“The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t.” ― Joshua Becker

One of the challenges I faced earlier in life was a mind that would always jump around, from one thought to another, from one worry to another.

Even when my body is idle, my mind is busy: as the Chinese proverb goes, a monkey’s mind.

And, sometimes I used to hit the zone. I was relaxed. I started to enjoy the moment, putting all-in into whatever I was doing.

But these lasted for a few minutes and soon I was back to my usual self.

So, I started experimenting and seeing what works and what does not.

How can I get into the zone more often?

There is a whole body of research being conducted on this. Scientists are trying to understand what helps us reach that point.

It all starts with decluttering your mind. Over time, we collect too much garbage and experiences that shape our thinking. These experiences leave impressions that we can not get rid of.

And, then there is evolution. How our minds have evolved over thousands of years to react to situations. We still carry the fear our ancestors faced (like the fear of facing a lion) while hunting at Savannah, although the only place where we see a Lion is in a zoo. 

All these have impacted our day to day living.

How do we decide and spend time?

Is there a quick way to get out of this?

Here is what seems to be working for me.

1. Declutter your physical space

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” ― Wendell Berry

Our mind reflects our surroundings. It takes the cue and develops thoughts accordingly. The first thing to do is to declutter your living space. Throw away all the things that are of no value to you, things that you do not remember the last time using. Do the same to your workspace.

2. Meditate

“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there — buried” ― S.J. Scott

Practice this every day. Set aside a particular time. There are a few meditation apps that might be useful. Stick to it for a while. The key to meditation is not to try too hard. Observe how your mind works, from a distance, like you are watching someone else. Increase the meditation time over a period.

3. Listen to music

“Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.” ― Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I have found that listening to the right kind of music helps a lot, usually the ones with a moderate tempo. Experiment with different tracks and see which one works for you.

Right music helps with focus, doing great work and building a good mood.

4. Exercise

“True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united” — Wilhelm von Humboldt

Go out. Go for a run or hit the gym. Physical activity releases endorphins in our brain. It helps to improve cognitive abilities and makes the brain more robust and free. Those who exercise regularly for a while know the feeling. For those who don’t, go out and give it a try. You will thank me later.

5. Set aside a time

“What we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore — plays in defining the quality of our life.” ― Cal Newport

Set aside a time every day for deep work, things that really matter. Find a topic you are passionate about, maybe for an hour first thing in the morning. Doing it regularly will help you  build a habit out of it. Your body and mind will be primed to get into that zone. You will make the transition smoothly.

I have written about the process here in more detail.

6. Stop the frequency of social media

“Behind him, he heard Ronan say, “I like the way you losers thought Instagram before first aid. F**k off.” ― Maggie Stiefvater

Social media is addictive. It continuously feeds our mind with information that is of no use. Use it carefully. If you are the marketing person and need to use it for your work, you will have a more analytical view of the platforms. But if you are one of many billion users, set aside a time for checking your Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat. Do not make those as default browsing whenever you are bored. Instead, pick up a book.

7. Sleep without fear

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” ― Ernest Hemingway

Go to bed at a particular time every day. You will need seven/eight hours of sleep to function effectively. The world will still be here when you wake up.

Stop using your mobile phones an hour before going to sleep. Those blue lights have a negative impact on your sleep.

Stop the notifications. There is a reason behind notifications flashing a  red color. The color red attracts our attention quicker. 

8. Stop absorbing junks

“Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and the junk food as far away as possible.” ― Krista Scott-Dixon

Stop watching junk movies, reading junk books, and taking junk food. They do not add any value. Avoid junk relationships too, with people who are negative and do not support you.

Free yourself from unnecessary consumption. Clean up your body and mind.

Oh, and one more way…

9. Read a book

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” ― George R.R. Martin

Make a habit of reading books. Books that interest you, that take you to another world. Expand your horizon. Open up a new world. Blogs and newspapers don’t count.

Stick to finishing at least a few books every month.

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