5 Steps to Help you Declutter your Mind
Decluttering is big right now.
Almost everyone I know has heard of Marie Kondo and her brilliant methods for claiming back some of your physical space in your home. And for good reason. Too much physical clutter can make you feel overwhelmed, adds on hours to your housework each week, and can even make you more stressed.Material objects are easy to see, and so it’s usually obvious when you've collected too much clutter. What we think about less often, however, is the mental clutter that we accumulate. Click To Tweet
It’s easy to collect too much mental clutter. Unfortunately, it’s harder to spot the signs and do something about it.
Leaders tend to be especially prone to mental clutter. With so many tasks and responsibilities at work, combined with family responsibilities, you’re often juggling a mental to-do list that’s longer than War and Peace. Add to that your various ideas and goals, and those comments and criticisms that you keep replaying in your mind. It’s no wonder that it can all get very overwhelming.
Luckily there are a few techniques you can use to clear away the mental clutter and organise your mind so that you feel lighter, less overwhelmed, and more productive.
Here’s my five-stage plan to clear that mental clutter!
Step One: Get it down on paper
When you’re juggling a million thoughts in your head, it’s hard to concentrate. By writing them down, you’ll remove the risk of forgetting something. You’ll also allow yourself to concentrate on your most important tasks or thoughts.
If you’re not a natural list maker, don’t worry. Just start by writing everything down in a notepad. Whatever comes into your head. Goals, plans, ideas, mundane tasks, something somebody said that’s worrying you… write it all down.
Once it’s all on paper, look through and cross out anything you don’t need to be carrying.
If you prefer a digital solution to store your thoughts, that’s fine too. I personally find something very therapeutic about writing in a physical notebook!
Step Two: Does it ‘spark joy’?
Marie Kondo asks clients to hold their non-essential possessions and consider if it ‘sparks joy.’ If it does – it can stay. If it doesn’t, then it goes.
Look at what’s left of your brain dump now you’ve removed the obvious. Are the thoughts and tasks you have left working for you, and do they ‘spark joy’ for you?
If you’re dwelling on a mistake you made last week, let it go so you can focus on the present. If you’re annoyed at something a friend did, then resolve to address it with them or just let that go too. By allowing the past to take up your present, you’re only adding to your own mental load. If you can’t fix it, or it’s not really that important then resign it to the past where it belongs.
Perhaps you set yourself a goal last year to learn how to code, but now you feel that the skill won’t be so useful and you’re dreading starting. Do you really need to meet that goal or has it just become more mental clutter? Don’t be afraid to let go of old dreams and ambitions that don’t spark joy for you anymore.
Are there tasks at work or home you’re completing that aren’t working for you? Projects that drain you, or an idea for an improvement you had that isn’t working out as planned? Do they take up space on your mental to-do list and make you stressed? Consider letting them go.
Obviously, there will be things that don’t spark joy but are essential and that you can’t remove. For example, filling in a monthly Board Report might not spark any joy. Sadly you can’t simply ignore or delete those responsibilities. If it’s possible, delegate these tasks to make your mental load even lighter.
Step Three: Reduce the inputs
Information bombards us every single day, from daily news notifications on our phones to social media updates. Some of that is information we need, but a lot of it is irrelevant. Yet simply by taking that information in, we’re adding to our mental clutter.
Take a look through the notifications you have set on your emails and your phone. If it’s not absolutely necessary that you receive the notifications, delete them. Removing some of the superfluous information gives you more capacity to take in what you really need to know.
Be realistic about what you really need to receive updates on. If you normally read three industry blogs or publications a day, choose the most informative one and read that one. It’s unlikely you’re getting a lot more useful information by reading all three.
Limit your social media time. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying catching up with friends and family on social media but limit how much time you spend. Are there people on your social media whose updates don’t add any value to you or are frequently very negative? Remove them, or even change your settings so that you no longer see their updates.
Step Four: Focus on one thing at a time
Multi-tasking drains your mental energy and splits your focus, making you more prone to mistakes. It’s a common myth that multitasking makes you more efficient. However, numerous studies have shown that true multitasking is impossible.
What you’re actually doing is context-switching. You may be excellent at it, but it still slows you down and diverts your focus. Multitasking means you’re much more likely to end up with several part-finished tasks and a whole lot of mental clutter.
By allowing yourself to focus on just one thing at a time, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and be more likely to finish the tasks that you start.
Step Five: Keep a journal
The final step helps you to stay on top of that mental clutter. Writing things down daily can help you keep hold of that mental space you’ve worked so hard to claim. It can also help you remove the fear that you’ll forget something.
At the beginning or end of each day (or both!), take a moment to do a ‘brain dump’ of everything in your mind at that moment. You can use this to create a structured and prioritised to-do list later. However, your first concern should be getting all your thoughts out onto the paper.
Taking this time every day allows you to ‘empty’ your mind onto the paper and reflect on what’s important for you right now. When you’ve written it all down it becomes much easier to see what’s helpful and what you need to let go of.
Have a cluttered mind can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unfocused at work.
This is why I help my clients clear away the mental clutter. It not only makes you feel lighter and more positive about yourself; it makes you more productive in your leadership role. To find out more, book a call with me to explore.
Andrea helps you focus on leading yourself first, so you can be a great leader. Start getting your regular dose of leadership tips and inspiration with the ‘Leadership Breather’ – encouraging you to give yourself a breather and take 5 minutes for you.