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An Exercise for Clearing Mental Clutter

August 16th, 2013 • 0 Comments

I used to have a very good memory. Or at least that's how I remember it... But nowadays I'm more scatterbrained. I have trouble remembering plans and things I have said I will do at some point in the near future. Fortunately this is only an issue I have with family and friends. I don't have the issue professionally and it doesn't affect my business. But I'm almost positive that's because my business takes up the majority of my mental capacity. It's always at the forefront of my mind, leaving little room for anything else. As such, there's little room for remembering familial and friend-based promises and obligations. Not that that's news to any family or friends. They're probably used to it by now. 

But just because they've grown accustomed to my tendency to disappoint doesn't mean I have or want to follow suit. I refuse to give up without a fight. I want my good memory back. So, after some thought and experimentation, I've devised a little exercise to help fix this problem. I call it Mental Decluttering. 

As I mentioned before, I believe my issue is due to trying to contain far too many thoughts at once. Most of them are business-related, which means I hold on to them indefinitely, like a hoarder, for fear of losing them. This has especially been the case lately as I've been finishing up my book on web design and starting to think of what project to do next. Yes, I know I'm not unique in doing this. Most people always try to juggle a number of thoughts at once. But I think business owners and founders do this to an extent great enough to be detrimental. So how do we put an end to this? By writing things down.

But I don't just mean jotting things down as they come to you in a notebook or on your phone. Doing so runs the risk of losing out on better ideas. Sometimes you need things to fully develop, evolve and attract other thoughts. By writing things down, I mean systematically and regularly unloading your mental clutter into an organized map, as shown below. 


How to Make a Mental Map

I advise doing this, at most, once a week. You may find that you need to make a map far less often. But don't make them too often as the benefits of doing so will be greatly lessened. 

1. Start first by choosing a few categories your thoughts fall in ie. business, to do, schedule, exercising, etc. Then pick one category to start with. Write down the name and then outline the category in some way, either with a certain shape or color. 

2. Then pick one thought related to the category you chose, preferably the thought taking up the most space in your mind. Write it down next to the category. Then outline it as you did with the title of the respective category. These outlines will be how you organize your map.

3. Now write down any thoughts related to the first. Draw them close to the first and outline them. Then draw an arrow from the first thought to the second to show how one led to the other. 

4. Continue writing down thoughts related to both your category and the thoughts you have already written down. Draw arrows where appropriate. Draw outlines around each individual thought.

5. Once you have either exhausted all related thoughts in one category or your interest, move on to your next category. Follow the same steps for each new category until you are complete. Be sure to use a different kind of outline for each category. 

6. From there, you can process all thoughts accordingly, whether that means transferring the thoughts to the appropriate place or figuring out a plan of action.

The benefits of this process will vary, depending upon how you fit it into your workflow. For me, creating mental maps is incredibly beneficial as it allows me to empty out my mind. Once I write the thought down, I feel it leaving my brain and clearing up room for other thoughts. And that is a great feeling.

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