Who among us doesn’t want to be more productive in the day-to-day? If you want to succeed in your career and average, daily goals, you have to be able to focus on what is before you. If you’re distracted and find your attention torn not only by external distractions but your own internal thoughts, you can’t expect to excel.
If we can learn how to clear out mental clutter and eliminate these things that are holding us back from maximizing productivity—the onslaught of information, environmental factors, anxieties, and even your own mental headspace—you will be able to tap into your full potential.
Here are some ways I’ve learned to manage all of the things competing for my attention each and every day. Instead, I learned how to declutter and maximize my productivity.
Top Strategies for Decluttering Your Mental Space
1) Declutter your actual space.
Psychologists have revealed just how detrimental a cluttered environment, be it at work or at home, can be to our mental wellbeing. Not only can it cause us to eat poorly, have a worse self-image, and lower overall mental health, but it creates something called “mental clutter.”
This is a state of mind that makes it impossible for the brain to filter out irrelevant data. It makes you less efficient, slower to process information, and results in lapses in memory. Studies have even gone so far as to suggest that mental clutter is partially culpable in age-related memory loss. Scary stuff.
If your workspace or home is in need of some serious spring cleaning, now is the time. A cleanly, organized, and streamlined environment will help you more than you realize.
Maybe it's time to finally watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix?
2) Practice deep breathing exercises.
Navy SEALS are trained to manage their stress through four-minute intervals of deep breathing. This helps return focus to the task at hand, rather than placing it on feelings of stress or the sensory overload of what’s going on around you. Try breathing in four seconds, then out for another four.
There’s such an advantage to this technique because you can employ it anytime and anywhere, whenever you feel unfocused or stressed.
3) Limit the information you take in.
We live in the Information Age. Because of this, it’s so easy to feel the compulsion to be connected all the time. We feel left out if we don’t see the latest update, flash briefing, and immediately answer every “important” e-mail. We have to be on every social media network. We have to have a presence.
The overconsumption of data can contribute to our mental clutter as we try to accomplish important work. Even if the information we consume is good, it can stay on our minds when we should be focused on other things.
So instead, limit yourself. Decide what deserves your attention and when to give it. When will you check your e-mails? When is social media acceptable? When will you shut down entirely at night? Deciding these things is critical to cutting down on the mental clutter.
4) Create space to think.
One of the things I love most about running is that it gives me an opportunity to think without anything but the path before me. These are spaces where you can think without actively working or staring at screens. Running, biking, doing chores, or even showering: these are all great times to allow your mind to flow and think freely. If you’ve had clutter bouncing around or ideas that haven’t fully formed, having space for them to grow is a must.
5) Trim the fat from your schedule.
Part of what keeps our mind so busy and overworked is that our schedules are just too overwhelmed. We have far too much to do and too much going on. So many times, these jam-packed schedules are just too much. We don’t need to be doing have of what we think we need to do. It’s time to look at your calendar with scrutiny—is this really worth my time and energy?
If it’s not, don’t allow it to consume any more of your mental energy than it already has. You can move on and allow the things that you really need to be doing and accomplishing to take up your time instead.
What helps you cut out the mental clutter in your life? Share your best productivity tips in the comments.