Ever feel like you can’t think clearly? Like, you need to make a decision but your brain is bringing up all sorts of fears and worries that paralyse you? Or maybe you’re trying to focus on a task but your mind keeps wandering away?
Then, my friend, you have a serious case of mental clutter. Mental clutter is all those random thoughts, ideas and to-do lists that are swirling around in your brain every single day. The stuff that distracts you. Overwhelms you. Gets in the way of what matters to you.
The cure is simple: a mental detox. Just like you should declutter your house every now and then, you should also keep the mind clean of all the random crap that’s filling it up. When you declutter your headspace, you feel calmer, are more focused and can think clearly about what action to take next.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I use one or more of these simple detox strategies to declutter my mind and free some much needed headspace:
1. Put Routine Decisions On Autopilot
Routine decisions: small tasks you do every day that occupy a lot of brain space. Things like:
◆ What the heck do I wear today?
◆ What should I have for lunch?
◆ What podcasts should I listen to while I work out?
You get the drill. You make these decisions every day but they take a lot of time and thought. Should I wear those black tailored pants or this cute pencil skirt with that black blouse? The skirt makes me feel more feminine but it’s raining today and it’s 5 degrees anyway. I’d freeze with the skirt but wait… I can’t wear my leather boots with the tailored trousers and this isn’t the weather for flats or court shoes… A simple decision like what to wear for a business meeting can hijack your whole morning and make you waste precious minutes that would be better spent rehearsing your presentation or check out your potential client’s social media accounts for some common interest that’ll help the meeting run way more smoothly.
You can reduce the amount of brain space and time you give to these routine decisions by putting them on autopilot. For example, I prefer dresses to separates because the outfit is already put together. But I also have several already-coordinated outfits stored together in my wardrobe so I can instantly reach for them and get dressed quickly. I also have the same thing for breakfast every day (salmon and rocket omelette) and order the same dishes at my fave restaurants.
This doesn’t mean that you can never deviate from your routine. But setting as many small tasks as you can on autopilot makes the day run smoother. You’ll feel less stressed for not having to make so many decisions every day and you’ll have a lot more free time for the things that really matter to you.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
Write down a few routine tasks you perform every day and brainstorm ways you can automate them. Then, put them on autopilot.
An endless to-do list is the worst type of brain clutter. You’re going crazy just thinking about all the stuff you need to do and the little time you have to do it all in. But what if you didn’t need to do it all after all?
As a blogger, my to-do list keeps expanding every day. There’s always a new website to guest post on, a new social media channel to build a presence on or new projects to work on. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I also need to do admin stuff, reply to emails, tweak my website design and a gazillion other tasks.
For years, I only managed to do a fraction of that. I thought it was the reason why my blog wasn’t growing faster. If only I had more hours in the day and could do even just a couple more tasks, growth would skyrocket. But then why so many other people managed to do it all on their own?
Here’s their secret: they didn’t do it all. They prioritised the important stuff. Instead than focusing on 4 social media channels at then same time, they’d grow one and then move onto the next one. Instead than writing guest posts on every blog that’d have them, they’d focused on the ones with an engaged audience that would actually click on the links and visit their blog. Instead of trying to do it all, they’d figure out one or two goals they wanted to reach and only focus on those tasks and strategies that would help them accomplish them. The rest didn’t get done – there was no need to.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
Step 1: Write down all the tasks on your to-do list. It’ll help you free your mind of all that brain clutter.
Step 2: figure out what’s the most important thing you’re trying to achieve with your business/health/relationship/whatever.
Step 3: figure out the three most important tasks you need to do to turn those goals into reality.
Step 4: every day, focus on those all important tasks first. If after you’ve done with them, you still have some time left, do the rest. If not, don’t sweat it.
3. Consume Information Mindfully
Remember the good old days when you had to sit down to dinner to keep up with news? Now it’s everywhere. Every single day you’re bombarded with all kinds of information. On social media. On TV. On the radio. On your fave blogs. Even in newspapers and magazines.
Some of this information is useful. Some of it gives you a good giggle. Most of it just clutters your brains and creates unnecessary worries and anxiety. I can’t tell you how much better and lighter I feel since I’ve stopped passively consuming all information that came my way and started to be more selective about what I choose to read/hear/watch.
That doesn’t mean you should consume only positive information. You should be aware of what’s going in the world but avoid those outlets that tweak the news to stir anger and shock. Consume only information that makes you happy or empowers you to take action to change your life (and others’) for the better.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
- Unfollow/unsubscribe from any blogs/magazines/Tv shows/outlets that make you feel anxious and depressed.
- Consume information only from reliable, unbiased sources that empower you to make better choices, inspire you and have a positive impact on your life.
- Limit the amount of time you spend on social media or browsing the internet. Consume what’s relevant and avoid the noise.
4. Let Go Of The Past
The mistakes you’ve made. The people you’ve hurt. The people who’ve hurt you. The opportunities you’ve missed. All the stuff that happened ages ago (or yesterday) and you still kick yourself about and keep thinking of over and over in your head.
Let it go. No matter how much you torture yourself, you can’t change the past. But you can learn from it. You can accept what happened, forgive yourself and move on with your life. Vow to do better next time. Do better next time.
I know it’s easier said that done. The next time a past mistake or grievance pops into your head, ask yourself, “is this helping me?” If something isn’t serving you then it’s hurting you. Don’t let your past mistakes and hurt ruin your life, get in the way of your relationships and rob you of even more opportunities. Learn from it. Let it go. Move on.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
Step 1: Make a list of your past mistakes, hurts and regrets.
Step 2: Look for the patterns. Is there anything that triggers a bad behaviour or situations you seem to fall in over and over again? What’s causing them?
Step 3: Once you’ve identified a common trigger or cause, brainstorm ways you can overcome it.
Step 4: Forgive yourself. If your BFF made the same mistakes, would you hate her or constantly remind her of them? Treat yourself like you would treat your BFF. Accept bad stuff happened and forgive yourself for it. You did the best you could at the time.
5. Declutter Your Surroundings
This seems totally out of place here. Weren’t we talking about decluttering the mind? Yes, but I always find it easier to concentrate and focus on the things that really matter when my house or workspace is organised.
When my living room is a mess, I can’t work for more than 10 minutes without something distracting me. All that clutter lying around bombards my mind with stimuli. Look, my fav book over there? What’s the noise, has something fallen to the floor? You know what I’m talking about.
Plus, the mess tells my brain there’s something else it should be doing. You know, cleaning… And trust me, I won’t be able to have a productive work day until I sort it out. When everything around you is neat and organised, your mind can finally relax, too.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
This one’s easy. Clean up your house/workspace. Throw away everything you don’t need. Organise your files. Dust the furniture. Keep the place tidy and clean.
Over to you, now. How do you declutter your mind? Share your fave tips and tricks in the comments below.