I’ve spent a lot of time talking about physical and digital clutter, but an important area we often neglect to address is mental clutter. Mental clutter is all the “junk” that clogs our minds - the overstimulation, lack of clarity, inner dialogue, chaos, noise and over-commitments. When we have too much going through our head it causes anxiety, stress and reduced productivity.
Let’s break down some of the biggest causes of mental clutter and tips that can help you manage them:
Mental ‘to do’ lists. Relying on your memory creates stress. Do a brain dump and create written or electronic lists so you won’t forget things. Include everything – both short-term tasks and long-term projects and goals.
Multi-tasking. Doing several things at once is overstimulating and compromises results. Studies show you will be much more efficient and effective if you focus on one thing at a time.
Unclear vision and goals. When you have a clear vision and goals, you can prioritize and focus on the most important activities. It will provide clarity and help direct your activities.
Indecisiveness. If you have a difficult time making decisions it creates confusion and doubt. You can never be sure of anything so go with your gut and take a leap of faith. You learn from your experiences and it gets easier with practice. Start with small decisions and build confidence.
Cluttered surroundings/excessive possessions. Cluttered spaces and too much stuff is overstimulating. It inhibits creativity and productivity by diverting your attention from what you should be focusing on. It causes frustration when you can’t readily find what you need, and it often creates feelings of guilt and embarrassment. De-clutter your physical space to free up your mental space – you’ll be surprised at the connection!
Overscheduling yourself. If you’re not accomplishing everything that needs to get done, then you’ve either taken on too much or you’re not effectively managing your time. Solutions may include adjusting your goals to be more realistic, learning to manage your time better, delegating control where you can, or saying “no” if your schedule is full. Make room for some personally fulfilling things to give you positive energy!
Procrastination. Unfinished business causes mental anguish. Neglecting tasks you really don’t want to do lingers in the back of your mind and nags at you. Roll up your sleeves and get it done. Like the Nike saying, “Just Do It”!
Negative Circumstances. Remove yourself from situations that cause you distress. For instance, minimize contact with people who are toxic to you, make steps to change an undesirable work situation, tame unhealthy spending habits, or clear clutter and excess possessions. Address those things that you can change.
Negative self-talk. Obsessive, depressive or non-productive thoughts sap your energy and weigh you down. Let go of past mistakes and decisions. Identify the things within and outside of your control. Accept those out of your control and focus on the things you can change and that matter to you (see #8 above). Retrain your brain with positive self-talk.
Poor self-care. Research shows that there are close ties between the mind and body. You feel more anxious when you’re hungry, tired, lack exercise or eat poorly. Take steps to improve your health and take care of your body. Mental clarity will naturally follow.
Maybe one or two of these resonate with you. Start small and get to work on those. You’ll be on your way to welcoming some peace and calm back into your life!