…
As I wrote that last sentence it occurred to me – they are all personal. They are all things that I want to do for me, myself and I. Whether they relate to my business, my health, my whatever – they are all personal. No one can do them for me, only I can do them. They are ultimately for me. They might influence someone else’s life in some way but I have no control over that; that’s up to them.
Meg Ryan’s character in “You’ve Got Mail” makes this point perfectly – at one point Tom Hank’s character says something like, it wasn’t personal, it was business. And she comes back and says “It was personal to me.” And then she goes on to say that shouldn’t everything be personal? Her point being that even in business matters, it’s all about people.
And it really is all about me and no, that’s not a selfish thing. It is self-ish. But since I’m the only thing in my life I can control – then yea, it’s all about me.
It’s personal.

P.S. The most important commitment I made to myself is To Do My Best. And then let it go. As that renowned philosopher, Hawkeye (from MASH fame) said, “Best is Best.” And that’s all there is, there ain’t no more.