Organizational experts tell us the average person spends one hour a day looking for things. We get it – walking into an office filled with piles of papers, files and books is a drain on your productivity. But what about the mental clutter? ADD management coach Jennifer Koretsky says that, “mental clutter is made up of worries and bad feelings. (Very few people get overwhelmed by the amount of positive thoughts in their heads!)”
What are we worrying about? The laundry that’s piling up, the squeaky hinge that needs repairing, the chequebook we haven’t balanced; the list goes on. Anything that needs doing, even if it’s not related to our business, can add to the mental clutter.
But mental clutter is more then undone tasks. It is also the fight you had with your spouse, worry about your health, or dissatisfaction with your career. Any of these things can distract you, making it hard to focus on the task at hand. Too much mental clutter and you may find yourself ground to a halt, unable to get anything achieved.
How To De-clutter Your Brain
So, how do you de-clutter your brain? It’s not like you can just gather up the papers and files or shred them.
Actually, in a way you can. Many productivity experts suggest writing these thoughts down can be a great first step in clearing mental clutter. This works really well for me. Since I’m a writer – and a list-maker – just writing down the unfinished tasks that need to be done gets them out of my head. Once they’re down on paper, I don’t have to worry about forgetting them any more.
But writing doesn’t work for everyone. Jennifer Koretsky says that many people with ADD “work through thoughts and feelings by talking them out.” This can involve dumping your mental clutter on a trusted friend. But it doesn’t have to. Talking into a recorder or even your cat can be a way to remove the stuff in your head.
Action can be another way to clear the mental debris. A brisk walk can get the blood flowing and help you refocus.
But writing or talking about the mental clutter isn’t a permanent fix if these worries keep coming back. The way to banish them for good is to get them completed. Look at your list of uncompleted tasks that are worrying you. Is there anyone you can delegate them to? Your spouse, your kids, your bookkeeper? If so, pass the task off to them. Write their name beside the item on the list and when it’s complete, cross it off.
For the items you can’t pass off to someone else, create deadlines for yourself. Set aside a few hours each weekend to tackle one or more of the mental clutter tasks. Each item off your list will be one less worry that can work its way back into your head.
For larger tasks that can’t be completed in a few hours, break them down into steps that can be. Set a goal to complete one step each weekend. It might take a few weeks, but as you make progress you’ll stop being distracted by it.
If your mental clutter includes harder to handle items like worries about your health, or dissatisfaction with your career, you may need to do a little more work. Again, writing it down can help to start. But go a little further. Write down what specifically is troubling you and then create a list of actions you can take to solve this problem. Also look at what help you need; perhaps a friend, a coach or a counselor can help solve this problem.
Once you tackle this mental clutter, you’ll find it much easier to keep on track with your business goals.
Andrea J. Stenberg