Do this when you’re in a rut

A guy in a rut

Regardless of what you have going on, we all go through unwanted periods where we feel stuck. In our work. In our relationships. In our bodies.

Aside from true mental health issues (which I know little about), this ebb and flow…this push and pull…it’s inevitable.

One strategy I use when this happens to me is a process I call trimming. Here’s how it works:

1) Eliminate the unnecessary tangibles.

The literal, physical objects you own. Chances are you own more than you need. Way more.

Schedule one to three hours on a weekend. Put on your favorite playlist. Go in your closet, room, and office.

One by one, take every knickknack, every piece of clothing, every dusty box…Rate how much it means to you on a scale from 0 to 100. If it’s anything less than a 90, get rid of it.

A helpful question to ask is, “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I pay to have it?” For many things in our lives, the answer is $0.

People often make serial killer jokes when they enter my space because it’s spotless and organized 100% of the time. But it’s not like I’m cleaning my room every day. I just don’t own enough stuff for it to ever get cluttered.

As cliche as it sounds, decluttering your space has an incredibly positive and immediate effect on your mental clarity. I feel like I have room to breathe when I spend my days in a clean and organized area.

One last note for the sentimental folks:

I’m not sentimental. I keep a shoe box with my favorite memories over the years, but that’s it. So I know I have my biases.

If you truly care about something, keep it. You don’t have to get rid of all your stuff; you just have to be honest about whether you actually get value from something, or you just feel it gives you value when you remember you have it.

Possession bias is real. We overestimate the value of things when we own them already and we underestimate the value of things when we don’t.

It may hurt in the moment, but the fear of not having something is always more powerful than actually removing it from your life.

Get rid of those shoes you haven’t worn in two years.

2) Identify the draining intangibles.

Toxic relationships. Limiting beliefs. Low ROI activities.

This step takes a bit more work because these are more ambiguous.

The key here is to capture the things that are draining you of your energy and work backwards to find their source.

Examples:

I’m frustrated by my friend’s flakiness and lack of communication.

Why → It’s exhausting to be the only person in the friendship putting effort into it to keep it alive.

Why → One of my core values is communication and I feel like he and I see things differently on that front.

Why → Because I haven’t voiced my frustrations clearly and effectively.

Result → I need to set up a call with him to candidly express how I feel and find some sort of a compromise.

I procrastinate on the scarier things I need to get done to run my business.

Why → I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and I doubt whether or not I can make it work.

Why → I’m not clear on exactly what actions I need to take.

Why → I haven’t broken down my projects into specific, actionable tasks.

Result → With each bigger, broader project, I need to break them each down into the smallest tasks possible so I am crystal clear on what I actually have to get done, step by step.

I feel unmotivated to do certain things I know I need to do.

Why → I’m almost always tired.

Why → I don’t get consistently good sleep.

Why → My nightly routine gets damaged because I often look at my phone the last hour or two I’m in bed.

Result → Set a rule: When I lay in bed to go to sleep, absolutely no phone use. I can only read or try to sleep.

Conclusion.

Before you try to find the perfect challenge or set of practices to add to your life to make it more fulfilling, first eliminate any waste.

When someone has cancer, you don’t just pump them full of antibodies; you remove the tumor.

When a writer is editing their draft, they don’t just add better paragraphs; they cut out all the unnecessary ones.

When you’re going through a rut, don’t put more things on your plate; throw away all the nonessentials getting in your way.

Put in the work now to make things easier for yourself going forward.

Don’t do more. Do less, but better.