Ridiculously Redundant and Simple Advice for a Deep-Cleansed Life

A burnt-out freelancer’s advice for realigning with the basics first.

Aamna I. Rizvi
Mind Cafe
8 min readSep 7, 2021


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

2018 was a very ridiculous year for me.

Like most of us — I was an overworked, underpaid Freelance writer who had her hands in too many pots. I had just started working on the first-ever research paper of my career while one of my colleagues constantly kept plagiarizing my work and I slept through most of my 8 am classes.

My mental health and love life were significantly compromised if not completely nonexistent at this point.

There came a time when I lost weeks to working nonstop after coming home from the hospital instead of giving my body a rest.

All the screen-time would mess with my circadian rhythm and put my brain in this weird mode where I would be too tired to even go to bed.

Every single night, I would go down a YouTube rabbit hole about some conspiracy theory with a burning passion and have dreams to change the world… as I slept through another 8 am Anatomy lecture the next day.

I tracked my progress in college and used good grades as an excuse to keep taking up more projects. All the work I was doing was adding up financially, so by the end of the month when I would be at my last straw — the paychecks would start lining up.

And I would negotiate against all better judgment about how all of it had a “meaning”.

But it didn’t.

It was making me miserable.

I was working endlessly, only waiting for an off day from most of my commitments where I could truly unwind.

Needless to say, my definition of unwinding had also become just as unbalanced and self-destructive.

It took for my unhealthy habits to max out before I finally did anything about any of this. So as my bank balance went up, for the first time in 2 years, I did not have time to invest the money I was earning. Instead, I splurged it on useless things, hoping to trick my reward-brain and keep the hamster wheel running.

What happened next?

I developed dark circles that would not budge no matter what. I gained weight for the first time in years despite doing that odd yoga routine once every two weeks (shocker) and as my mental health crumbled and my bank account had nothing to show for it anymore — I found myself seeking therapy.

One therapist, I went to ask me to list down what I was hoping to achieve through these sessions. The first thing I listed was “to feel well enough to go back to working as hard as I was before.”

…And that was fine until I realized I didn’t have any other points to add to that list.

Everything else was simply an inconvenience getting in the way of my inevitable burnout that I somehow inflicted on myself by choice. There were no goals or ambitions in my life except passively steering the wheel, telling myself I knew where I was going while a nervous breakdown would stare me down from the rear-view mirror.

Full Disclaimer

Since that realization, I did something that full disclaimer — I definitely wouldn’t recommend to anyone: I decided not to go back to therapy.

Instead, I reevaluated and reassessed my life.

At some point, choosing to be a Physician had been such a daunting prospect that I committed to that life before it even began for me.

Perhaps the priorities I have set now will come in handy even years from now if I spiral down that route again. These habits helped me live a more mindful life and invest in things that actually matter.

The workaholic in you will still take over from time to time: but so long as you’re living an overall balanced life, indulging once in a while can give you a taste of what you love without killing you.

Here are the things that helped me get back on track and might be useful for you too.

commit to a system

Now I know you’ve been told this before but there are certain things like taking a shower, exercising, doing laundry, going to work every day, etc. that you can’t skip on without subsequently lowering the quality of your life.

Whatever it might be for you, compromising on which can lead to a lower standard of living — come up with a routine that sets a chunk of your day allotted to it specifically.

A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that family routines help to moderate impulsiveness and oppositional symptoms and traits in children.

The same study found that routines help in managing emotional reactivity in adults too.

You’re not supposed to enjoy having breakfast or exfoliating in a 7 am shower or love running, but you just to commit to doing these things on autopilot. As an adult, believe the quality of your life depends on just getting through certain motions.

The bottom line is, what you’re depleting yourself of is far more costly than something that brings you momentary joy or comfort.

“Zeigarnik effect”: put soul into your to-do lists

Not the most groundbreaking advice, I know. But I can’t stress the effectiveness of taking your time and your tasks seriously enough to create a to-do list as part of your routine.

Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik studied the brain’s obsession with completing a task once it has been written down.

Putting a post-it-note or a to-do list where you can’t swipe it away or hit snooze on makes it twice as likely for you to complete the tasks.

