When I first heard Bryan Neale use the term “head trash” it immediately resonated with me. For I knew I carried around more than my fair share of negative thinking, Just like the trash in my kitchen waste basket, head trash is stinky. It offers no value. And it gets smellier the longer it lingers.
Unlike my kitchen waste, head trash is not so easily disposed of. Kitchen trash gets disposed of when it is full; not so my head trash. We know how to rid myself of our kitchen trash, but very few of us have a regular way to eradicate our head trash.
In this post, you’ll learn what head trash is and why simplifying our life by removing it can enable us to break through barriers that held us back in the past. I’ll share some simple tips on how to identify, challenge and then clear out your head trash with a focus on bringing more simplicity and focus into your life.
This post is the final post in a 10 Step Process to simplify your work life and to get more focus on the things that really matter. Each step, in and of itself, will enable you to simplify to focus, but I do encourage you to do Step 2: Setting Unambiguous and Unwavering Priorities prior to taking steps 3 to 10.
And a quick reminder: it’s not too late to join the 10-step work simplification challenge! You can revisit all the steps, get additional hints and resources and share your progress and by joining our LinkedIn Group: LinkedIn Group: 10 Steps to Simplify Work
What is head trash? In two words, it is what Zig Ziglar famously labeled “stinkin thinkin”.
Humans always have thoughts, many thoughts! Although experts disagree, the estimates vary from 50,000 to 80,000 a day. Even on the small end, that is a lot of stuff racing through our brain. Head trash consumes a portion of those thoughts that we carry around in our minds, most times barely aware of its existence on a conscious level.
Head trash is comprised of those thoughts that are both negative and not true. They are thoughts that hold us back, that beat us down and that sabotage our potential. Think of head trash as a script that we’ve learned and practiced so many times that it has become memorized, automatic, and pervasive.
Head trash is even more problematic than excuses. When we say an excuse out loud we know, deep inside, that that it is an excuse. Our head trash scripts have become so engrained that we accept them as true and never question them. We are on autopilot, hijacked by these unconscious and unchallenged beliefs.
It’s likely you have head trash about lots of things – work, relationships, success, or your body image. Today I’d like to focus on the head trash you may have about simplicity and focus.
For example, you may deeply believe that more is better, which continually puts you in acquisition mode well beyond the point at which all that “stuff” is affordable, sustainable or worthwhile.
You may believe in scarcity, living it out in actions that put you in a position of never-ending competition for others and always being fearful that you’ll not heave enough, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Perhaps your actions reflect the belief that there is never enough time in the day. A sure sign that you are infected with this head trash is when your days are rushed and frantic rather than paced and flowing smoothly.
When we carry around the head trash that there is never enough time in the day or that you’ll never get caught up or that you can’t stop running at a breakneck speed out of fear of what might happen – you are trapped by your head trash. And that head trash is not getting you happiness and fulfillment. Instead it is likely causing angst, burnout and exhaustion.
Chances are that you don’t believe you can even that the time to address some of the root causes of your extreme busyness. Until you can pause enough to reexamine your head trash about time and simplicity and focus – you’ll never get to the root cause. Because in most cases, it is our thinking that IS the root cause. Our beliefs drive our actions which yield our results.
Here are some examples of the head trash around simplification & focus that you might carry:
- More is better
- Resources are scarce
- I never have enough time
- I can’t say no
- There are too many demands on my time
- My boss doesn’t give me clear priorities
- I’ll never get caught up
- There is not enough time in the day
- I can’t make time to <fill in the blank>
- I never have time for a moment for myself
- I’m the only one who can do this
Remember that your head trash keeps you frozen or stuck. Your script describes the past and not the future state you want to create. Blindly following a script that is shaped by your head trash is getting between you and achieving something important in your life.
So I challenge you to claim the time to rewrite your script. Take the two challenges at the end of this post. Carve out an hour of your time to rewrite your scripts and therefore re-create your life and career.
Just like your kitchen garbage, it is time to dispose of old ways of thinking that are getting in the way of driving unnecessary and unneeded complexity from your life and your work. It is time to stop doing too much and instead to do what is most important. It is time to turn your head trash into head treasure.
The list below is a list of head trash that has been in my head at some time – and presents ideas on how to reframe the belief into “head treasure”.
|Head Trash||Head Treasure|
I never have enough time to do <fill in the blank>
|I am smart enough to find ways to <fill in the blank>|
|There is never enough time in the day to get it all done.||We all have the same amount of time. I choose to spend my time on the most important things.|
|I need to compete for scarce resources||It is an abundant world|
|If I say no to a meeting request, I’ll be viewed as uncooperative.||If I say no to a meeting request, others will value my courage.|
|I can’t ask my team to help during heavy work times.||My team is capable and willing to help carry heavy workloads.|
|Being double or triple booked for meetings is just the norm here.||Together we can set a meeting norm that eliminates people being double or triple booked.|
|Being double or triple booked for meetings is an indication of how valued I am.||Being double or triple booked in meetings is an indication of my inability to manage my own calendar.|
|My role requires that I work 60 hours a week or more all the time.||There may be heavy work periods, but to be at the top of my game, I need rest and relaxation.|
|The most effective leaders are those that put in the most amount of time.||The most effective leaders are those that get the right things done.|
|If a senior leader asks, I must deliver no matter what the request.||If a senior leader asks, I can get clarification and can propose alternatives.|
|Something “bad” will happen is I push back to senior leader.||If I push back to senior leaders, they will respect my insights and candor.|
|I can’t say no to other requests that come from outside my formal chain of command.||I can say no to unreasonable requests or can negotiate better ways to achieve that goal.|
|I can’t put even more work on my team; I’ll just take this on.||My team is willing to help and together to can share the burden.|
Challenge One: Surface Your Personal Head Trash (30 minutes)
It’s hard to dump our head trash when we aren’t aware of what it is. That is the insidious thing about head trash – the scripts that run our lives are so engrained they have become unconscious.
Block 30 minutes of quiet time. Go somewhere quiet where you will not be interrupted and bring some paper, something to write with and a highlighter.
Take 15 minutes to free flow your beliefs about time, simplification, and focus. The goal here is quantity and not quality. Just get it down on paper. The lists in the accompanying blog post might provide some thoughts. These prompts might help as well:
- What is the pace at which I move through the day?
- How do I feel at the end of the day? The end of a week? Month? Year?
- In general, do I feel I am using my time and energy on the most important things?
- What is lacking in my career? In my life?
In the final 15 minutes highlight 2 to 3 beliefs that merit reconsideration. For each, answer these questions:
- What are the costs of keeping this head trash (if you don’t change it)?
- How is this head trash hurting others?
- How is this head trash affecting my career?
Challenge Two: Replace the Trash with Treasure (30 minutes)
Take those 2 to 3 beliefs that you worked with in Challenge One and flip them from trash to treasure.
The accompanying blog post gives you some examples, but here are a few more:
- From “There is never enough time in the day” to “I will make time for what is most important”
- From “I can never slow down at work” to “My pace at work varies depending on what is needed. Sometimes I go fast and other times slower”
Think about those 2 to 3 pieces of head trash you want to discard and then replace with a healthier script.
- How will your new script positively impact your career? Your personal life?
- How will you maintain focus in the next 30 days to:
- Notice when you are acting out your old “head trash” script
- Be mindful of your new “head treasure” script
- Celebrate the progress you make, even the small steps