Every day in my work as a professional organizer, I help people deal with clutter. We work with physical clutter, which could be as varied as books, kitchen utensils, office supplies, tools, or toiletries. We work with digital clutter like email, documents, or passwords. But so many times, I find that the most harmful clutter in our lives is the clutter in our minds.
Do you ever feel that you have so many things swimming around in your brain that you can’t even think clearly? In the space of five minutes, I might be having all of these assorted thoughts:
- I need to remember to send that email.
- I need to take that shopping bag with the clothes I need to return when I go to Target later today.
- Why is my shower always dripping? I need to call the plumber about that today because it’s driving me crazy.
- What are we having for dinner tonight?
- I really should exercise this week, but my schedule is really busy. Hmmm….
- This junk drawer is ridiculous! I can’t ever find anything!
- I better start working on that presentation that’s coming up soon.
- Why can’t Republicans and Democrats agree on a good solution to our country’s health care problems?
And on and on and on it goes. Then, if I don’t do anything about these thoughts, five minutes later, like Dory with a short-term memory problem, I’m on to more and more scattered thoughts. It’s no wonder we are all constantly feeling overwhelmed. We have so much on our minds, so many tasks we want to accomplish, so many plates to keep spinning. Even if we are at the top of our game intellectually, our brains can only hold so much information. When our minds are cluttered, we are not able to focus on the task at hand for fear that all the other extraneous thoughts will be lost forever.
I have been thinking of this more than ever recently as I am reading a fascinating book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. Originally published in 2002, this book has gained international acclaim. I am only about one fourth of the way through it, but already it has me excited about its potential. This excerpt from Amazon’s book review gives you an idea of his primary theory: “Allen’s premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.”
I have found that in my own life, I have made some attempts to deal with my own mind clutter. I have a few “trusted systems” (borrowing from Allen’s terminology) to release a thought from my brain and put the idea into a format that will be remembered at the appropriate time. For example, if I find myself thinking, “I need to remember to send that email,” I am likely to either send it right away to clear it from my mind or to set a reminder on my iPhone to send it when I arrive at home (I love my smart phone!). When I come across a good idea for a future blog entry, I enter this into a list on my Trello board. If I need to remember to take something with me, I will either set it by my purse at the door or go ahead and put it in my car.
The exact system of clearing the clutter from your mind isn’t as important as just having a system for it. I can’t wait to read more so that I can deal more effectively with my own mental clutter and so that I have more useful information to share!
If you’d like to read more of my blog entries about organizational topics like this, you can read my article in the Kingsport Times News every other Sunday. Or sign up to follow my blog on my website, beshipshape.com. You can also “like” my business Facebook page.