Inside: 5 ways to declutter your mind with intention, for a more minimalist lifestyle
Cluttered home and cluttered mind go hand in hand. Hanging onto material things that do nothing for you often means you’re also hanging onto emotions and assumptions that are similarly useless to you.
The first step in a minimalist journey is typically decluttering of the physical space. It makes you feel good because you can see the difference quickly.
It also helps you make a bit of extra mental space to process and let go of any old grievances, negative feelings, and worries.
The second step is decluttering your mind. Today, let’s talk about five powerful ways to do that.
Meditation isn’t all woo-woo, New Age craziness. You don’t need to sit on a cushion with one candle lighting your darkened room.
You can benefit from very simple meditation techniques, like focusing on your breathing. Try it now:
Close your eyes and concentrate on breathing in and breathing out.
Let your mind slow down a little. You’re not forcing anything, only observing how your body takes in a breath and then lets it out.
If your mind starts wandering, gently refocus it back on your breathing. In and out, some breaths deeper, others shallower…
This is an excellent technique to use when you’re feeling wound up. Focusing on your breathing helps your mind calm down.
You can add affirmations here. For example, if you’re having one of those days when nothing is going your way, try saying this to yourself:
“I am calm. I appreciate the obstacles in my way because they make me slow down and consider if this is the right path for me. I use this time to find a better way.”
Write everything down
Some people call this a brain dump, others call it journaling, or even a to-do list. Whatever you call it, write down what’s on your mind.
Write down your worries, all the things you need to do tomorrow or in the coming weeks, all the things you’d like to say to people but can’t.
It helps tremendously to not have all this stuff floating in your mind day in, day out. Sometimes writing it out is all you need – that usually goes for the journaling bits where you just need to get stuff off your chest.
It’s much easier to keep your mind clutter-free when you’re not carrying in your head a laundry list of tasks, appointments, due dates, and worries.
Daily to-do list
Once your to-do list is on paper, start prioritizing the tasks and decide how you’re going to tackle them.
I like to use Trello for this, but the system also works on paper. As I think of things to do, they go on the Incoming list. That’s my running list for everything.
Here’s a screenshot of my Daily System board:
Every morning, I move the tasks around. The ones I need to do today go on the Today list and I check them off as I get them done.
Today and tomorrow are pretty self-explanatory. Then I have a list for This week where I put tasks that need to be done this week, but either they’re not important enough to do today, or something else needs to happen first before they become relevant.
The next list is for Later. These are things that are important but not yet urgent. In January, taxes might go in this list – until all the tax documents come in.
Once all the tax documents are in my hands, I wait for a week when I have an uninterrupted afternoon and move the task there.
In Trello, you can assign due dates to tasks and have them move automatically. I prefer to do it manually. And I don’t work on deadlines, but that’s a story for another day.
Focus on the present
Worrying about the future and/or stewing about the past does nothing positive for you but takes up a lot of real estate in your mind.
Just like you did in the meditation exercise, when you become aware that your mind is moving away from the present, refocus it gently.
Did somebody say something that hurt your feelings? Take a deep breath, consider the source, bless, and release.
If it’s someone close to you, chances are they didn’t mean to hurt you – it could have been a misunderstanding that needs clearing up, or maybe the person was just having a bad day.
Either way, it’s not a reflection on you. So let it go.
If someone was a total jerk and you didn’t have a good response, don’t worry about it now. Chances are pretty good that the right answer will come to you in the shower (it always does for me), and next time, you’ll know exactly what to say.
Do your best to not worry about the future. There’s nothing you can do about it right now other than focus on the present.
So keep your focus on the right here, right now, and do what you need to do.
Focus on one thing at a time
There’s no such thing as multitasking for humans. We don’t multitask; instead, we switch from one task to another, sometimes rapidly.
The big problem with this is that it takes your mind some time to become focused on the new task. So what do you think happens when you’re switching between tasks quickly?
You never actually focus on any one task fully. It’s incredibly inefficient. And science shows it actually leads to more anxiety and can even lower your IQ. Who needs that?
Instead, slow down and focus on one thing at a time. Get it done and move on to the next one.
As I write this article, there are other things waiting. But they’re not getting my attention until this post is written.
Put a limit on incoming data
Cell phones, and smartphones especially, have made it super easy to be available 24/7. The 24-hour news cycle (how is it still news then?) keeps a constant stream of information coming in too.
Your email beeps, your incoming texts ding, the screen lights up in a bid for your attention. It’s a lot.
But guess what? You’re in charge. You can turn off the TV and your computer, silence the phone, and decide how much is enough.
Do you really need email notifications? You can turn them off, all of them – sound, the screen lighting up, and the nagging little number that tells you how many new messages are waiting for you.
Instead, designate email times – maybe one chunk in the morning when you go through all of it and decide what needs action, and another in the afternoon when you reply, update, and clean up the rest.
Much more peaceful, isn’t it?
You can also silence most messaging conversations – do you really need your phone to ding when everybody in your group chat weighs in with their “LOL”?
In my opinion, there is absolutely no reason for the phone to make any sound except for a phone call, a reminder you set, or a text from one of your favorite people.
Everything else you can check on your own time. You’re welcome.
Oh, and turn off the whole kit and kaboodle at night. No need for other people’s dubious “emergencies” and butt-dialing to disrupt your sleep.
Think about it – if it’s an emergency, they can call 911. If it’s not, you can address it when you wake up in the morning.
Decluttering your physical space goes a long way. Decluttering your mind builds on that and takes it a lot further. You’ll feel much less stressed, be a lot more productive, and I bet your motivation level will be through the roof.
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