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5 Ways to De-Clutter Your Mind

5 Ways to De-Clutter Your Mind

We’ve all been there. An important deadline looms, yet no matter how hard we try, we can’t stop thinking about something else. Perhaps it’s an ongoing conflict, an unresolved issue, or something we need to remember to do later on. Whatever the case, having too much mental clutter can prevent us focusing on important tasks in the present.

Here are five quick tips you can use as a quick fix to de-clutter your mind and get on with your day.

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1. Meditate

Even a few minutes of silent meditation can be enough to clear your mind of excess clutter, help you feel more grounded, and improve your focus. For a simple meditation, set a timer for five minutes, focus your eyes a few feet in front of you and shift your focus to your breathing. Whenever you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts, don’t worry. Just bring your awareness back to your breathing as soon as you become aware that your mind is wandering.

2. Journal

Stream-of-consciousness journaling is a great way to get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto paper, especially if you’re getting distracted by thoughts about a particular person, situation or event.

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This kind of journaling is easy in theory, but in practise it can feel alien at first and it can take a few tries to get used to it. To make the most out of stream-of-consciousness journaling, take a blank page (or blank screen) and simply write down whatever comes into your head. All thoughts go on paper, even “I don’t know what to write”.

When we journal using stream-of-consciousness, it’s easy to slip into self-censorship and judgements about what we’re writing. For this kind of journaling to be effective, try to suspend any thoughts about what you should or shouldn’t be writing, the quality of your spelling and grammar, or whether what you’re writing even makes sense. Those things don’t matter; the most important thing is that you have a place to channel your thoughts, whatever they might be.

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3. Talk about it

Talking to others about the topics that are cluttering your mind has two main benefits: it can help you feel validated and heard, and it can also provide you with a different perspective. Often, just having someone listen to and understand what’s on your mind helps relieve some of the urgency and intensity of the thoughts. Equally, hearing someone else’s thoughts and perspectives about what’s on your mind can leave you with new insights and resolution.

4. Do a core dump

If you’re not preoccupied with one topic in particular, but are struggling to stay focused in light of an overwhelming to-do list, brainstorming or carrying out a core dump could be the mental de-cluttering method for you.

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A ‘core dump’ is a term devised by David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, which is one of the most popular productivity systems in the world. When you carry out a core dump, you write down everything you can think of that requires you to do or remember something, and then organise these items into individual tasks and projects. The more information you store in your head, the more cluttered your thoughts will feel. Transferring these to-do items from your head onto paper or screen frees up valuable space in your mind so you can focus on other things.

5. Change your scene

Changing your scene might sound too simple to be effective, but it really works. When we perform the same activities in the same place over and over again (for example, writing reports in our office), we can get stuck in mental ruts that are associated with that particular activity and place. Moving the activity to a different location can help us look at it with fresh eyes and a new focus, relieving the mental boredom that might lead our mind to wander to other things.

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Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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