Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
It is funny that this topic was one I picked for today, because the moment I picked it, an online group I belong to tackled the same subject.
If we apply my standard definition of clutter to be “something that you don’t love and don’t use”, we can apply this to the “baggage” we carry around in our heads.
But what is mental clutter, and what can we do about it?
Mental clutter can be classified into two different categories: things that need to be done, and things that were already done. In the things that need to be done, it’s all the things you are aware of, as well as unspoken commitments you have made (see Examining Commitments, Spoken and Unspoken). Things that were already done are things that we cannot let go of, for whatever reason. This can also be categorized as future items (things not done) and past items (things already done).
Clutter and Isolation
Just like physical clutter in our homes can prevent us from having anyone over and leading to physical isolation, mental clutter can also isolate us from others. If we are so busy thinking about the future or the past that we cannot enjoy the current moment, we are in our own little world, isolated from the people we are with.
Removing Mental Clutter
I can’t tell you the best way to let go of the past, if that is where your clutter is. I can only mention the many sources out there: reading, journaling, therapy, self-help groups, and support groups. I can only recommend, from personal experience, to put the past to rest, so that the ghosts of yesterday don’t haunt your present moment.
However, there are specific things you can do to help with future items that are spinning in your head:
- Write everything down. As David Allen points out, anything we have to keep thinking about takes energy away from what we are doing. Write everything down in a trusted system, whatever that system may be. Don’t waste your energy trying to remember things.
- Take a realistic look. Sometimes our perceived list of things to do isn’t as big as we think it truly is, and it preys on us. Take a look at your written list, and see how big it is. If it really is big, see if there and a bunch of little things you can knock off of the list quickly.
- Purge. Just as you would purge physical clutter from your living space, purge your commitments (see How to Reclaim 50% of Your Free Time). This can really free you up mentally. Are the things you need to do really things you need to do? (see What Makes A Project Worthwhile?)
- Get some rest. I find that the more tired I am, the more my mind seems cluttered. A quick nap (I use pzziz (no affiliation)) is a sure-fire way for me to get more realistic.
- Get unstuck. Sometimes something seems too big because it is a chunk of un-do-ableness. Break projects down into manageable chunks.
By routinely applying these techniques, I can keep my mind un-cluttered and focused on the task at hand.
Photo by danagraves