Mental Clutter

Sometimes, my mind feels like it’s playing “Whack-a-Mole.”

whack-a-mole2I’m concentrating on one thought, when another idea pops up in its place.  I “whack” that one, and two more appear.  And it goes faster and faster.

There’s just so much life stuff going on that I can get overwhelmed trying to keep track of it all.  If I finish one thing, it’s never satisfying – because all I can think about is all the other stuff that still needs to happen.

So I do nothing.

When my mind is cluttered like that, I’m learning to see that as a signal.  It says, “Time to clean house.”  We need to get rid of some of the “stuff” in our minds, and keep it from coming back. 

Which means we need to make some intentional choices about how much we allow into our minds.

How do we clean the clutter?  Here are a few ideas I’ve found helpful:

  • Learn to value thinking.  When we have a few extra minutes at a signal or standing in line, we grab our smartphones, check our email or look for something to keep us entertained – which adds more clutter to our minds.  Those are great opportunities to simply think. Thinking processes the clutter that’s already in our minds instead of adding more.
  • Drive with the radio off (especially talk radio) fairly often.  It’s interesting, and isn’t necessarily bad.  It’s just adding more things to think about, which turns into clutter. 
  • Make a limited, realistic task list each day.  When the list is too long, we know we won’t finish – so conquering the clutter feels hopeless.
  • Read slower.  I love to read, and read a lot.  But reading fast is like eating fast; a lot goes in, but we never savor any of it.
  • Don’t read email or visit Facebook first thing in the morning.  Don’t start the day with everyone else’s priorities; make the day belong to you.
  • Walk outdoors – not for exercise, but for enjoyment.  When we walk in nature, a lot of the trivial thoughts seem to leak out and disappear.
  • Simplify.  We need to triage our minds to determine what good stuff needs to go – so there’s room for the great stuff.

What do you do to de-clutter your mind?




Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)