Mental clutter can disrupt your entire life. In fact, having too much to do and not enough time to do it is the bane of our modern society. But what exactly is mental clutter and how can you cull at least some of it to clear your thinking process?
Mental clutter is at least in part, a result of our cluttered physical world around us. So you may want to begin by clearing and organizing your literal living and work space in addition to your virtual computer desktop. But it doesn’t have to work in that order—start the clutter-busting in your life in whatever way feels natural and comfortable to you.
Just from personal observation, it seems there are lots of people who have too many commitments—you know the person who always looks haggard, confused and complains endlessly about having too much “going on”, but who keeps adding to her responsibilities. Some of these responsibilities are a natural (and necessary) outgrowth of two career couples with children, pets, and other family and friend related obligations—and many of these “obligations” are relaxing and fun, like a family picnic or a child’s baseball game.
But really, can’t a few of these obligations be trimmed to give you time for yourself—to help you carve out even a few extra minutes to luxuriate in thinking? And we know that you must make the time to think and revise and research and consult…before you produce a clear, concise piece of business communication. At that’s your end goal: getting your ideas across to your business colleagues in the clearest, briefest and most compelling way possible.
We may think that our brains can compartmentalize, and convince ourselves we can multitask without hurting the quality of what we produce. But I think we are deluding ourselves…and I’m not alone. Independent studies and commentary show just how much “multitasking” harms both our creativity and the quality of our output.
Here’s one tip that should prove helpful to cull your commitments to a manageable level:
—Make a list of all of your daily, weekly and monthly commitments and projects, then put stars by only the ones you’re passionate about and that add substantive meaning and joy to your life. Think long and hard about each commitment before you add that star! (For most of us, this list will also include those commitments and tasks that add money to our life.) Delete all others. Permanently.
The idea is that you’re clearing your mind of extraneous issues and obligations so you can focus only on the ones most important to you. This is a great way to start the process of clearing your mental clutter…and that will make way for what really matters. This observation from artist, designer and educator, Hans Hoffman, says it beautifully: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” For years, I taught a senior writing class to industrial design students and this quote is one that resonated with them the most.
Let us know what steps you’ve taken to clear your mental clutter, and whether it’s helped “the necessary” speak in your life.