3 powerful ways to remove mental blocks while working remotely

The mental block. It's productivity's sworn enemy. It can threaten a deadline and stall any project.

Everyone gets stuck from time-to-time. Especially now with so many accounting professionals working remotely, the comforts and distractions of home-life can delay even the most productive office workers.

So, how can you overcome the dreaded mental block?

Here are three powerful methods you can use when you’ve hit that wall, especially while working remotely.

First, what are mental blocks?

Chances are, you’ve experienced a mental block or two.

According to American business coach and motivational speaker Tony Robbins, mental blocks are "an inability to concentrate, think or reason clearly, resulting in a lack of drive." 

You probably recognize at least one of the following mental block symptoms:

  • A fuzzy head

  • A lack of motivation

  • Overwhelm 

  • Anxiety

More often than not, they take you by surprise and there’s no way of telling how long they will last.

But whatever the symptoms, there are ways to treat and overcome mental blocks. 

In most cases, getting back on track involves proactively following a productive methodology, using the right tools, and creating a good workspace. 

Instead of succumbing to feeling stuck, wasting hours staring at a screen, mindlessly scrolling through social media and getting zero meaningful work done, consider the following ways to get around mental blocks.

1. Listen to Mark Twain: Eat the frog

It may seem counterintuitive to take modern life advice from a Victorian novelist. 

But Mark Twain’s advice is still as useful today as it was back then:

"If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."

This quote motivated the launch of a book, a social enterprise, and a system for productivity used by millions worldwide.

Essentially, the ‘eat the frog’ technique is based on shuffling your priorities into a hierarchical list.

Your biggest priorities with the most severe consequences are your 'frogs' and should be tackled first up. 

The idea is that if you cross off the biggest task on your list, you'll be far more motivated to complete the rest of the day's less demanding tasks.

Like other methodologies, this technique for productivity requires some discipline. Here are some more guidelines of the 'eat the frog' system:

Prioritize tasks into A-B-C-D-E

  • ‘A’ tasks are the biggest, ugliest jobs with the biggest consequences. Do these first.

  • ‘B’ tasks are simpler ones that may be uncomfortable, but don't come with the same degree of consequences if left unfinished. These are tasks like answering emails or having lunch with a colleague.

  • ‘C’ tasks are fun to do and have no consequences, like browsing the internet.

  • ‘D’ tasks are admin-type items on your to-do list that you should delegate or automate to make better use of your time.

  • ‘E’ tasks are those you should eliminate. These are the tasks that, even if you enjoy doing them, are actually draining your time or resources.

The technique recommends prioritizing tasks according to this list. The key is never to do an item from the list below until you have finished the items listed above.

Get started immediately

It won't do you any good to sit and look at the ‘A’ task that's haunting you. Dive in and persevere until it's finished. 

Keep in mind that once it's done, the rest of your duties will seem easy by comparison.

Cluster similar tasks

One of the best time management tips also falls under this productivity system. Grouping similar tasks together helps you work smarter and faster by reducing context switching

Clustering jobs, such as payroll for multiple clients, can help you spend less time mentally gearing up and gathering resources between tasks.

If you're working from Karbon, work through all items assigned to you in a single work item, rather than constantly switching back and forth between different client jobs.

2. Take a break

You may be wondering how it's possible to be productive by not doing anything at all.

The key is to get larger tasks done by breaking them down into smaller tasks separated by a short break. 

The idea behind this technique is that you'll be motivated to work in short bursts toward frequent rewards. 

You can set yourself any interval of time. But if you're unsure where to start, there's a tried and tested method with millions of followers and a handy app called The Pomodoro Technique®.

The basics of The Pomodoro Technique®

This system follows a few simple steps. 

First, choose your task, such as completing a client's tax return. You will be devoting your complete attention to this task.

Next, set your timer (on the app or otherwise) for 25 minutes. The technique determines that 25 minutes is the most manageable amount of time to stay on task and create a sense of urgency.

Then, apply yourself only to this task for 25 minutes—no distractions, no calls, no answering emails. There's debate about what to do if something unavoidable comes up, and ultimately, it comes down to what works best for you and your productivity.

When the timer goes off, take a five-minute break. Repeat these steps until you’ve completed four intervals, then reward yourself with a longer break.

This system is frequently referred to as a game-changer and doesn't cost anything to get started. But the technique isn't for everyone. 

The best advice to follow is to try it for yourself, make an oath to be dedicated, and see if it works for you.

3. Tidy up

Another suggestion that doesn't involve doing work at all is to clean your immediate surroundings. It's another popular technique that many people have figured out intuitively. And with good reason. Clutter affects our brain's ability to focus. 

According to the medical professionals at RACGP: "Our brains like order, and constant visual reminders of disorganization drain our cognitive resources, reducing our ability to focus."

In other words, seeing mess overloads our brains and triggers physiological responses. This is why you might feel compelled to tidy up before beginning work.

But for many, especially parents of small children and those navigating a new work-from-home schedule, it's impossible to maintain a home in perfect order all day, every day. 

So if you can, try to clearly define and designate your remote workspace and keep it as organized as possible.

Knock down the block

Mental blocks are normal and can happen to anyone at the best of times—especially In a period of global uncertainty and added stress.

Try to balance life as best you can while working remotely. 

Use these techniques, keep going, and you’ll be on the other side of the block soon enough.