By Karen Kabara, Yours Tasks – Our Time, Inc, (610) 847 5422
With the holidays here, is your head spinning with work deadlines, family obligations and holiday preparations (and let’s not forget quarantine fatigue)? There are plenty of suggestions online on how you can declutter your home but what can you do to declutter your mind?
Each thought floating around in your head is like a mental post-it note. The more post-it notes, the more mental clutter. Physical clutter can cause people stress, but mental clutter can as well. The easiest way to get the clutter out of your head is to jot down all those mental post-it notes so you can release it from your thoughts. Use whatever format is best for you to organize that information. You can use the Notes app on your phone to create a To Do List. You can add action items directly to your calendar, so you have time blocked on your schedule to complete them. You can use a productivity app, like Evernote, to capture all your notes and action items. Or, if paper is your preference, use a notebook. But keep your information to one notebook so there aren’t random pieces of paper all over the house that will get lost or create physical clutter.
Learning to Say No.
Capturing your mental post-it notes on paper or your device is helpful to organize your thoughts. But how do you reduce the amount of post-it notes creating that mental clutter in the first place? Learning to say no can help.
Many of us overschedule ourselves. Accepting every party invitation. Volunteering to organize every event. But when you’re constantly exhausted and stressed out, it’s probably time to make some adjustments and dial back the schedule.
Saying no can be difficult. Saying no can be filled with guilt. But it can also be so freeing. Freedom from additional obligations. Freedom from more items on your To Do List. And freedom from the mental clutter that comes along with all those obligations.
I came across this quote a few years ago that really stuck with me …
“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” — Francine Jay
For me, having less to do means having less mental clutter to stress about. I can focus on the important things. And most notably, it means I have more time to focus on the things that bring me joy and happiness.
When you focus on the important things, it will reduce the number of responsibilities you struggle to balance each day. Many of us attempt multi-tasking to accomplish our action items but sometimes end up with a bunch of tasks half done. The practice of mindfulness encourages you to focus on one thing at a time and give that one thing your full attention. Mindfulness is not a new concept, yet many of us are not aware of the impact it can have on decluttering our minds and reducing our stress.
Declutter Your Mind
For many, mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with meditation. Meditation teaches you to focus on your breath and stay present in the moment which lends itself very well to mindfulness. But I realize some people don’t have the time or desire to meditate. In my opinion, that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate mindfulness into your day. The key is to focus on one task at a time and try to overcome distractions. When you’re able to focus on a task, you’re more likely to complete it more efficiently so you can move on to the next task.
Before beginning a task, do what you can to reduce distractions. Turn off the phone. Close email. Wait until your son’s Zoom lesson begins so you know he will be occupied for the next hour. Personally, I try to complete tasks that need the most concentration early in the morning before my daughter wakes up. It allows me to get a burst of work done before the interruptions begin.
When a distraction does occur, try to work through it the best you can. If your mind wanders off during a task or someone interrupts you, acknowledge it but try to not let it completely derail you. Try to bring your focus back to what you’re doing. If you struggle to get back on task, try taking a few deep breaths or do breathing exercises. For others, you may need to step away for a few moments and get a cup of tea or step outside for a breath of fresh air to regain focus.
Maintaining focus and practicing mindfulness isn’t always easy. But, like most things in life, the more you practice, the more you will improve. Clutter can come in my many forms and mental clutter is just one. But learning strategies to tackle that clutter can reduce stress and help simplify your day. Learning to say no can be empowering and help set the stage for prioritizing what is important to you. Capturing your thoughts, whether digitally or on paper, can help organize your ideas and information. And incorporating mindfulness can help accomplish your daily undertakings and set you on the path to … organizing your life one task at a time.