The toughest clutter to bust is the clutter in our minds. We’ve got a constant stream of mostly junk thoughts: old stories, judgments, memories, worries, random facts, and that super catchy jingle for Ozempic. There are two tried and true ways to declutter our minds. One is talking with another person and the other is writing things down. Another very important habit to cultivate to declutter the mind is to tie up loose ends whenever possible.
Talking—whether articulating to ourselves or hashing out and brainstorming with another person or group is not just therapeutic for working through personal problems. Putting thoughts into words and speaking them is a very effective first step to getting something done. When we’ve expressed what a task or project is, we can start to identify what we want the final outcome to be. With that, we can figure out exactly what the next step is to make that happen.
Writing is such a useful tool for unloading the brain and giving it some relief. Putting thoughts on paper signals to the brain, “Relax, I’m on the case.” If you don’t write something down, your mind will either continue to worry about it in an effort to help you not forget or, in a complete 180 degree turn, forget about it because it figures it wasn’t important enough to write down. Sorry brain, but neither of those methods are truly helpful.
Once you’ve talked out a project and written down, or as productivity experts say, “captured,” the key points, you can start on the action part of the equation, which is where the mental clutter will get cleared once and for all (we hope).
What is the very next thing you can do to tie up a particular loose end? An example of a small but nagging project: Patty had taped a note to her mail man on her mailbox. It was windy, so she used a lot of tape. The note was out there for several months and the tape firmly adhered to the box so that even when the note was ripped off, tape and gummy residue left a mess. On the “to do” list was “get tape off mail box.”
In this case, the real next action was, “get out a razor blade, purchase some Goof-Off or Goo-Gone, put on gloves and get tape off mail box.” The task was on Patty’s to-do list for weeks until she finally purchased the needed items and scheduled some time to put on rubber gloves and get out to the mail box. Once done, she never had to think about it again.
We tend to have little errands or intermediate tasks that prevent us from wrapping up a project, large or small. It’s the “purchase Goo Gone,” that really prevents us from tying up the loose end. When you get to the point in the talking and writing process where you identify something like, “purchase Goo Gone,” you are really on a track to put that loose end to bed.