‘Inner Clutter’ is your personal to-do list, everything from important meetings to replacing a burnt out light bulb. Even seemingly small tasks can weigh on our minds. Have you ever put off going to the hardware or grocery store to pick something up? How many times did you think about doing this chore? Every day until you finally made the trip? When your mind is filled with unfinished responsibilities and errands, your thoughts are scattered and you’re less able to experience and enjoy the present moment. You also have less energy to devote to truly important projects.
If you find you’re frequently distracted because your mind is scanning an endless To-Do list, then it’s time to clear out your Inner (or mental) Clutter. Set aside some quiet time when you know you will have an uninterrupted half-an-hour. Have a calendar and a notebook at hand. Then take a blank piece of paper and write down absolutely everything on your mind—from defrosting your freezer to repairing the roof, to asking your boss for a raise—no task is too small or too big so don’t stop to judge or organize what you’re putting on your list, just keep writing. The simple act of writing down all the things on your mind will help clear your mental clutter.
The next step is to organize your list. You may wish to first identify anything that needs to be done by a certain date or time and put those items on your calendar as well as on your list. Next pull out anything that can be done quickly, like picking up your dry cleaning or replacing a light bulb, then set a goal to complete one or two of those tasks everyday. Each time you complete a task cross it off—crossing things off on your list is a great feeling, so take a second to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction.
For larger, more substantial tasks that may take time to complete, write down the first step that would need to completed next in order to achieve your goal. For example, if you want to write a book someday, but haven’t started yet, the first step may be researching your subject, or learning how to write a book proposal, or setting up a desk in your home where you can write. Once you’ve crossed that task off your list, write down the next step and so forth. Breaking down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks will help you feel more focused and less overwhelmed.
As you organize your list you may realize that some tasks aren’t as pressing or important as you first thought. You may even decide that some items can be crossed off the list immediately because you’ll simply decide they’re not necessary to complete. It’s amazing how we can carry an idea around in our heads for weeks or even months, just because we never took a moment to really think about it and decide how important it is to us. These days we are bombarded with a constant flow of information from televisions, radios, the Internet, newspapers, and cell phones, so frequently we hear or see something that sticks in our minds, but that we never process. Sometimes just taking a moment to think about what you’ve just heard or seen, is all you need to do to get it off your mind.
Commit to the process of creating and maintaining a list at least once a week. If you ever have a moment during the week when you experience “mental overload,” then take ten minutes to write down everything on your mind. You can then review and process that list later during the weekly time you have set aside and can get back to the moment at hand. By clearing your mental clutter, you will be able to identify what is really important to you and then give those things and people your undivided attention. You are then truly free to experience and enjoy living in the moment!