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Spring Cleaning Series: Decluttering Your Mind

Brain Dump: Organising Your Mental Clutter

In our “Spring Cleaning” series we’ll be taking a look at how you can spring clean your life – an aspect that’s often overlooked when we come to tackling other areas of Spring cleaning such as our homes and gardens.

The starting point of any big deep cleaning session is the initial declutter: the gathering together of all items so you can sort through them and decide to keep or discard them later.

For physical clutter Marie Kondo has a fantastic approach. She advocates getting all items of the same type (irrespective of location) together and sorting through them all at once. For mental clutter the process is a similar one, getting rid of everything that’s in your head so that you can decide to keep it (it’s an important date or has an action associated with it) or discard it (it’s a nice thought but not for you, or just random).

David Allen is another expert who feels that it’s very important to deal with clutter – especially mental clutter. His technique calls for an initial mind dump so you get all of that stuff floating around in your brain out into an actionable format, followed up by regular mini mind-dumps to stay on top of everything.

Only once you have everything – and I mean everything! – out of your head your can concentrate organising it and sorting your tasks so you’ll be able to decide which of them to keep and do or toss.

Why Is Decluttering Your Mind So Important?

David Allen calls our memory “Psychic RAM” and, much like a computer’s memory, it can get full and overloaded. When this happens with your laptop it becomes slow, freezes and can shut down and the same is true with your brain. The more stuff you try an store in there (phone numbers, birthdays, appointments, grocery items to buy etc.) can slow your brain down to a point where you can’t add any more information or find it hard to retrieve “stored” information.

Whilst Marie Kondo doesn’t specifically reference decluttering your mind her KonMari Method requires that you need to start decluttering by discarding and you can only discard the stuff that’s in your head by getting it out of your brain an on to paper.

How To Capture Your Stuff

I think a combination of Kondo and Allen’s techniques would work really well here, using Allen’s technique of dumping stuff and Kondo’s system of decluttering by area.

Of course, you can’t segment your brain into different areas, or chose just to remember all items with dates associated with them or all tasks relating to your car. Plus it would be difficult to keep up the flow if you were having to move between different sheets of paper to note down items in each different categories separately. You need to be able get all of the items out of your head quickly and simply so you can work through all of the items in your head with as little fuss or interruptions as possible.

Tools For Decluttering Your Mind

You can use a simple sheet of paper to write down all of your brain dump items. I’d suggest splitting your paper into columns to help you organise your tasks, which will help processing them later as well as act as a prompt for remembering other items.

Columns could include:

  • Task Name
  • Priority (low, medium, high)
  • Due Date
  • Category/Type
  • Delegate/Dump/Do

Sample Mind Dump Sheet

Other tools to help you clear out your brain clutter can include mind mapping on paper or electronically. If you’re not sure what mind mapping is or whether it’s for you then you can check out the IQMatrix blog post guide to Mind Mapping or Lifehacker’s “How to Use Mind Maps to Unleash Your Brain’s Creativity and Potential”.

There are a variety of tools you can use to make mind maps, a few of them are listed below:

Online Tools

Mind Mapping Software

Text-Based Mind Mapping Solutions

Remember The “2 Minute Rule”

When you’re processing all of this information that’s pouring out of your mind, make sure you take a close look at each item and remember David Allen’d golden “2 Minute Rule”: if the task takes less than 2 minutes to do, just do it. It will take you longer to write it down than just getting it out of the way. This way you know that you only have larger (or more complex) tasks on your to-do list.

How Do You Deal With Your Mental Clutter?

So you do a mind dump regularly or do you just keep everything stored in your brain?

If you do a mind dump how do you organise it? Do you use paper or an electronic solution?

Let us know in the comments.

Featured Image Photo “Brain Thinking Processor” By bandrat from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Spring Cleaning Series

full course
  1. Spring Cleaning Series: Decluttering Your Mind
  2. Spring Cleaning Series: Organising Recurring and Dated Tasks
  3. Spring Cleaning Challenge: Managing Someday/Maybes and Waiting Fors

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