Clear mind equals clean work

The hours, weeks and months of a year have patterns which we can learn to expect but possibly don't currently respect enough. There are patterns which, if not picked up in time, often get us into trouble. Were you one of those knowledge workers with a busy close to 2014 - a typical end of year mental exhaustion pattern?  If you rely on the quality of your thinking as a tool for productivity, then taking a new toolkit into the New Year  makes a lot of sense. Turning up for your first day back at work after the holidays, suggest that you will already be somewhat rested from the break. To avoid repeating the 'collapse' pattern at the end of the year, you could just weigh into the self-help section of your local bookstore to add to your already groaning bookshelf or purchase another e book and charge up the Kindle. there is no need to even buy anything, there's plenty of advice (even this blog) on the Internet. Let's not devalue the science though - let's pick three things - all science based - that will give you a clear mind for clean work.

1. Make stress not stress. 

Find meaning in what you do and the belief and support to work in the stess zone. It seems counterintuitive, but start by just accepting that stress is going to be part of 2015 and follow Kelly McGonigal's advice and 'Make stress your friend'. This will unfreeze your mind as these three things change the physiology of your body when it is under stress, allowing your mind to work effectively under pressure.

2.  Practice meditation. 

Just do it. There are many forms, just choose one and give it time, every day if you can. This is not a reading task, it is a doing task. If you still need convincing and some instruction, two of my favourite books here are Pico Iyer's The art of stillness and a second by Kamal Sama called Mental resilience: the art of clarity. Around 20 minutes daily will do the trick.

3. Find a mentor.

Finding the right person is a movable feast. There is no one best person - you might well end up with more than one for the different areas you want clarity on. For a really thorough look at how a mentor might help you keep your 'head in the game' over a work year, you could look at Krama's book on the topic. But then again, you could just talk to someone. If you have contacts, your professional organisation or a close colleague would be a great place to start. In the end, this is probably something you will spend money on - and be happy you've got value from that at the end of the year.

The great value in this three step approach is that you not only get a clear mind for your work, but also get a new perspective ON your work and where it fits in the scheme of things in your out-of-work life. Now that's a clean start to the year.

Ragins, B.R. and K.E. Kram, eds. The handbook of mentoring at work. 2007, Sage: Thousand Oaks, California.

Sarma, K., Mental resilience: the power of clarity. How to develop the focus of a warrior and the peace of a monk. 2008, Novaro, California: New World Library.