Lately, I’ve been finding myself distracted, overwhelmed. As a result, I see I’m not being as productive as I could be; notably in the frequency of my writing and reading. I found myself writing this post as I’m trying to clear my mind of all the competing noise.
Noisy life, noisy mind
As we all know life can get really busy. Sometimes, I feel as if my mind is working overtime. This causes me to spend a lot of mental energy trying to get things done. Rushing around to be in places on time, just running from one important obligation to another. Going through the motions of life while trying to keep my head above water.
Then my mind gets tired, I lose motivation, nothing gets done. Obligations and tasks pile up to become overwhelming, and the cycle of distraction and being overwhelmed continues.
To avoid burning out, I needed to take action. The first place I started to look was my work area. I work from home and spend a lot of time in one room. Seeing the clutter spread from my desk to the bookshelf, and now the floor gave me a sense of anxiety.
I started organizing my work area to get rid of clutter I don’t use or need. This is my base camp, a place I can use as a starting point to work outward.
While I was decluttering my work area, I started a bullet journal to keep track of my to-do activities. It’s been helping me track what I’m having difficulty completing and I can track completed activities. This helps me keep track of my progress.
When I see progress, this helps decrease that overwhelmed feeling and helps me keep motivated to keep going; helping me to be more productive.
When I talk about being productive, I’m not talking about the sum of all the things I do. For me, it’s about all the important things that need to be done and done well. One thing I don’t like is doing the same job twice when it could have been done once correctly the first time.
Refresh the mind – physical retreats
I’ve always enjoyed being in the outdoors and going for a walk outside is a great way to clear the mind, reset thoughts, and be closer to nature.
There are different types of retreats I want to explore in hopes of resetting and refreshing my mind.
There’s something out being outside that changes how I think. Changing my environment by going outside can be, for me, mentally and physically refreshing.
I’m confined to, for hours on end, a small work area and maybe it’s the contrast of my small work area to that of the vast sky that draws me outdoors.
As I continue developing my personal vision, I’m going to incorporate the outdoors as part of my lifestyle. I can do this by making one of my goals: to take more time to spend outside. Making seasonal outdoor activities a part of my routine. Even if I have to start with something simple as taking a short walk around my neighborhood.
Trying to find an indoor getaway is more difficult for me. Sometimes the weather offers no other options but the indoors. For this, I would like to choose a room I normally don’t spend a lot of time in and use that area for reading or reflecting on personal vision and goals.
For me, an important part of finding an indoor location is silence; a place where peace and quiet is the rule, not the exception. This has to be a place where I’m not surrounded by clutter, visual or technological noise (smartphones, computers, tv).
Maybe because I grew up with a partial connection to technology but I find technological noise as a form of mental noise.
Find what fits you
When it comes to finding a particular area, experimenting with different locations can be helpful to find what fits you best. Maybe try a location you wouldn’t normally try. Also, try the different locations at different times if possible because they can feel like different environments.
I think finding peaceful environments is the hardest of these approaches.
Declutter the mind
…thy thoughts have created a creature in thee
– Melville (Moby Dick)
Noise and clutter
As I sit here writing this post, I can hear all the to-do lists going around inside my head. I can hear all the work and family obligations that need my attention.
This is the price of modern life. We all have obligations competing for our attention every day. It can feel become overwhelming at times as if there’s never enough time.
I feel as if my mind is noisy with the obligations of today and mistakes from yesterday.
How do we deal with all this mental noise?
This is something I’ve been working on for a while. It’s a process of learning about what works and what doesn’t. I don’t think I’ll get to a point where all the mental clutter disappears.
I would like to get to a point where it’s not so overwhelming. To learn how to manage the stress of feeling like things are getting out of control. To not let my past failures haunt the present and write my future.
In my experiments to clear my mind, I’m going to try to take more time to appreciate moments. To take time and enjoy silence or to hear the sounds of my environment.
Sometimes I sit with an open window to hear the rainfall on the grass, hear the animals searching for food or the hum of tires as cars go down the road. Though with an increasing amount of traffic and vehicle noise I’m starting to think that silence seems like a rare commodity in these times.
I mentioned above that I’ve started using a bullet journal in a 100-page composition book. I’m a visual person. I like to see what items are competing for my attention and I also like to see the “X” next to all the completed items.
Part of my morning routine is to create a list of important things that need to be done that day.
In the evening I review all the tasks for that day and mark ones that were completed and identify ones to migrate to tomorrow. If I let the tasks build over time and they snowball into a long task list each day then the stress increases and nothing happens. This is where discipline becomes important.
There’s a great satisfaction when you can see a task and mark it complete. For me, seeing progress helps keep me motivated and productive.
Overall, this is an important activity that’s helped me manage mental clutter and reduce noise.
If you want to start with something simple, make a note of things you want to finish today and cross them off your list as you finish. There’s a great sense of accomplishment in seeing tasks completed.
Mental clutter and health
Mental clutter and noise can increase stress, that we know is linked to negative health effects.
Every new year, the health clubs become packed for the first few weeks as people try to increase physical health and appearance. While working on physical health, this is an opportunity to focus on clearing the mind of unnecessary stress.
Mental clutter and life
I’ve been working on what some are calling “internet fasting” by breaking my use of smartphones and technology.
One of the reasons why I try to disconnect from technology (and sometimes people) is because I feel like all this constant communication and constant updates dull our experiences when we interact with each other.
When we have the ability to text each other all day and we see constant status updates from social media, what do we really have left over to say to each other when we meet in person? I already know about your day so there’s nothing new.
There’s a sense that this constant updating and data bombardment, for me, starts to become noise. The constant feeds from social media, the hundreds of channels on TV, the constant repetition of the same songs on the radio; these all feed into dulling the experience of communicating.
I find that taking time to clear my mind and be in silence helps create a richer experience for people. If we take ourselves out of the constant communication loop, we can have meaningful discussions rather than the superficial status update or brief text.
Clearing the mind to manage mental clutter and reduce noise takes a multifaceted approach: reduce clutter, integrating organization methods, and finding relaxing environments. Give these approaches the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or your mind is full of distraction. Doing this take patience, so take your time with this to achieve maximum benefit.
If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend starting with tracking activities. It’s easy and you see feedback in a day or two and you’ll see how productive you can be when you tracking important activities. This should help motivate you to move on decluttering your life and finding relaxing environments.