How to overcome mental blocks and get more done

Business owner suffering from a mental block about his work

Mental blocks are very common but they can stop you achieving your goals. Rachel Miller suggests some simple techniques that can help you overcome these productivity roadblocks

Everyone faces a mental block from time to time. Maybe there’s a task that you keep putting off or perhaps you have an idea for a business but you can’t seem to make it happen.

Mental blocks stand in the way of your productivity and can have far-reaching consequences. You may underperform at work, miss deadlines and lose out on valuable opportunities. Your creativity can suffer and your confidence can get knocked. In the worst-case scenario, you may develop a fear of failure that results in self-sabotaging behaviour and even burnout .

However, there are ways to overcome mental blocks so that you can reduce your stress levels and reach your goals.

What is a mental block?

A mental block is a psychological barrier that stops you from getting something done. You may feel overwhelmed or unmotivated and you don’t know where to start. It’s also common to feel as though you can’t think clearly and don’t have the mental energy to tackle the job.

A mental block can be associated with specific tasks that you don’t enjoy or which you don’t feel confident about. But a limiting mindset can derail any plans, causing you to overthink things and procrastinate as the deadline draws near. Mental blocks happen when our thoughts and anxieties stop us making progress; understanding the thought processes that contribute to mental blocks is a key part of removing the impasse.

Why do we get mental blocks?

There are lots of reasons why you might develop a mental block including:

  • Decision fatigue: business owners often get overwhelmed when they must make a lot of decisions.
  • Clutter: a messy workspace can trigger stress and raise cortisol levels which leads to anxiety.
  • Procrastination: anxiety levels go up when you keep putting things off, making it harder to complete a task.
  • Imposter syndrome: worries about your own abilities and feeling like a fraud can be paralysing.
  • Perfectionism: setting impossibly high standards for yourself can be very demotivating.

Need to know

If you're finding it difficult to think clearly, it could be caused by any medications you might be taking; your doctor may be able to change your prescription to reduce that feeling of brain fog. Lack of sleep and poor nutrition can also be contributing factors. A deficiency in vitamin B12, for example, can cause memory loss and depression. B12 is in meat, eggs and dairy so vegetarians and vegans may need to take a B12 supplement.

How to overcome mental blocks

There are lots of ways to overcome mental blocks. Some involve stepping away from the task at hand, others are about coming at a project from a different angle. Here are some useful tips:

  • Focus on your wellbeing. Your health is key. A well-balanced diet, plenty of water and a good night’s sleep are essential if you want to feel energised and productive.
  • Take some time out. When you’re faced with a mental block, you often find your thoughts are going around in a loop. Take a break or do something different to break that cycle.
  • Free your mind. Practising meditation or mindfulness can reduce stress and bring you clarity; if silence doesn’t work for you, try putting some music on.
  • Try journaling . Lots of successful entrepreneurs swear by journaling. Jotting down your thoughts every morning can free your mind from negative thought patterns. This practice is very good for anyone who struggles with fear of failure or imposter syndrome.
  • Move about - ideally outside. A short walk in the fresh air can relieve stress and be energising at the same time; all forms of exercise calm the nervous system and release endorphins - so do what you enjoy.
  • Change your approach. Find a new way to start a task. You could start by brainstorming ideas with a colleague or write down the objectives of the task to remind you why it matters.
  • Change your environment . Try working in a café - especially one where lots of other people are working. Research has found that ambient noise can improve your focus and being surrounded by busy people can make you more productive.
  • Do some research. If you have hit a roadblock, sourcing some new ideas or resources can help you to get going again. Perhaps you need some expert guidance or you may need to improve your skills to be able to complete the task.
  • Use a productivity app. Apps such as Todoist, Evernote, Monday and Trello can help you organise your tasks, make schedules, track progress and collaborate with others. They also help break big projects down into smaller tasks.
  • Declutter your workspace. Working in a messy environment can be stressful and distracting and it certainly doesn’t help when you can’t find anything.
  • Make a to-do list the night before. Improve your productivity by making a plan. If you make a to-do list the night before, your mind often works on things while you sleep so you start the day with new ideas.
  • Get “in the zone”. Flow is a state of being fully immersed in what you are doing and periods of flow can be incredibly productive. Choose a work environment where you won’t be interrupted and turn off all notifications.
  • And finally… maybe the task is done and it’s time to move on. If you’re a perfectionist you may have a lot of unfinished tasks on your to-do list simply because you can’t accept that they are complete. Ask yourself, what will happen if I leave things as they are?

Are mental blocks stopping you from starting a business?

Starting a business is a big step and many people talk about it but never take the plunge. More often than not this is due to negative self-talk and mental blocks. Here’s how to work on the self-limiting beliefs that could be holding you back:

  • Ask yourself what is stopping you from starting a business; write down all the fears you have.
  • Now ask yourself whether these concerns are really valid - would other people agree with you?
  • Understand that your fears are natural; starting a business is hard but your beliefs about your own abilities may not be valid.
  • Make a list of your abilities and achievements to turn your negative thoughts into positive affirmations.
  • Now write down all the reasons why you want to start a business. This will help you unlock your motivation to succeed.

What does the * mean?

If a link has a * this means it is an affiliate link. To find out more, see our FAQs.