We often live with a layer of distractions muffling us and keeping us from focusing our energy where we really want it.
Start building habits to cut through that noise.
– When you are not at work and you find yourself gnawing away at a coulda woulda shoulda set of thoughts about work, cut it short. Quickly – without getting distracted into reading new mail – open your email and send yourself a very concise note expressing the actions you want to take to resolve or improve the situation. Extract the constructive part from that fuss in your brain, dismiss the rest, send that email to your working life so you can get on with the off-duty part.
– If you're, as Mrs. Lovett says, always broodin' away on your wrongs what happened heaven knows how many years ago, quit sitting there nurturing that tension like a hen on an egg. Take one small immediate step to improve things – and I mean little and right now – then give yourself the rest of the day off from it.
That letter which is half practical questions about an upcoming family event and half guilt-slinging? Just answer the practical part courteously, refrain from any reciprocal slinging, and let go of the rest of that noise. That person you think must be mad at you for some dumb thing you did months ago that you've been afraid to contact? Find something small you can thank 'em for and send a postcard. "Just found myself listening to some Chet Baker and thought of you. Thanks for introducing me to the good stuff!" Open a door you've been holding closed; if they come through to reconnect, great, and if not, at least you aren't spending energy on worrying about it.
– Fretting over something you Should Be Doing? Shit or get off the pot. Sitting on the couch thinking "I really should be exercising"? 20 minutes non-stop action right now. Just do it. It's only 20 minutes and you could blow that checking on Twitter for cryin' out loud. Dishes in the sink? Do 'em now or decide at what time you will do them, set an alarm and relax as you wish until it goes off. Stack of unread books by the bed? Take all but the one you want to read right now away – make a "new arrivals" library shelf at home, representing them as possibility not obligation – and be sure to get anything you've figured out you really don't want to read after all gets out of your life. Here's the big secret: you don't have to finish the book (read the post, listen to the podcast…). Life is short; spend your energy where it enriches your soul.
– Thinking "I'm creatively stagnant" as a commercial comes on in the random tv show you turned on and started watching? Turn off the idiot box; it saps your time and your will. If you want your life designed around certain actions, design your rooms around them. Take a look and see if you've done that with television. If you want to do more of something, grease the slope toward doing it and make it less convenient to fall into habits of distraction. Cancel that cable subscription you don't really use except to get things you can just get online or on DVD when desired. Unless "watch more movies" is your goal, reduce your Netflix membership so there aren't those red envelopes around nagging you that you "should" get to them. If you haven't found yourself revitalized and your life improved by something you watched on the television within the last 10 days, find a better place for it than dominating your living room. Or at least get a cabinet for it today so you can hide this tool until you need it.
Open your eyes to the blockcades you put between you in this moment and where & who you really want to be. When you see them, knock them down. Build bridges to your creative, happy self. Chaucer observered six hundred years ago "The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne". Our time in this world is brief, spend it where it matters to you and not where it doesn't.