Mental clutter is one of the biggest things that can distract us from peace, simplicity, presence, and productivity. Mental clutter is the mental chaos that can take over our brains – work tasks, trying to get your family out the door every morning, trying to remember to call the doctor/plumber/neighbor, etc. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is a mental space to focus and emphasize what matters in our lives. Reducing the mental clutter that creates noise and causes us angst or lack of productivity can be one way to move toward this place of enhanced well-being.
When I work with my coaching clients, I find that a common thread is struggling to find the space, time, and mental bandwidth to truly focus and prioritize wellness. There are some really simple habits that can help us all move closer to true presence, peace of mind, and focusing on the priorities in our lives.
- Make a list: When the mind is racing with things to do, writing it down can be a simple way to tame the beast. Sometimes “brain dumping” all of our thoughts can help us identify what needs to be addressed sooner, and what topics can simmer on the back burner, which brings me to my next idea…
- Prioritize: When all sorts of tasks and thoughts are racing around in your head, it can be hard to know where to focus first. From your list of thoughts, ideas, and tasks, start identifying a small set of things to focus on in a given time, say a day or a week. Move anything that isn’t part of the priority list to a separate list that can be completed if you have extra time or brainpower on any given day. For example, I maintain two to-do lists for any given period of time – one with my priority tasks, typically 3-4 and one with my brain dump of “all the things.” Simply telling yourself, “this is what I need to do today/this week/this month” can be a very freeing exercise.
- Declutter your physical space: While the items above can help declutter your mental space, I’m a big proponent of physical decluttering. I definitely subscribe to the idea that physical clutter is mental clutter. I know that when my desk is littered with stacks of paper and lists, I struggle to concentrate and clear my mind to focus on what requires my focus.
- Take a breath / meditate: Okay seriously, don’t roll your eyes. There are so many positive benefits of meditation even if you’re not down with incense and rythmic chants. In a time that feels particularly challenging, take a moment to be still, focus on your breath, and slip deeper into the present. You can also try a simple deep breathing exercise: In a quiet place with your eyes closed, take 10 deep breaths and focus on your current space. You will find several meditation resources and simple exercises that can help enhance your well-being at the end of this post.
- WTMIFY: Is the acronym foreign? Probably. However, I would be willing to bet that you have heard of the idea of asking yourself, “will this matter in five years?” when encountering a stressful situation or conflict. This has become a refrain for me in recent years as I have worked more diligently to stay grounded in the present, prioritize the things that matter to me, and avoid unnecessary stress. Sometimes asking myself this simple question can provide me with some greater clarity.
None of these things are a perfect answer to removing mental clutter, but I bet they’ll help you chart a course to presence, peace, and clarity. What are your favorite tricks for helping sort through the clutter?
Meditation 101: Techniques, Benefits, and a Beginner’s How to from Gaim
How to Meditate for Beginners from The Conscious Life