Some mornings I wake up to a tired brain that is spinning with endless internal sticky notes all reminding me of something I need to remember. Did I feed the dog? Don’t forget to take that library book back. We are out of milk. Did I respond back to that email? Yikes, what should I make for dinner?
I mean the list goes on and on and on. Before I know it, I am buried under projects, to-do-lists, errands, music lessons, soccer practices, etc. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed with the never ending tasks that can take up so much energy and space in the mind. Do you want to know one of my biggest challenges? Email. I have a little red oval in the right hand corner of my inbox icon that tortures me with a number of unread emails. Right at this moment it reads 28,213 unread emails! Oh wait…one just popped up… 28,214!! AHHHHH… more than 28 THOUSAND!! It never ends! Make it stop!
Like my bulging inbox, my mind can fill up just as fast with unnecessary “junk mail!” It all can be so overwhelming. I find myself distracted and living a life inside my head that is attempting to sort through all the internal clutter. How can I live in the present moment if my mind is so consumed with what is going to happen in the future?
Is that even living?
I am here to tell you that there is hope and to show you how to SPRING CLEAN YOUR MIND! Think of your brain as a sponge full of water. It is heavy and dripping. It can no longer soak up anything else and therefore, is inefficient. We want to squeeze out the excess water to make room for new adventures and moments with our loved ones.
So STOP writing down another “to do” list on a loose piece of paper… in fact, just rip it up will ya!
(My ten-month-old thought that was pretty funny.)
Get ready to SPRING CLEAN your MIND!!
1. WRITE IT DOWN!
I know I just got through telling you to rip up your to-do-list…but this will be a tad different. Grab a pencil and paper. Or if you prefer your electronic device, open up your favorite note taking app. My husband swears by Mircosoft’s One Note to keep all his lists together. But I still haven’t fully converted. I am trying. But for now, I really enjoy the pretty notebooks and sticky notes you can find at your local Target! If I am not excited to use something- I won’t. End of story. Which reminds me to mention that I chose to use a notebook that you can add paper and dividers keeping everything in ONE designated place. Okay, begin writing down all the floating thoughts you have about tasks, projects, errands, and any other random thing that consumes your mind.
2. ORGANIZE AND CATEGORIZE
Take that list and organize it into different categories and priorities. I try to discard any task that is obvious and done daily and unnecessary to write down such as brushing teeth or eating. Your stinky breath or rumbling tummy will remind you of those ones. Let’s not totally overwhelm ourselves. Rid yourself of all that internal “junk mail!” Some categories that I have in my notebook are:
Must do: Things that have deadline and must be done with in 24 hours.
10-minute tasks: Things that are fairly important and can be done quickly within ten minutes.
Connections: People I need to connect and contact via: phone, email, text, or whatever.
Home: Everything from hanging a picture frame and paint touch ups to organizing the garage.
Projects: Things that are at least two steps and take longer than an hour.
Somedays: Dreams and ideas that I would love to do one day. I have a lot of these.
Notes: This is where I write down thoughts and inspirations that I want to share with my husband.
Don’t get overwhelmed if you have pages and pages of items. Remember, we are just clearing out all the internal clutter floating around inside your mind and getting it down all in one spot. You will feel better!
The next step is to:
Because let’s be real…realistically you won’t be able to get everything on your list done in one day. I mean, I told you what my email inboxes are like… so, I try tackling those really important things on my “must do” list first. It is refreshing to see an empty page. Then, once they are completed and I have extra time, I will check out my 10-minute tasks. I like to write out 4 small 10-minute tasks I want to accomplish during my son’s nap. There is a great sense of accomplishment when I cross those 4 items off. Anything else that gets done is just a bonus.
Which brings me to #4.
4. PLAN AHEAD
Try sitting down at least once a week to review and add to your notebook or system whether paper or electronically. I like doing this weekly with my spouse so we can organize our tasks and talk about our schedules, the kids, and maybe sneak in a little smooch in there while we are actually alone. 🙂 I also recommend taking 5 minutes before you go to bed to review your “must do” list and schedule the time you plan on accomplishing them the following day. Also if you have big projects that you know will take a good amount of time, (like cleaning out your thousands of unopened emails) schedule a good time and put it on the calendar! Don’t forget to schedule the fun stuff too!
4. SET REMINDERS
I love using my phone and online calendar as a way to remind me about upcoming appointments and events. Take some time and set alarms and notifications of existing daily, weekly, and monthly appointments. I have a reminder for simple things such as grabbing a snack for my child when I pick him up from school to when it’s time to begin our nightly bedtime routines. I even get a reminder telling me to stop and do a 2 minute meditation to get back to being present. Write notes to your future self reminding you of things such as oil changes or birthdays on your calendar. See one less thing to keep in your head!
Next, and also helpful:
5. SET UP ROUTINE AND SYSTEMS
I recently spoke to you about including your children with the Spring Cleaning and the chores in this post here. I also have a system in place for myself and shared it on my personal blog here if you want to know more on how I handle housework. Having daily, weekly, and monthly routines will help take items off your to-do lists and free up the mind. Speaking of which, your mind should have lost some weight by now right? But what about all the emotional stuff we have swirling around in there as well?
This brings me to #7.
7. USE A DAILY PURGE PAD
Several years ago, I read Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way” where she talks about writing “Morning Pages” as a way to get thoughts and clutter out of the mind. I have adapted a variation of this in my life and like to call it my “Purge Pad.” You can pretty much write any thought that comes to mind. Anything. Even if it is, “I don’t know what to write. I hear the birds chirping out my window…etc” It doesn’t matter how your handwriting looks or if you mispell words. It is just a free flow of thoughts. If you want to rip out the paper and throw it away- go for it. It is just a place to purge all those wandering thoughts out of your mind, clearing space for the here and now.
Now our minds should feel really spacious. You should feel less distracted and be able to set aside your notebook and be present with yourself and those you love. If you find at any moment your mind becomes cluttered with excessive thoughts and chatter, once again, simply:
8. BREATHE AND LET GO
Naturally, our mind is going want to fill back up with clutter. No worries- it is perfectly normal. Just take a big belly breath in and exhale letting go of any thought that doesn’t pertain to that immediate moment. I like to visualize a big ocean wave sweeping away my unnecessary thought. Remind yourself that nothing is more important than being present with an open heart and mind with those that you love.
Being able to let go did not come naturally for me at first. But with practice and a lot of breathing, I now am able to set aside my to-do list and sit on the floor and enjoy exploring with my children and family without the distraction of a messy brain.
I realize there are many many more things you can do to clear the mind as I only scratched the surface today but I would love to hear what you do to clean out your mind?
For more posts on mindful living, you can visit me at: www.weedstowishes.com.