Eliminating Mental Clutter...The Key To Better Productivity AND Peace Of Mind
By Kerry Flinders
I am a very busy gal. I have a successful marriage. I have two active young teen age boys. I run a successful business (both on and off of the internet). My home is always presentable. My laundry is always done. And I strive to live a stress free life as well.
I have been called a "super woman by my friends. They do not understand how I can accomplish so much, and yet always seem to be so relaxed and happy. They want to know my secrets.
My secrets?? I have but one"and it really is as simple as eliminating my "mental clutter".
"Mental Clutter"? What is that? How do you eliminate it?
Here's how I manage to accomplish my goals, keep my family happy AND maintain a happy stress free attitude:
1. I use lists...lists...lists...lists. I can NOT function at any capacity without my lists. I have a list of LONG term goals (when I want to retire, how I expect to get there, etc). I have a list of MEDIUM term goals (what room I want to paint in the future, what I want to teach my kids before they move out etc). I also have a Weekly list and a Daily list.
Yes, lists take time, but after I took the time to make the longer lists then it really is no work at all to sit at my desk in the morning and jot down the things I need to do today and this week.
Having lists keeps this "stuff" out of my head. If I ever wonder what I need to be doing it's written down somewhere for me to look at. I never have to think about what is next to do...ever.
2. Remember that Stress is a State of Mind. It isn't real. We make it up. I know people with 10 times my work load who are way less stressed than me. I also know people with hardly anything to do each day but seem to be about to pop a blood vessel.
I just remember that when I am feeling stressed I'm doing it to myself; no one is forcing me to feel stressed. Nothing can make you feel stressed but yourself.
So, simply, I just refuse to feel stressed in my head. I do not mull over my lists, or my obligations, or the dirty dishes, or anything.
3. Learn to say NO. This was one of the things that took me the longest to learn, yet has given me the best release of mental clutter.
I say no to family get-togethers if they seem more of a hassle than fun. I say no to church obligations that I really do not have time for. I say no to my kid's schools when they ask for help I do not have time to give.
When you are always saying yes it is more than just filling up your schedule with other peoples needs. You are also filling up your mind with all the things that go with the project, as well as all the mental "self talk" you have about the project...for example, "Why did I say yes?? I don't have time for this. When am I going to get this done? etc etc etc.
So, be brave and learn to say no. It's that simple. And it really helps clear a lot of mental clutter.
4. Self Talk. Since we've mentioned self talk above lets discuss it further. If you are like I used to be (OK, how I really am, but control now) you have conversations going on in your head with yourself ALL DAY long. You might even wake up in the middle of the night talking to yourself inside your head.
Shush yourself right now. You need to learn to quiet your mind. If you have all your obligations written down on lists then there really isn't any need to self talk.
I had to take some meditation classes to quiet my self talk. It still tries to pipe up every day, but I have the meditation skills to quiet it quickly now.
This eliminates tons of mental clutter. If you find that you MUST talk to yourself inside your head, then whenever you find yourself doing so, choose ONE sentence, one positive, powerful sentence to say over and over and over. A lot of times the sentence I choose is this: "I am calm and happy."
5. Put things into perspective/stop worrying. Many times your brain is busy working on many different things it doesn't need to be working on.
Having lists will free up a lot of time in your mind. What about the things you just can't get out of your head? Business worries (I have these all the time). Children worries. etc. Put them in perspective.
How important are they...really? You're worried about what will happen to your kids if you died...so write a will, set up power of attorney, pick out your replacements, know you've done everything you can to prepare for it, then refuse to think about it any longer.
If you were to die tomorrow...I use this idea a lot. If you were to die tomorrow, then what things in your head, that are driving you nuts right now, would really matter?
I just read today about a study that measured what percent of our worrying was really important. After the huge percentage of worrying about things we cannot change, things that will never happen, things we have no power over...the astonishing small amount of things we worry over, that really should be worried over is...8%.
So if you are having a lot of mental clutter due to worry, put everything into perspective and realize you should only worry over about 8% of the stuff you are currently worrying over.
6. Be like the child. Ever watch a 3 year old play? Not much on their mind. Just what is at hand. They don't remember the mess in their room at home (You do). They don't think about what they will be eating for dinner (You are). They don't even worry about the fight they got into yesterday with their best friend (You would). They just focus on the task at hand, happy to do so.
Practice this "way" children have. Practicing letting your thoughts go...focusing only on what is before you.
7. Yoga. Ok, a lot of people do NOT want to hear this, but yoga is WONDERFUL on so many levels...especially helping you to eliminate mental clutter. One of the practices that makes yoga yoga is the fact that it teaches you over time to stop thinking about anything but the yoga pose you are in. Over time you become VERY good at this. It helps in all areas of my life to focus and eliminate mental clutter.
I actually highly recommend a regular yoga practice, even if it's only in the comfort of your own home with some video tapes. Eliminating mental clutter is just ONE of the great benefits I get from yoga...but such an important one.
So, those are my thoughts on mental clutter and what to do with it. I don't like it, I don't allow it to be in my head, and I actually actively work to eliminate it whenever it rears its ugly head.
Having this philosophy, and working towards keeping mental clutter out helps me to be very stress free. It is very liberating and it also helps me to be a happier mother, wife and person in general.
Achieving an uncluttered mind helps me to do better with my business and to be better with my patience as well.
Mull over the ideas here. Maybe read a book or two on the topic as well. You should strive to learn to control your own mind. Don't let it just wonder around willy nilly (I love that expression). Learn to control it, clean it out, like a room, dust it out...keep it tidy and bright.
You will feel so much better when you can do this.
Just remember, this takes time. For me, the transition from stressed out woman to stress free woman took me a year and a half.
But it was so worth it. I promise.
Copyright 2005 Kerry Flinders
About The Author
The author Kerry Flinders is the owner of Personal Organizing Solutions located in Southern California. Kerry and her company are dedicated to helping others organize their clutter and their lives, eliminating unnecessary stress and helping the client to find more time in their day for the things they love. Kerry is the author of the book "Organizing With NO Budget".