Just as in an overly cluttered house you trip over things, sometimes hurting yourself, waste enormous amounts of time and energy looking for lost items, and squander money re-buying things you’ve forgotten you had, the same applies to your cluttered mind. Your conscious mind can be cluttered with expectations, realistic or otherwise, lots of “mustn’t forget”, “should”, “have to”, fragments of unfinished projects through multitasking and shinyobjectitis, story loops reliving angry or upsetting encounters and the dreaded “What ifs”. No wonder you feel frazzled and overwhelmed!
Here are some steps to get you started decluttering your mind, and keeping it that way. The magic is in the maintenance, as always.
- Mega To Do list: On a large piece of paper, divided into 2 columns (more if you wish) labelled Business/Work and Personal, dump down absolutely everything that comes to mind what you should, must or want to do. No matter how trivial, get it out of your head and on to paper. Now go through and Delete, Delegate, Diarise or Defer each item. You’ll have much less to do at the end, and feel more in control without the endless reminders churning in your head.
- Stop multitasking. Stay mindful with one task at a time, as much as possible. (Admittedly harder with very young children. Remember Superwoman isn’t real. Reprioritize.) It’s more efficient and much less stressful to play with one ball at a time. When finished, you mentally put the ball down, in the past (if finished) or future, and pick up another ball. When thoughts intrude, say “I’ll handle that at X o’clock.” Notice not: “I’ll worry about that later.” Diarise it immediately if you think you’ll forget, set your phone alarm if it is time-critical, so you can relax and focus on your current task. Or, “That’s in the past now” and mentally flick it behind you.
- Mind your language. Self-talk is self-programming so be careful how you talk to yourself. Instead of saying “I mustn’t forget XYZ”, use “I must remember to do XYZ in time.” If you tell yourself & others you have a terrible memory and always forget, it will be true. Know that as soon as you ask someone else to remind you to do something, you’ll mentally wipe it off your To Do list, however it may not go on to theirs. Take responsibility for your own reminders, and say “No” more often.
- Time travel for good not evil. What you think, feel, interpret and act on in the present creates your future. If you imagine a future of failure and rejection, you feel those in your body, and your body naturally wants to flee or fight. It can’t do either because the event is only in your imagination. It can only freeze, causing anxiety and panic attacks. Some will depress themselves by reliving an unhappy past and projecting that out into the future.
When you catch yourself doing a negative “What if?”, ask yourself “What if it doesn’t happen like that? How will that feel?” That will bring you back to the present, the only moment that is real, feeling either neutral or positive. Next take action to ensure the negative either can’t happen, or that you are well prepared.
- Sleep well. At close of business prepare for the next day so you can relax knowing all is under control. That frees up space for inspiration and genuinely forgotten items to pop into your consciousness. Spend 15 minutes or so before bed purging all your unspoken words, frustrations, emotions on to paper, destroying it without reading immediately after. Forget neatness, grammar, spelling, ‘nice’ language, just keep writing. Only stop when you feel clear and light inside.
What you are aware of you can manage. Remember, just awareness is not enough. You have to give yourself permission to take action to change. So, allocate time right now to work on a solution as suggested above. If nothing changes, nothing changes. You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself and your interpretation of, and response to, the world. Decluttering your mind is the first step to reclaiming your personal power!