How to De-clutter Your Mind

I’ve got to study for a test…My cell phone bill is due…I have to write an assignment by Monday…I don’t have time to watch a movie anymore…My TV isn’t working so how do I watch Masterchef Australia?

There are a great deal of things that are on your mind and at times it can be very overwhelming. How do you make sense of it all and prevent it from affecting your work and leisure time? Compartmentalize, compartmentalize, compartmentalize.

Consider your mind a near-infinite storage space lacking an effective filter that segregates each and every one of your thoughts into positive, negative, relevant, irrelevant and so forth.

Although schemas are the base of organisation in cognition and thought, nothing is classified in a concrete manner and thus an influx of ideas and thoughts can sometimes muddle your clarity of mind just as an overflow of water can debilitate a dam.

The solution lies in streamlining everything on your mind and classifying them accordingly to relieve the stress of this cognitive overflow.

This is a simplified version of David Allen’s inbox-sorting procedure and once you follow the steps you’ll understand how it’s similar to sorting through your email inbox. Here are the 5 steps to clear your mind:

1. Take a piece of blank paper and go to a place where you can write peacefully without any distractions. Now, write down everything that’s on your mind. This is similar to stream of consciousness writing where you write continuously and go with the flow of your thoughts. Don’t worry about how many things you pen down because at times there will be a lot on your mind and other times very little. Just make sure to keep writing until nothing else comes to mind. Things to jot down include and is not limited to:

  • Unfinished tasks
  • Daydreams
  • Skills you want to develop
  • Things that stress you out
  • Interpersonal relationship problems
  • Things you want to learn
  • Bad habits you want to break
  • Trips you want to take

2. Now on a second piece of paper create three columns titled:

  • To be done
  • Maybe later
  • Delete

Sort each of your items from the other piece of paper into these three columns. Take care when categorizing the items because the more accurately you do, the more clear your mind will be by the time you finish the process.

3. Take all the items from the Delete column and send them off into space. You can do this in any way that fits you best. When I finish each exam, I tear up the subject syllabus and toss it into the trash, symbolizing its finality and the fact that I no longer needed to worry about it. If you want to just tear the Delete column and toss it into the trash or or shred it in a paper shredder. It’s up to you. Once you’re done, you’ll look at the other two columns with a new found sense of clarity to proceed further.

4. Transfer all the items on the Maybe Later column to a Maybe Later List that you can tuck away into a folder, somewhere where you can access it later after taking care of immediate items. You’ll have some peace of mind and comfort in knowing you can attend to these items later when you are ready without burdening yourself immediately.

5. Incorporate the items from the To Be Done column into an effective planning system. Do what works best for you. If you put the list on a fridge to remind yourself daily of what needs to be done, then do it. If you prefer using a daily planner or reminders on your phone to schedule things, then do it. Be organised and it will definitely help in the long run. You’ll be disintegrating major goals into sub goals and this motivates you to keep going. Soon, all the items on the list will be accomplished and you can move onto the Maybe Later List.

*This process could take a few hours if being done for the first time. Subsequent attempts take less time. 


10 thoughts on “How to De-clutter Your Mind”

  1. I would assume this extremely complicated. I am self-employed, working globally and doing lots of other things. I cannot plan ahead because jobs can show up any time, that includes late night, weekend or any other time. I believe one simply has to prioritize what is that they definitely have to do and put off things that can wait. I think making lists is a waste of time, because if somebody doesn’t remember some closest tasks or most important things they are expected to accomplish, how can they do anything? Or get done anything? Checking the list all the time? There are phone calls in the middle, and people show up, and I would say keep track in your brain of what are you doing, what are you going to do and what is impossible to include. In fact, I found this theme very interesting, and you’re absolutely right about de-clattering one’s mind. I would just describe this as not bothering your mind with junk and simply ignoring trashy stuff.

    1. Yes that’s one way of looking at it! Depends on the person though because some find it easier to make lists (like absent minded me) while others are better at sorting their thoughts out mentally.

  2. I de-clutter it everyday especially because the mind has a penchant to re-clutter itself. This is one of the reasons why I’ve never watched programs like master chef, because if I did would have to watch people that are infinitely less apt at cooking than me. In fact I’ve never even wanted to have a television because it’s one of the most efficient mind cluttering gadgets ever invented.

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