4 Ways to De-clutter Your Brain (So You Can Actually Focus and Get Some Stuff Done)
Perhaps you know them…those moments when it feels like too much is coming your way at once: you’ve got more ideas swarming around in your brain than you know what to do with; or there’s so much information to absorb that you don’t feel like your nice, spongy brain could possibly soak up any more; or there are so many distractions that you feel like you’re watching a tennis match with 12 players…in times like these, the brain sends a signal that you are experiencing information overload.
And the brain’s typical response? Do nothing.
If you’ve experienced this, you are all too-familiar with the resulting deer-in-the-headlights stare and cloudy thought process that accompany these moments. When there’s just too much information, the ability to make even the simplest decisions becomes challenging, if not impossible.
So what can you do when this happens and to possibly prevent this from happening in the first place? Here are four ways to de-clutter your brain so you can focus and get some stuff done:
1. Get rid of apps that suck time and don’t contribute to your goals.
If you’re a solopreneur, you’ve got a lot on your plate – you’re responsible for your own success, and that takes a lot of time, energy, and focus. So when something else is constantly pulling you away, it’s time to sever your dependency on it.
Sure, everyone needs some down time to play games, connect with friends, and watch funny videos, but if that’s happening *instead* of you getting your work done, it’s probably best that those things aren’t at your fingertips at all times.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Candy Crush Saga, Piano Tiles…games, videos, and social media apps all have a way of luring the user in for way longer than one would anticipate. Have you ever had this conversation with yourself?
I’ll just go on Facebook for a minute to check this thing…oh! Hahahahahaha…oh wow…lol!…………… Oh that was something. Wait there was something I was going to check…what was it… Wait – how did an hour just pass?
This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to rid your life of these apps. You know how you access them and when, so you will know on what device they might need to be eliminated. And depending on your attachment level, you may be able to do something as simple as temporarily taking away your access by using a productivity app like Freedom.
2. Get ideas out of your brain.
One of the reasons we keep ideas swirling around in our brains is because we’re afraid we might forget them (especially if they’re good!). If this describes you, all you need to do is give yourself an idea space.
Take a notebook, a bulletin board, a phone note, or a Google doc and write those ideas down as they come. I have ideas that I wrote down years ago that I’m still very keen on – it’s just not the right time for them yet. And that’s ok – they’re in my idea box so I won’t forget them.
Whether you write things down or use something like a voice memo, find whatever system works for you. There’s no right or wrong way to organize, there are only the ways that work for you and the ways that don’t. If you’re not sure, try out a few different ways.
If you’re trying to focus and your brain is pre-occupied by things you have to do, write them down on a list and give yourself permission to look at the list later. Give yourself a dedicated time to look at it if that makes you feel better.
It’s much easier to focus on the one task or project you are working on if you’re not thinking about all your other ideas or things you need to do at the same time.
3. Unsubscribe from lists and notifications that don’t provide you with frequent value.
According to statistics reports, the average person sends/receives 123 emails per day. Yes, you read that correctly. 123. Per DAY.
It’s no wonder that the number of emails opened per day on average is only somewhere between 20 – 30% of the total…it’s overwhelming! Interestingly enough, our lack of opening doesn’t coincide with a lack of attention to it: it turns out most people check their email constantly, especially if it’s connected to their phones.
If you’re constantly receiving email, check to see if you’re subscribed to lists that don’t provide you with much value. Like that company you like but don’t shop but maybe once a year. Or that business that you signed up for emails with to get coupons – and you get one every day…
If there’s information you do want but you don’t want to be constantly bombarded by emails, try creating an inbox just for those subscriptions. Don’t connect that address to your phone, and only check it when you wish.
You can also eliminate distractions by turning off notifications that are not important. Most people stop what they’re doing when they hear that “ding”… Get rid of these notification sounds unless they are for something really important! If you work for a marketing department you may need to know when someone is replying to a social media post, but for most people it’s not something worth constantly being interrupted over.
Keep what provides frequent value. Remove or mute the rest.
4. Cut down on media intake.
It’s amazing what the mind can accomplish when it doesn’t have anything else better to do. Faced with no distractions, productivity can increase significantly. Give your mind some time to think without another form of information to process at the same time.
TVs, computers, phones, music – turn them off when it’s time to get some work done. It’s always interesting to notice the initial reaction to this. Fidgeting, looking around, thinking surely there’s something else I should be doing right now – this is what constant distraction has done to us. It’s made a noiseless environment awkward.
Take away all that additional stimulation and (after the weirdness wears off) something happens – a space is created when information outflow isn’t being challenged. Ideas pour out, concentration increases, and things get done. There’s something about being alone with ourselves to think, particularly now that daily living favors constant movement, information, and notification. Unless you make the conscious decision to remove yourself from the noise, it’s a rare moment that something isn’t vying for your attention.
There’s a chance you could be experiencing information overload and you don’t even know it. If you’re used to hearing some sort of stimulus all the time, try getting away for a while and see if you feel like you can think more clearly and work more efficiently. It might be the difference between just getting by and really getting things done.
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