Decluttering Your Mind

Declutter your mind. How often do you declutter your mind? 

I spoke across North and South Carolina last October, November and December about decluttering your mind and why you need to do it daily. It was interesting when my audience was mostly male... I would explain to them that they needed to declutter their mind and writing down everything they had in their head - whether it needed to be there or not - needed to be written down.

Can I tell you about the looks I received? Oh my, the men are from... and the women are from... yeah, I saw it in action... they looked at me like I was bonkers.

So, we took a moment and a few sheets of paper and some of those pens I keep grabbing from hotel rooms and I had them write down everything in their head in 60 seconds... just one minute of their time... it took longer to pass out the paper and pens...

But they did it.

A few of them were funny - I use that term loosely here... the first thing they wrote down was "this is stupid" and "I don't want to do what she said to do". Some were writing down some thoughts like "what am I going to eat for lunch" or "can this end soon as I need to grab a second breakfast."

You would think this was damaging to my ego. Nope... I rolled with it... because I knew what would happen next... and my ego was grateful that I was right...

After the 'this is stupid" and "I don't want to do what she said to do" they wrote things like:

  • I have a huge medical bill due
  • My child has another medical test to find out what is wrong
  • My father has cancer
  • My mom is going to have to move in with us, her health is worse
  • I cannot stand my coworker constantly criticizing me
  • We are about to enter overtime again (this particular group were linemen for an electric company about to enter cold weather and winter after just finishing hurricane season)
  • I hardly see my kids when I get home from work
  • I have to pay my sons tuition and medical bills and we don't have enough money

The list went on... and oddly enough, these men and women shared what they wrote on their lists, even if it was 'private'. After they heard the first couple share their items, they felt they could share theirs... there was a commonality in what they were sharing... real issues on their mind.

This was reaffirming to them... that they are not alone with the items cluttering their minds... real issues and some issues that did not seem a big deal... but they found out that sometimes we obsess about something 'insignificant' in the whole scheme of things but really hiding what is really bothering them.

The next step in the decluttering process - this isn't just a write it all down and hope it goes away activity... it is a list to decide what to do with the items on the list...

  • You can DO the tasks
  • You can SCHEDULE the tasks
  • You can DELEGATE the tasks
  • Or you can TOSS the tasks

For example, the "I don't want to do what she said to do" is a TOSS. There is nothing more to do with this task, so just tell your brain you will toss it...

And that reminds me, I need to tell you why you should declutter your mind through writing it down. With paper and a writing utensil... a computer is not the best route to do this... the actual process your brain undertakes during the writing process offers you more benefit than simply typing it out. It has to do with how the brain works with the process of writing and typing.

Decluttering allows your brain to see the process and acknowledge the process. When something is floating around in your head and 'cluttering' your mind... you brain will obsess about it. It will bring it up to you all the time and at the most inconvenient times... like when you are trying to get that much needed sleep.

When your brain goes through the process of having that thought put down on paper, it recognizes that you 'dealt' with it... even if you have not dealt with it other than simply writing it down... So far...

When you decide what to do with the task or thought in your head... your brain sees a second time you are taking care of it... that is the process of thinking, writing, reading, and... then doing whatever the result is...

For an example of a huge medical bill... you have that medical bill in your brain and you are obsessing about how big that bill will be - because you haven't received it yet... but you know it will be HUGE... and how long it will take to pay it off and that you don't have enough money on hand to pay this bill... we obsess about things to the point we make them bigger than they really are.

Let's say that medical bill is going to be $15,000 after insurance has paid their share... yeah, that is huge... but you don't know for sure how much it will be... you are just figuring it in your head... so you are worrying about a number you don't know for sure what it will be... and...

And let's say you only have the ability to pay $5,000 off right away through savings and credit cards... but you don't want to be without any savings or credit left on your cards in case something else happens... and you worry about that too...

Well, you are worrying about things that are not yet presented to you and possibly making them worse than they are...

And now you are wondering how decluttering your mind about this medical bill is going to help you out...

Here is how. You have four choices - do - schedule - delegate - toss...

And tossing the medical bill and forgetting about it is not really the answer... you may want to do this... but it is not the answer.

What you could DO is this - contact the hospital and ask them if they allow payment plans (most do) or if they allow a settlement payment or if your situation warrants it, do they have a program to help you pay off your bill.

Your brain will thank you.

Instead of worrying about it, you can know what options are out there.

Then you can schedule what you are going to do next... when the bill comes and you find out how much it will cost you out of pocket, you can contact the hospital's billing department and set up a payment plan, settlement, or apply for the program they offer.

So much easier than worrying about it night and day... feeling unnecessary stress about something you thought you had no control over... but in fact you do.

A few people wrote on their list things that were in their heads that did not really matter... we talked about how tossing those things from your brain really helps... a few of the thoughts in their head were there just because they didn't want to address what was really upsetting them.

One was how their football team did... the other was how their coworker never cleans up his mess in the truck... while a few of the others teased about the football team... he realized he placed more attention on the team's results to take the focus off of other things he didn't want to think about... then he acknowledged what he really was worried about... and the process of figuring out what to do with the worry - the real worry... helped him feel less stress because he had a plan.

As to the cleaning up the mess in the truck... the individual who had this on the list believed that he should TOSS this thought... I asked him if he tossed this thought, would the issue go away? No, was his answer. He still has to drive in the truck with his beverage bottles, wrappers, and other messes... I asked him, then what is the answer?

The answer was to schedule a time to talk to that coworker. Which led us into the next segment of my speaking engagement... difficult conversations! I will cover that in another post.

Decluttering your mind on a daily basis keeps your brain free of clutter and open to new ideas, new experiences, new memories, and a less stressful life.

Here is a copy of my 'Declutter Your Brain' template... go ahead and print it out and make some copies... you will find this is so easy to use and reaps a ton of benefits!