I don’t think anyone is going to be surprised regarding the reason this modest article is being submitted for your kind consideration. To be brief and to the point, I will pose the following, simple question: How many of us do not have a mind full of near useless thoughts and concerns that distract us from the truly important things upon which we should focus? There may some exceptions, but probably not too many. As Marelisa Fabrega (https://daringtolivefully.com/declutter-your-mind) explains, “a cluttered mind is restless and unfocused…(trying) to move in many different directions at once, (with the result being) that very little gets done.”
Ms. Fabrega goes on the note that there are many kinds of mind-clutter, such as concerns about the future, your reputation, mulling over past mistakes, unimportant tasks that you seem to believe essential, etc. Fortunately, she states, there are ways we can do a bit of house-cleaning in our heads that will help to put us on the right track, which can lead to a proper prioritization of pondering, and then completing the truly important stuff in our lives.
Here are her ten ways to “declutter your mind” so you can conquer the frequently experienced sense of being “overwhelmed”, accomplish more, and with greater focus.
1. Declutter Your Surroundings First:
“Physical clutter leads to mental clutter.” If you are presented with a constant flourish of excessive, and needless, visual and aural references and inputs, your brain must set aside time and space to deal with these distractions, as well as the things upon which you have deemed to be priorities. Thus, take a look around and clean up your environment of anything that is not essential to the important stuff.
2. Keep Structured Notes:
Why are you trying to keep everything in your head? Do you have a great memory? If so, good on you, but you’re still trying to sort it all out in your mind, which can pollute, or at least dilute, your information processing capabilities. In short, use whatever record keeping method (hand-written notes, computer notepad, other online tools, etc.) that are comfortable for you to store those data bits that may come in handy in the future, but are not essential for your present purposes. Do you really need to remember phone numbers, dates, appointments, or even names? Maybe yes, but maybe the answer could be “no.” Computers have only so much storage and processing space, so maybe the same can be said of your brain.
3. Keep a Journal.
This is a natural follow-on to the previous point, but it has more “depth.” Once you’ve refined a thought to the point that you want to retain it for future use, enter it into your formalized notes in an organized manner so you can continue to add to the thought as you build your final product or objective. Is your objective to resolve issues or relationships about which you are worried? Write down your thoughts. Do you have an important goal to achieve? Write down the pivotal components as you go along. This will help to keep you focused.
4. Don’t Dwell on the Past.
Many times mind clutter has something to do with past actions or relationships. In fact, thoughts of the past may be one of the worst clutter-offenders. Continuing to hyper over past mistakes in the wrong way is not only useless, it’s destructive. Did you offend someone? Did you miss an opportunity? Did you make a mistake in a project? The answer for all of us at some time or another is “yes!” It’s called being human. But, it’s the way we continue to handle all of these past concerns that determines whether or not we are dealing with the past in a healthful way. Did we learn from it? If they were honest errors, then move on. Guilt, associated with things about which you did not have ill intent, is a useless and destructive emotion. Past is past, so learn from it and move on.
5. Stop Trying to Do or Think About Everything at Once:
This is easier said than done, especially if you feel yourself to be overwhelmed with tasks or responsibilities. But, you must start somewhere! So, as best you can prioritize your tasks, make a checklist, then start at the top of your list. Complete each task in order, without needlessly diverting your attention to the other bits on the list. You may be surprised how quickly the list can be pared down to something less threatening. As your anxiety begins to dwindle, your confidence will increase, which can contribute to more managerial success regarding your mind-clutter issue.
6. Control the Quantity and Quality of Information You Receive:
Let’s face it: there is a limit to the amount of information you can receive and process. Simply put, too much of it coming in can cause confusion, wrong directions, or even what some would call brain-lockup. What happens to your computer if the amount of data coming in exceeds the capacity of its storage or processor? The same can happen to you! So, perhaps you should limit the inputs to those needed for your purposes (modest entertainment such as social media, publications, TV aside). Don’t be distracted by irrelevant or useless or upsetting news broadcasts, blogs, etc. Simply put, you can process only so much information at once, so choose your inputs wisely.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Decision:
Remember that bad news does not get better with age, and that if you’re waiting to get “enough” information, you will find that you will never get enough of it. In short, know when the decision must be made, then make it! Putting off decisions will only fill up your brain in-box and cause the eventual information overload that we’ve already warned against. As uncomfortable as it might be in the beginning, you can actually train yourself to approach your activities in a decisive manner. Over time it should become second nature. One way to approach decision making is to make a “pros and cons” list regarding each important option facing you, then act according to the preponderance of the evidence.
8. Make Routine Decisions Once, Then Put Them on Automatic:
You may be surprised how much the little decisions will occupy your attention and, thus, clutter your mind. Things as small and simple as deciding what to wear, what and when to eat, or what you’re morning routine is going to be can slow you down. So, helpful might be to make such routine decisions once, and in advance, to allow you to take care of these minor details in an “automatic” manner, without the need to engage a lot of brain power. If you’re the kind of person who likes routine, this should not be much of a challenge J.
Too many tasks occupying your brain space can lead to (at best) inefficient work accomplishment or (at worst) the aforementioned brain-lock. A first step in resolving this problem is to accept that you simply cannot do it all (not at once, anyway). Once again, this is easier said than done, but a positive process could be to put your to-do list in front of you, then assign numbers to each task, in the order of their clear importance to you. Which ones are vital? Then, which ones are important? Then, which ones need to eventually get done, but not necessarily now? You may even find that there are some that do not need your attention at all! Moreover, can you delegate some of these tasks to others? Anyway, and with this prioritized map in front of you, it should be easier to decide which tasks you should tackle first, and in which order.
10. Learn to Meditate.
Finally, Ms. Fabrega suggests that learning how to effectively meditate could help you concentrate and live in the “present moment,” rather than skipping your mind through the time dimensions. Being able to focus your attention on one task at a time is a highly useful skill in efficient and timely task accomplishment, and meditation can help you achieve this focus. As a parting comment, Ms. Fabrega state’s that meditation is “the equivalent of taking your mind through a car wash, and having useless and unnecessary thoughts washed away.”
Hopefully the ten pointers offered above can be helpful in clearing away the bits of “mental clutter” that act as pollutants in the sea of your brain. Not only can we, with attention and practice, learn to use our minds more effectively, we can also create within ourselves a calmer and less vulnerable persona that will contribute to a more serene and productive you.