How to prevent the brain fog that stops you thinking straight and moving forward

by Peter Shallard

How to prevent brain fog, think straight and move forward

We all – us entrepreneurs – want to be “in-the-zone” as much as possible. The term gets thrown around a lot. What does it actually look and feel like?

Crystal clear thinking.

Singular purpose.

Impervious to any distraction.

Excited. Enthusiastic. Passionate.

Like a laser-guided missile homing in on a target.

Like the total alignment of mind, body, spirit and purpose.

The feeling that you’re doing precisely what you’re supposed to be doing – and loving it at the same time.

Sounds good right? I don’t know about you, but as I write this I can practically taste the ZONE! 

Now let’s snap back to reality

The average week for an aspiring entrepreneur contains next to zero time spent “in-the-zone”.

In fact, some research we’ve done over at Commit Action shows that most business owners are lucky to feel this way more than two or three times a year.

The day-to-day reality of building your own business is a ton of brain fog.

Brain fog is the squinting, eye-rubbing, what-am-I-supposed-to-be-doing(?) feeling.

It’s worrying that even though you’re working, you’re not doing the right things. The most important things.

It’s barely being able to work on a project for twenty minutes before opening your web browser to a site you don’t need – or even really WANT – to visit.

It’s distraction. Stopping and starting.

Feeling exhausted at 3pm, even though you only started work at 10am.

Feeling like there’s SO much to do while SIMULTANEOUSLY being mad at yourself for not doing enough.

It’s doubting WHAT you’re working on – whether or not it’ll succeed – even as you’re working on it.

It’s trying to win arguments with yourself in the debating chamber behind your eyes.

It’s the knowledge that – while all of the above is happening – you’re accomplishing far less than you know you’re capable of. 

The grim truth about entrepreneurship is that for the hundreds of thousands of people trying to hit a home run… their brain on any given weekday is a pretty scary place.

For 99% of entrepreneurs, getting into “The Zone” is a happy accident. It only happens when the stars align.

For most people, brain fog and overwhelm is normal. Being ignited with motivation is a rare surprise.

How does Brain Fog take over your life?

It starts with something I call The Monday Morning Pause.

It’s that moment when an entrepreneur sits down at their desk after the weekend.

They’re full of optimism. The week is a blank slate stretching in front of them, loaded with potential. They’re rested, rejuvenated and READY.

And they sit there. They wonder where to begin:

What’s next? 

How can I really move the dial? 

How can I pick up the ball and massively carry it forward??? 

This is the beginning of Brain Fog and it is… 

The terrifying cost of misunderstanding planning

When the first thing you do in your week is decide what to do next you’re wasting valuable mental energy.

This isn’t psychobabble.

There’s an empirically measurable brain chemistry cost to sitting around picking out what to do next.

Deciding, figuring it out… whatever you call it… it costs us. It depletes a critical mental resource that scientists can measure, but are just beginning to understand.

And it literally ruins your day. 

The research – largely from Positive Psychology scientists operating out of NYU and FSU – shows that the only thing that completely replenishes this mental resource is a good night’s sleep.

Basically, we wake up with a finite amount of mental fuel. Once it’s gone, we’re done for the day. 

When we’re depleted, we cease being the best version of ourselves. We can’t access willpower, discipline or understand delayed gratification. It’s brain fog game over.

When an entrepreneur feels overwhelmed and exhausted – yet somehow knows they haven’t accomplished much – it’s because they’re draining that mental fuel by “deciding”.

They’re depleting themselves deciding what to do next, instead of by actually doing stuff.

This creates a journey of utter soul-defeating struggle. 

No matter how optimistic you start your week (or day!), you’ll keep running into the brain fog wall.

You’ll keep finding yourself hitting alt+tab and loading Facebook, or whatever your distraction of choice is.

You’ll start a ton of new projects, but seldom finish any… resulting in a ton of open loops weighing on your mind.

You’ll exhaust yourself to the point where you practically can’t follow a conversation with a loved one… and yet it’ll be a day where – looking back – you’re frustrated you didn’t accomplish more.

Your sense of overwhelm will grow and grow, making your emotionally fragile. Eventually you’ll lash out at loved ones or sink into a depression… or both.

What’s worse, is you’ll start to build a belief that your business is very difficult and hard. Your business will feel more and more like a never ending struggle as time goes by.

It breaks my heart to see this last, long term consequence of chronic Brain Fog.

I’ve known entrepreneurs to give up on their plans and abandon GOOD business ideas, simply because they felt it was too much of a struggle. It felt impossible. Too difficult.

But the harsh truth is they were never actually working that hard. They were never really struggling with anything… but themselves.

They were burning themselves out trying to “figure out” their business. Instead of taking the necessary action to move forward. 

As Terry Pratchett once said, “The truth is out there, but the lies are inside your head”

The ultimate antidote to Brain Fog

I’ve picked up a habit of doing a something around this time of year.

