We’ve all been there. An important deadline looms, yet no matter how hard we try, we can’t stop thinking about something else. Perhaps it’s an ongoing conflict, an unresolved issue, or something we need to remember to do later on. Whatever the case, having too much mental clutter can prevent us focusing on important tasks in the present.
Here are five quick tips you can use as a quick fix to de-clutter your mind and get on with your day.
Even a few minutes of silent meditation can be enough to clear your mind of excess clutter, help you feel more grounded, and improve your focus. For a simple meditation, set a timer for five minutes, focus your eyes a few feet in front of you and shift your focus to your breathing. Whenever you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts, don’t worry. Just bring your awareness back to your breathing as soon as you become aware that your mind is wandering.
Stream-of-consciousness journaling is a great way to get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto paper, especially if you’re getting distracted by thoughts about a particular person, situation or event. This kind of journaling is easy in theory, but in practise it can feel alien at first and it can take a few tries to get used to it. To make the most out of stream-of-consciousness journaling, take a blank page (or blank screen) and simply write down whatever comes into your head. All thoughts go on paper, even “I don’t know what to write”.
When we journal using stream-of-consciousness, it’s easy to slip into self-censorship and judgements about what we’re writing. For this kind of journaling to be effective, try to suspend any thoughts about what you should or shouldn’t be writing, the quality of your spelling and grammar, or whether what you’re writing even makes sense. Those things don’t matter; the most important thing is that you have a place to channel your thoughts, whatever they might be.
3. Talk about it
Talking to others about the topics that are cluttering your mind has two main benefits: it can help you feel validated and heard, and it can also provide you with a different perspective. Often, just having someone listen to and understand what’s on your mind helps relieve some of the urgency and intensity of the thoughts. Equally, hearing someone else’s thoughts and perspectives about what’s on your mind can leave you with new insights and resolution.
4. Change your scene
Changing your scene might sound too simple to be effective, but it really works. When we perform the same activities in the same place over and over again (for example, writing reports inour office), we can get stuck in mental ruts that are associated with that particular activity and place. Moving the activity to a different location can help us look at it with fresh eyes and a new focus, relieving the mental boredom that might lead our mind to wander to other things.
5. Declutter your surroundings.
Decluttering your desk or home will have a way calming effect. Having a lot of stuff around you is just visual clutter — it occupies part of your mind, even if you don’t realize it.
6. Watch less TV
For me, television doesn’t relax me, although it might seem that vegging in front of the TV is good for relaxation. TV fills your head with noise, without the redeeming qualities of music or reading or good conversation. Watch less TV, and you’ll notice your mind begin to quieten.
7. Rethink your sleep.
Sometimes we aren’t getting enough sleep, or our sleeping patterns aren’t ideal. I’m not saying that you should change your sleeping patterns, but sometimes it can do wonders. And if you don’t give it some thought, you won’t realize how much your sleep (or lack thereof) is affecting you.
8. Let go
Worrying about something? Angry about somebody? Frustrated? Harboring a grudge? While these are all natural emotions and thoughts, none of them are really necessary. See if you can let go of them. More difficult than it sounds, I know, but it’s worth the effort.
9. Do less
Take your to-do list and cross off half the things on it. Just pick a few things to get done today, and focus on those. Let the rest go away. If you do less, you’ll have less on your mind.
10. Go slower
Seems kinda weird, I know, but walking and talking and working and driving slower can make a very big difference. It’s kind of like you’re saying, “I’m not willing to rush through life, no matter what artificial time demands others are putting on me. I want to take it at my pace.” And as a result, your mind is less harried as well.