I create a to-do list at the beginning of every week on Sunday nights and jot down what I aim to achieve by the end of that week.

I put down 3 things as my MAIN GOALS and will add a list of around 10 or + less crucial tasks under that. Additionally, I break the goals I want to achieve into micro-habits and I trace these every day by writing a to-do list for it each day as part of my morning routine.

Make it one of the things you do while having breakfast or drinking your coffee instead of scrolling social media. Do it on the bus, on your phone, or the first thing you do at the office before you’re bombarded with tasks.

The reason I stress doing this in the morning is that your headspace is clear after a night of rest. You have more energy and more units of focus to lend a task if you are inspired to jump into it right after finishing your to-do list.

apply the Marie Kondo principle to 3 dimensions


According to a study conducted by Princeton Neuroscience Institute, having multiple visual stimuli in the range of your view will cause those stimuli to compete for neural representation.

Simply put, the more clutter there is around you — the harder your brain will find it to focus on one thing. It’s like presenting your attention multiple doors to exit from.

“Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder.” — Marie Kondo.

Ambivalent Friendships

This is not just about ratty home t-shirts that only you see yourself in or that ugly tv-console you picked up from a lawn in a rich neighborhood — heck, even your ambivalent friends who coerce you into hanging out each weekend need to go.

We waste life one weekend at a time surrounded by people who make us feel nothing. Streamline your life by excessively cutting out anything that is taking up space.

All these friendships also claim real-estate in your mental world and keep you from tunnel visioning the life you want to create.

Social media

Unfollow consumerism pages that tell you what you need to buy before you need it.

Unfollow the models and the fitness pages that have little to offer in the way of your lifestyle.

If you are not actively gaining anything from scrolling these Instagram pages, tapping away on Instagram stories of friends you haven’t seen in 10 years and probably won’t in the next 10 either — then you’re losing something far more valuable: and that is your time that needs to be invested in your life.

Visualization is a powerful technique, but it can also be distracting you from what really needs to be done. It’s like fantasy shopping for the desired weight; you just can’t reverse engineer these things.

dig your claws into what exhilarates you

If you are ever to excel in a field you love, then chasing a flow state is essential.

This requires regular practice, just like if you were to go to a 9–5 every day of the week. But most of us don’t have the luxury to pick a career path we love over something more practical.

“What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.”

― C.G. Jung.

When we rely only on skills and not what makes us happy, we choose something that does not conform to who we are and become resigned. The internal reward is yet another reason to hold on to your hobbies.

Turn them into a side hustle regardless of your time constraints. Devote an hour a day or a few hours a week or only an hour a week. You choose.

But set appointments and treat it as if you are going on a date with yourself because this might be the only way you get into a “flow state”.

Don’t let money veto your choices when it comes to this. Treat money only as a by-product. Keep your day job to pay the bills.

don’t let your family life be a meme

Your time in the world is not infinite with them; especially with elderly relatives or aging parents — you really don’t know how much longer you have. Your time together is a few numbered days and if you lose it all while being caught in a shit storm of minutiae of daily life then you will never forgive yourself.

The key is striking the golden balance between personal commitments and work. Setting aside time to have any meal together, to watch a specific tv show that the other person loves (even if rom-coms make you throw up a little in your mouth), setting date nights at least once a week or unwinding where your relationship or the other person takes center-stage will go a long way.

It’s like that meme that was circulating about a boss crying at your funeral because you didn’t inform in advance and now they’re understaffed. Don’t let that meme be your life.


You’re bound to get blindsided by things and lose sight of the end goal. The internet is chock full of advice targeting unique faucets of your life. The newness factor tickles your fancy, making you believe that is exactly what you needed to hear. But in reality, it simply adds to the distraction juice your brain swims around in all day before it’s bed-time.

New advice is useless when you don’t already have a refresher for the day to day life you are living.

The reason for putting together this list is so you are reminded of how constant habit building and routine setting having higher stakes in your happiness. That one niche advice you pick up will only alleviate your everyday life if you already have a framework you believe in.

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Aamna I. Rizvi
Mind Cafe

Student physician. Storyteller. Artist. Unraveling the inner workings of personal development,relationships & wellness. Join me in my pursuit for answers!