Overthinking everything? If your mind’s way too busy, try this simple 10-minute exercise to help you clear mental clutter and regain focus.
How about a little spring cleaning for the mind?
I hate clutter with a vengeance. Having too much junk lying around drives me totally bananas.
If my apartment is a plain old mess, even the thought of sorting it out is just completely overwhelming.
The same goes for mental clutter.
Often, our brains are working at a rapid-fire rate. We’re bombarded by thoughts all day long, which means our minds are crazy busy, and we end up with seemingly endless ‘to do’ lists.
When we factor in the amount of information we consume on a daily basis (including the news, email, and social media), it’s no wonder most of us are so stressed out.
In order to regain our focus, we need to stop overthinking and clear away the mental clutter.
How do we get all cluttered up?
Mental clutter usually accumulates due to a lack of 1) direction, and 2) priorities.
If we’re not totally clear on:
- Our values
- Our intentions
- The direction we’re heading in
- What’s most important to us
Then of course we’re going to feel overwhelmed.
We get swamped by everybody else’s agendas. We allow external influences – including bosses, parents, partners, and other people around us – dictate our actions.
And it all gets too much.
For example, I start overthinking when I lose my sense of direction – when I forget what goals I’m working towards, and find myself doing a lot of busywork. It’s only when I remember my vision that I get clear on the action I need to be taking.
The problem is, most of us have no idea what we want, so we walk around letting life live us, instead of the other way around.
Time to take back the reins.
How to stop overthinking & clear mental clutter
Grab a journal or open up a fresh word processing document, and work your way through the following steps.
Step 1: list everything you’re worried about
Make a list of everything that’s on your mind and/or stressing you out right now. This could include:
- Work problems
- Relationship troubles
- Health issues
- Money worries
- Existential crises
… Literally anything that’s bugging you.
Keep going until you’re struggling to add to your list, or until you laugh about how long the list is (this usually indicates you’re done).
Step 2: circle everything outside of your control
Go through your list and circle everything that is completely outside of your control. Examples might include:
- Other people’s actions, feelings, or opinions
- Adversity (such as being made redundant, or having an injury)
- The weather
Be honest with yourself about what items belong in the “outside of my control” category. What you’ll probably find is that so much of what we worry about is, well, pretty pointless.
Step 3: star everything within your control
Go through your list again, and this time put a star next to each item that’s within your control. Examples could be anything where your:
- Or choices
can make a difference to the outcome.
Chances are, you’ll be surprised at what you do have control over. We’re not always at the mercy of the universe; sometimes, we’re able to do something about our situation.
Step 4: transfer the starred items to a new list
Move all the starred items to a new list, and arrange them in priority order.
This will create your new (streamlined) to-do list.
If necessary, break big tasks down into smaller, bite-sized chunks – and make a start on them right now.
Step 5: clear the clutter for good
Go back to your original list and set yourself free, my friend.
Cross out each circled item. Hard. Consciously release the items as you cross them out, with the intention of letting them go.
There, doesn’t that feel better?
Top tip: bookmark this page and come back to this exercise whenever your mind gets too busy, or you feel bogged down by mental clutter.