It’s a little ritual I share with some of my most successful clients and friends – people who’ve built hundred million dollar businesses or who live lives of unimaginable freedom.

And they all do this thing. Or some flavor of it.

The truth is, I picked it up from these people. Not the other way around.

In the ten years of my Shrink-for-Entrepreneurs practice, I’ve mastered it.

It’s something you should only do once a year. That’s why the holidays and New Year’s Eve – despite being just another day spinning around the sun – are the perfect time for this.

Imagine if you could spend a few hours – only once a year – doing something almost everyone totally misunderstands.

Imagine if doing that one thing could free you from Brain Fog for the next twelve months.

Hell, imagine if it could just HALVE your brain fog for the next twelve months!

Two days ago, I sent an email out to some of my closest readers and friends to test the waters… and I think I’m going to do something totally new.

The ultimate antidote to brain fog is going to be available to you as a quiet little ritual – something you can dig into over the holidays – and it’ll be ready a few days before Christmas.

I’m dedicated the rest of the year to preparing and building this for you. More info coming very soon, so keep your weather eye on your inbox.

Who’s with me?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Will Bontrager December 10, 2015 at 10:10 am

Yes, floundering around with a thousand things that seem important to do and having to decide which one takes precedence, or perhaps start a new one in order to align some of the others, yes, that’s a good way to accomplish burnout.

I’ve already done that, so don’t need to do it again. Having a project invitingly open and ready to continue first thing in the morning, windows on the desktop open, cursor at the spot where the next batch of code needs to be written, has done wonders for me. Then resume the stride, which was on pause and not on stop.

Thanks for a wonderful post.

Will

Reply

Bill Joyce December 10, 2015 at 10:49 am

OK! Wht wait? Put it out today.

Reply

Brian December 10, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Gotta build anticipation, right!? 😉

Reply

Rohi Shetty December 10, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Hi Peter,
Yes, brain fog is the best term to describe this universal affliction. I’m looking forward to the antidote. Thanks again, Peter.

Reply

hussein December 10, 2015 at 12:42 pm

This is the story of my life. Constant overwhelm and nothing gets done. Plans, to do lists … etc but no execution. I keep on reading article after article, taking course after course but very little execution is being made. Really looking forward for a solution. Also happy to hear that starting out the day planning depletes mental fuel, cause i do this everyday and i though it was a good thing.

Reply

Talha Khurshid Siddiqui December 10, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Hell yeah Peter, I’m up to know that one antidote for Brain Fog. By the way, the problem described very well. Made me curious.

Reply

Paul December 10, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Bang! You hit the nail on the head there. I’ve tried all sorts of techniques to break through the brain fog but….

As you say, we get a few days of being in the zone and the rest we (I) am beating myself up because I’m not progressing the way I could. Then the failure to live up to capacity and ability hits me for another round of self-torture.

So I’m definitely looking forward to the solution.

Thanks Peter.

Reply

Lorraine December 10, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Ah yes, brain fog…the ultimate success killer.
Let’s say I had a somewhat good day. Thinking to myself… Everything is set up for a great start in the morning. That morning does not not appear. 101 urgent matters, or somewhat urgent, do. Start again…

Reply

Murray Bernstein December 10, 2015 at 7:44 pm

I to live with brain fog and continuously search for answers so
PLEASE TELL ME I GOT TO KNOW WHAT IS IT?????

Reply

Miranda December 10, 2015 at 10:04 pm

I’ve never been a particularly patient person Peter, but I’m in, I’ll wait until your next instalment of the cure for Brainfog. Perhaps I’ll try an early night in the interim!

Reply

Lorien J. December 11, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Looking forward to this Peter!!

Reply

Kelvin December 13, 2015 at 10:41 am

So it’s not adult ADD / ADHD? Oh dear, there I thought I could take done-for-you Ritalin!

Seriously, you have a different antidote?
Do I postpone my Ritalin trial …

A guidance councelor is proposing micro time management … As a 4 step self help method …

Reply

Bev Hanna December 18, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Something that helps me with brain fog, or at least my overall impression of the situation when I’m mired in it, is to do something that Alex, my CA coach, tells me almost every call…don’t look at the big picture; look back at my previous week, month and year. It gives a much more realistic overview when I can review my progress and see what I’ve actually accomplished. It’s usually a lot more than I think I’ve done, and tends to reinforce my feeling that I really am a competent individual.

A year ago I had no clue how to do most of the tasks which are second nature to me now. Maybe I’m off-base here, but I think that half of the brain fog I encounter results from not knowing how to do what must be done. There’s a learning curve that has to be accomplished before completing any large project like creating a viable business. Once I’ve mastered that curve, it becomes easy, scalable and repeatable, (not to mention delegatable – is that even a word?), so I can get on to the next learning curve and the next and so on.

My brain fog seems to result from constantly having to learn something new before I can implement it in order to see any measurable progress. It’s exhausting and ‘way easier to play Hay Day or read trashy novels.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: