The human mind is a miracle of nature and the most amazing tool we have. A vast repository of thoughts, memories, data, and creative intuition whirring at all times, it puts any computer to shame. And to think, we have access to all that power at any time we choose! Learning how to declutter your mind to maximize the use of this powerful tool is essential.
Of course, “access” and “control” are two different things. We’ve all had moments when, due to all the mental clutter, finding what we’re looking for in our heads is an exercise in frustration. An overcrowded mind is no different than a cluttered desk or disorganized filing cabinet. It makes it harder to recall what you need when you need it and can stifle productivity.
Decluttering your mind can provide all kinds of benefits. You’ll be able to process your thoughts and emotions more clearly and disperse accumulated negativity quickly. And this decluttering is easier than you may think! Here’s how to begin:
Your brain is for thinking, not remembering
Brainpower is mighty, but also a somewhat limited resource. Just like overworking your muscles, overtaxing your brain can lead to fatigue, and make even simple tasks difficult to perform. We all become overwhelmed by too much information from time to time.
The solution is to find ways to function smarter. Rather than memorizing superfluous facts—which wastes time and energy, building up large amounts of data to sift through—you need to make links between them. Your brain wasn’t designed for data storage so much as processing: analyzing information and connecting pertinent points.
Organizing your thoughts in this way is easier than it may seem. Inspiration can strike at a moment’s notice; the ability to write things down on a notepad or an app can relieve your brain of the need to remember everything all the time. There are significant studies to back this up—we’re more likely to find inspiration and boost our creativity if we can take and retain notes.
And digital notes are just as useful as physical ones. With the right organizational tool, digital note-taking can simplify your organizational systems and get you out of your head.
Power tip: The scratch pad widget in Evernote, accessible immediately upon opening, lets you quickly jot down ideas on the fly. You can then convert these flashes of inspiration into notes for a later organization time; integrate them into your schedule or combine them with other notes to help you act on these reminders more readily.
Learn to say “no”
Time, unfortunately, is not a renewable resource. So when you take on too much in a given period of time, you’re not making good use of your hours.
It’s a negative drain twice over, too. Not only do you lose time that could be better spent pursuing your passions or being with your family; but the time you do spend working also winds up inefficiently spent and causes a lot of stress. Overloading your schedule is a recipe for disaster. And yet, most of us end up doing so anyway, as we juggle the demands of our jobs, our families, and self-care.
One of the best lessons you can learn for time management is how to say “no” when you’re at capacity. This can entail steps like taking the weekend off instead of working overtime, or prioritizing family game night over a side project that feels like a step too far. Slowing down your pace and opening up your calendar reduces stress and can help you better balance your responsibilities.
Power tip: The key to saying “no” is prioritizing—knowing what can be rescheduled or dropped and what can’t. Use Tasks in Evernote to rank the items on your busy itinerary by levels of importance and provide context for each activity. You can also set up reminders for both tasks and notes, so you don’t forget anything.
Try a ‘brain dump’
The first step to decluttering your mind is to identify when it’s too full of information in the first place. We’re constantly bombarded by data from the internet, social media, the news, friends and acquaintances, and our own thoughts. This can make it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand or unwind at the end of the day.
A ‘brain dump,’ or an effort to declutter your mind of unnecessary thoughts, is an excellent way to address such pile-up. Writing out everything and then organizing these scraps of details and plans can help you discard unimportant information swirling around your brain, reducing the number of things you need to think about at any given time. Not to mention that seeing all your thoughts on paper can help you spot new connections between them, further optimizing your organizational skills.
Declutter your mind, declutter your life
Decluttering is a state of mind more than anything else. It means rethinking your behavior and habits—looking at them with an objective eye—then adopting and sticking with small measures to change them. Over time, you’ll see the positive impacts these adjustments have on your life, and help develop further habits to provide clarity and inner peace. And organizational tools can help, giving you a fast and simple way to make notes, organize your thoughts, and keep track of all the details.
Check out even more resources to benefit your mental health!