It’s just March…is your mental clutter already building?

Image courtesy of OpenRoadPR via Pixabay

Going into Spring from a weary mental space isn’t my idea of a good time. I want to be excited by that first warm breeze of the year, that first time I notice that there’s light coming through the windows when I wake in the morning.

But because of, well, Life, I find I’ve been guilty lately of something I also notice in my coaching clients: A crush of thought-clutter.

Like me, they fill their mental ‘house’ with as much furniture as possible, and invite over all kinds of guests at all hours of the day and night. There are the kids (or spouse, or parents) who need them, the myriad things it takes to make a life “go,” and all of the must-do and nice-to-do activities that surround their livelihood and income.

And that’s just the Present. We’re also constantly dealing with the bad actors from the Past, which reminds us all about our failings and misfires. And don’t get me started on trouble from the Future, which reminds us we might fail, and assures us we have to say “yes” to so much because, gosh, who KNOWS if this is the Big Break that will make great things happen for us (or avert bad things.)

It can get so crowded in there that we operate in a state of perpetual reorganizing and reprioritizing, burning mental calories trying to shift obligations, desires, demands, and possibilities into teetering Jenga tower that won’t come crashing down on us.

For spring, let’s do a little mental decluttering together. Here are some things I’m doing right now to get a fresh start by March 20:

1. Revisiting my 2019 priorities:

Early this year, I made some decisions about specific places I want to put my energy this year (they will be different for everyone, but I narrowed mine to a Big Six — areas I really want to move the needle on this year). I’m restructuring my computer desktop, browser bookmarks, Google calendar, and email folders around those six things, so I literally have to see my goals every day, multiple times. If I am using my brain space for things that don’t somehow fit into those six areas, I have to answer for it.

2. Re-acquainting myself with my morning routines, which I’ve become lax about.

They are critical in helping me stay on track mentally, physically, and emotionally. For me, these include simple-sounding things like water, moving my body, looking at my Big Six every morning to touch base, connecting with at least one of my beloved clients every day, etc. When those routines go out the door, a whole lot of mental clutter crowds in.

3. Breathing. No kidding.

When I feel stress starting to put me in a headlock, I almost always notice that I’m breathing shallowly and not giving my brain enough oxygen. It’s hard to believe that this matters, but you’d be amazed at how forgetting something as simple as breathing right can affect your mental state. Breathe. Set a meditation gong on your mobile phone or desktop that reminds you hourly to get up, walk around, breathe deeply, hydrate. I cannot overstate the importance of this — and this is from some who spent many years convinced this was just all new-age BS.

4. Swearing off multitasking, single-tasking as often as humanly possible.

Self-explanatory, right? It’s like an endless game of musical chairs, only with far fewer chairs to fight for. (And by the way, what cruel jerk ever thought that ‘game’ was a fun idea?)

5. Clearing my spaces.

I was a late adopter of this, as a world-class clutterer in my younger years. Getting rid of all the non-essential items, while assigning a fixed & functional place to everything that matters, is a vaccination helping prevent mental overwhelm and exhaustion. If you look up from this article and look around, and see piles and heaps and files and dusty clutter, you are not doing your mind a favor.

6. Purging my daily behavior of “I might need this someday.”

I see this with both paper and digital resources…we try to save everything that we might, someday, find useful in a future product, service, book, writing project, etc…even if we don’t know what that thing IS yet. I have a single document in the folders for each of my Big Six areas of importance, into which I jot down the links, quotes, book titles, peoples’ names, etc. that I am certain I will be using within a couple of months. Short entries, all in one (searchable!) MS Word document, one per each of the six folders. If it’s a resource that lives at the intersection of “maybe” and “someday,” let it go.

7. Limiting my media intake and eliminating negative media inputs:

I am cutting my “screen time” down to the bone, just to what I need to do my best for my clients and my business. I give myself an (optional) hour in the evening for some sort of entertaining television, usually something that helps me to either a) laugh or b) learn something fascinating. I do not watch or read the news except for a pre-determined and small piece of time several times each week. Following political arguments, bad news, reality TV, etc. is like pouring acid on all the clutter that’s already crowding my head.

How about you? Already cluttered in your brain pan, even though the first quarter of the year isn’t yet over? What are you doing to help your mental spaces stay clean, clear, and strong? Please help me – and others reading this – by sharing what you do to clear your mind and avoid overcrowding it in the first place. Thanks!

An invitation (not a sales pitch 🙂 )

If, when you were reading the above, you happened to think to yourself “I wish I could have a little help figuring out how to do this for myself,” you might be interested in reading about my bite-sized hands-on sessions on achieving joyful productivity. I’m having a lot of fun helping people with these, and lowering a lot of blood pressure numbers in the process. Bonus!

3 replies
  1. Gretchen Staebler
    Gretchen Staebler says:

    I love everything about this post. Including the way the words are chosen and put together. Thinking about doing stuff like this is what I do best. I’m always excited for new ways to think about doing it. Now I have a new plan for thinking about doing it! Yay!


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