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Creating head space

(No, not the app)

Have you ever sat down to complete a simple task, and found yourself unable to even string together a coherent sentence?

Or maybe you’ve gotten to the end of the day and struggled to do anything beyond changing clothes and lying down to go on your phone?

Our brains are so overloaded with information from an excessive amount of outlets, that it’s hardly surprising we struggle to find a moment of uninterrupted quiet time.

Even times in our day that are meant to give us a well-deserved break are often inundated with distractions.

A dinner-break turns into you sitting at your desk, dinner beside you, filtering through the morning’s emails and any ongoing tasks, instead of taking a mere 20 minutes to sit elsewhere.

You wake up and immediately reach for your phone, scrolling through hours of content that is usually negatively impacting you, whether consciously or not, and setting the tone for your entire day.

Your focus is always under attack from things like emails, social media notifications and minimal interactions with others that take you away from tasks you are trying to prioritise, but can’t.

This is where the process of finding head space comes in.

In the working day, we expect to be bombarded with multiple tasks that seek to distract us from every task that was being done before it, with little room to let your brain relax.

Yet, we haven’t acknowledged that by accepting this is the case at work, we carry this home with us as well. We start to slip into the habit of neglecting tasks we should prioritise, for the very things that distract us from them.

Take, for example, the common task of cleaning.

You’ve decided that on Saturday morning, you’re going to tidy the kitchen top-to-bottom. You’ve had a busy week, multiple deadlines and work that has been taken home with you.

You probably wake up on Saturday, pick up your phone and BAM.

You’re reading fifty Buzzfeed articles, texting back and forth with friends and getting notifications from ten different groupchats before you’ve even gotten out of bed.

By the time you do get out of bed, you’re probably so full of information from all these processes, that the thought of cleaning your kitchen merely seeks to motivate you to go back to bed.

We slip into habits that mean finding a moment of genuine quiet is borderline impossible.

Instead, we could be maximising our productivity and wellbeing by taking time for head space, and here are a few ways we can do that:

Turn your phone on Do Not Disturb at night and in the morning.

By avoiding notifications, you’re avoiding the temptation to be distracted by multiple things at a time when you’re brain is most susceptible to becoming cluttered (if something is urgent, the same person calling you twice will go through even on Do Not Disturb settings).

The likelihood is that the majority of notifications you’re immediately reacting to probably take up a good portion of your day, when in reality, they aren’t urgent.

Set aside small pockets of time to check your social media/general notifications, rather than acting on an ‘as and when’ basis.

Please, for the love of God, stop checking your emails every five seconds!

The real focus-killer for most of us is our emails.

We just can’t help ourselves- the notification is there, we click and before we know it, we’re taking half an hour scrolling through countless emails, of which probably only 1/3 are immediately important and require action.

When you also factor in the amount of pointless information and back-and-forths we have over email, it’s never just a 30-second check, it’s suddenly a colossal task.

Simply set up your emails to show when you’re out of hours, and like with social media and general notifications, set aside a specific portion of your day to check your emails.

(Tip: make sure it’s not first thing in the day – not only is that a mood-wrecker, it also means you’re not tackling the highest priority task first thing in the day, therefore minimising productivity)

Don’t fill up back-to-back meetings and/or social events!

You probably always feel like you have no time in the day….and it’s true!

People are so hellbent on maximising every second of their day that they consider every second not filled with any type of appointment is a second wasted.

It’s not!

I’d like you to consider the space between all of the meetings, events and tasks in your day as head space time.

What I mean by that is, it’s time you don’t specifically have something in mind for, as you’ll know what’s best on the day. Whether it’s a 10 minute walk before your dinner-break, or sitting with your earphones in and daydreaming for half an hour, your brain will thank you for the quiet time!

Daydreaming is not a useless function and you’ll probably find that giving yourself time to do so will result in lots of great ideas and solutions for you.

Kind of like when people say they have great ideas in the shower….which is probably because most rational people aren’t on their phone when they’re in the shower.

Adapt your socialisation

It might sound like a very robotic way of wording it, but it’s not.

If you’re in a working space that’s full of people you speak to day in and day out for your job, then you’ll probably benefit from finding head space by having some time to yourself.

Alternatively, if you have a job that is quite isolated, such as working remotely, you’ll benefit from finding head space by talking to others.

When we’re constantly surrounded by others, we can feel compelled to enter into conversations we might not necessarily have the time for at that exact moment, and as a result feel quite exhausted socially because of it.

When we’re working in isolation, we can find ourselves longing for a distraction in the form of a simple conversation with someone else, which can sometimes help trigger a train of thought that produces a great idea.

You won’t always be one or the other, but just being mindful of it is extremely beneficial.

Make your mental health as big of a priority to you as your physical health

We know that when we get a painful headache, we should take paracetamol, lie down and avoid harsh lights and noises for a while.

So why is it that when our brain feels so overloaded in information that we’re on the borderline of crying in the toilets at work, we don’t acknowledge that our mind needs time to heal as well?

Finding a way to help our mental health might not be as clear cut as the solutions for physical health, but they are equally important.

The next time you find yourself side-lining a low mood, don’t!

It certainly isn’t easy implementing these things, but even just having an awareness of the benefits of them is enough to move forward.

I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to switch off from the outside world and just be with your own thoughts for a while, even if it’s only five minutes.

You’ll be surprised by how much more productive, energised and positive you’ll feel if you do this on a regular basis.

This article is based on ‘Episode 36 – Creating Headspace’ of the Dark Coffee Podcast.