It’s a subject I discuss with my clients all the time: Mental clutter. The fast-paced modern world is full of distractions, constantly fighting for our attention. It’s only natural that clutter can accumulate in our minds. However, going too long without tidying things up in there can throw off our ability to stay organized, decisive, and focused on your goals.
Plenty of growth-oriented entrepreneurs and professionals understand the importance of emotional intelligence in success. But putting that into practice is hard, even impossible when your mental space is a chaotic mess.
If you feel as though your mental clutter is holding you back professionally and personally, it’s most likely time for some spring cleaning. So here are seven actionable tips to help you improve your mood, productivity, and fulfillment at work…not to mention your general satisfaction in life.
1. Declutter Your Space
Depending on how cluttered your space is, this one might sound easy. Yet, it’s one of the most important steps you can take to keep your mind clear. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, a cluttered home or office environment is distracting, even if you don’t consciously notice it. In fact, physical clutter negatively affects focus, mood, and even information processing. Long story short? Clean your office!
2. Make a List
No matter how good you are at remembering and mentally juggling all your priorities, the reality is that keeping your To-Do list stored in your head is occupying valuable intellectual real estate. The simple act of getting the information out of your head and onto a piece of paper can help free up processing power to use for other things.
Of course, making the list is just the first step. Prioritizing your tasks and following through with completing them is also key.
3. Minimize Multitasking
Psychologists tell us that task-switching is expensive. The mental juggling act we call “multitasking” (a misnomer, as you can only perform one task at a time) comes with a “switching cost” that can add up to a 40% loss in productivity over the course of a day.
To avoid mental clutter and stress, give your full attention to just one task at a time.
4. Get More Sleep
I know how challenging it can be in our world of constant communication, obligation, and binge-able TV. And if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not alone; 76% of Americans reported that insufficient sleep interrupted their daily life during just one recent month.
Nevertheless, sleep deprivation doesn’t just leave you yawning through the next day’s meetings—neural lapses disrupt your ability to think clearly, stay focused, and remember things. That’s why getting the recommended 7-9 hours per night should be a top priority of your mental declutter.
5. Declutter Your Digital World
Digital media are powerful sources of connectivity and information, but the content we choose to view, consume, and engage with can shape our perceptions of ourselves, others, and the world.
What’s the good news? It’s all under your control. Too much information can clog up your mind, so use your screen time thoughtfully and with intentionality.
Put down your phone, avoid negative content, unfriend, unsubscribe, and unfollow; curate your social media feeds to create a perspective on the world that will help you pursue your goals.
6. Take a break
Many entrepreneurs feel obligated to work harder and restless often, putting in more and more time and effort every day. We all feel the need to be constantly “on” at all times, but that mindset can be downright toxic. By overworking yourself every day, you are putting yourself in danger of harmful side effects and burnout. Quite simply, rest is a part of productivity, so you need to give yourself that time to recharge.
Getting outdoors, staying active and social, and exercising regularly is essential to your mental and physical health and wellbeing. In fact, regular exercise improves memory, mood, and sleep, while reducing stress, anxiety, and cognitive impairment.
7. Learn to Let Go
My clients sometimes find self-care to be one of the most challenging parts of managing their emotional and intellectual resources and energy. Society has taught us for generations to define our value according to our productivity, sometimes at all costs.
However, no matter what path you are walking in life and work, you are the one walking it. You are your own vessel for success, and that means you need to care for that vessel if you want to get you where you’re going.
Ultimately, self-care is about letting go of the external pressures and gaining an understanding of the choices and habits that will keep you fulfilled, satisfied, motivated, and ready to weather the difficult times.
Try keeping a journal and sharing your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend, colleague, or loved one. As you become more attentive to your thoughts, try to identify, and challenge your inner negative voice. Finally, practice letting go of your past mistakes, pains, and grievances, so you can move forward with a truly move past mental clutter.
Need Some Extra Help?
If you’ve never approached the process of decluttering your mind before, it can seem a bit overwhelming. But it’s important to stick with it. After all, aren’t you worth the effort? As all my clients will tell you, personalized coaching from a seasoned professional life coach never hurts, either.