Physical clutter is easy to spot. You see the piles and the mess and know you have a problem. Mental clutter is a bit trickier to identify. When you’re stressed and overwhelmed it’s easy to blame your busy schedule and lack of time, but the true cause may be thinking about too many things. Clearing the mental clutter from your mind may be just the solution you need to bring much needed sanity and peace to your life. That means purging the unnecessary and organizing your thoughts, your worries, and your tasks into a system. The following are some solutions to get you there.

Dump Your Brain

– Spend 10-15 minutes (or more if you need it) to write down everything that’s on your mind.  Don’t spend time thinking about what it is, how you’re going to get it done, or when you’re going to get it done.  Just get the information out of your head and onto one list. Write until you can’t think anymore. A brain dump will clear your mind and help you more easily identify your priorities.

Create a Daily Priority List

–  A daily priority list consists of the 3-5 things you want to accomplish that day. (With the multitudes of demands on your time, this limited number of tasks is a realistic goal.) When you consciously identify something as a priority, you can apply the necessary focus to complete the task and ignore the other items cluttering your mind. You’ll make progress on what you know to be important versus what you feel to be urgent.

Park The Clutter

–  Part of the clutter in your mind is not just things you need to do, but rather things you want to remember — The restaurant you went to with colleagues and want to take your spouse for your next date night, the doctor your friend recommended to help with your back pain, or the great vacation spot blog you’ve been meaning to read to help plan your summer family trip. Use a tool like Evernote or OneNote to capture this information in digital format.  Your thoughts, notes, and other reference items are thus backed up, searchable, and will never let you claim a “senior moment“.

Review & Reflection Time

– If you just keep moving forward without taking a moment to think, you’re just making the situation worse. Schedule a time to look at how you’ve been spending your time and what brought you to the present state of stress and overwhelm.  Looking back would you change how you handled a situation? Is there a different approach you would use moving forward? Sometimes reflecting on the past gives an insight into how to move forward in a better and more strategic way.

Move Your Body

– Exercise not only does great things for your body, it also calms your mind.  Running (my favorite for the great endorphin release), walking, hiking, biking, yoga, dancing, are great opportunities to clear your mind. Even if you only have a few minutes, a quick walk around the block can bring a new perspective to a cluttered mind.

Photo Credit: Overwhelm by Evan