We declutter our homes, our cars, our purses, our planners, but often we forget that our brains need to be decluttered too. We carry so many things around with us in our heads and the more cluttered our mind is, the harder it can be to focus. Thankfully, there are a few things we can do to help clear the clutter from our mind so we can use our brain power for other things that are more important to us. Below I’m sharing my favourite exercises to help you focus and clear away the mental cobwebs.
Brain dumps, mind sweeps, and other exercises to help you focus on what is really important to you.
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A brain dump is an exercise that helps get those random thoughts our of your head and onto paper where you can either analyze and review them or just forget about them. There are a few ways to do this exercise.
The first is to just start writing. Whatever pops in your head as you’re sitting there, write it down. Don’t organize it. Don’t worry about full sentences or grammar, just write as you think. When you start slowing down and find you have nothing else to write you’re done. Some people find it helpful to set a timer for 10-15 minutes, but that’s not necessary.
The next way to do this is to pick a focal point before you start. This could be asking yourself a question or picking a project or specific subject. Again you sit and write down everything that pops into your head about your focal point. This one can be great when you’re tackling a large project. It can really help you get your ideas, tasks, and worries down on paper where you can better organize and address them.
This one is kind of like the last one, but instead of picking a project or asking a questions, you want to think only of one area of your life. Perhaps you do one for work and one for home. Or for your hobbies, or ideas for family time. Thinking only of that life area, sit down and, you guessed it write down your thoughts about it.
Incorporating brain dumps into your normal routines can help you keep those niggling thoughts from distracting you on a regular basis. I use them all the time. I find them so useful that I dedicated a whole post to them in my from Scattered to Sane series. You can click here to read the post – Feeling Scattered? Just Dump It!
You can use anything for a brain dump. A notebook, scrap paper, your computer, whatever it is that works best for you. If you’d like to use note paper or add some to your planner so you have it if you need, check out the printables below.
If you’re new to Scattered Squirrel, to snag a copy of any of the printables for yourself, just simply click the pictures of the ones you want and the PDF version will open for you to save. All of the printables are for personal use only.
This comes from David Allen and the idea is that you sit down each day and quickly write down the things that are in the forefront of your mind. Things you want to remember or note. Anything that you need to do in the next few days or couple of weeks. Things you’re grateful for – it can really be whatever you want. The idea is that by writing these things down, your brain doesn’t have to try to an remember them. This means that you’ve freed up that mind space for other things. The difference between a mind sweep and a brain dump is that the mindsweep is a little more structured than a brain dump.
- In this episode of the Getting Things Done podcast you can listen to David Allen walk you through a Mind Sweep.
Journaling or Diary Keeping
Journaling is a wonderful way to clear your head. It offers an outlet for worries and fears, and a way to capture the joys and special moments of daily life that make it so wonderful. Whether you keep it simple or enjoy a creative journaling experience, the time spent on chronicling your life and the things that matter to you will be well invested. Like all exercise, the more you do it the easier it becomes.
One of the best things about keeping a journal or a diary is that there are no rules. You don’t have to write in it everyday. You can make it as fancy or as simple as you want. Use journaling cues or just simple recording the happenings of your day. Write only when you’re working through a problem or only write about the happy moments each day. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong.
Meditate or Relaxation Exercises
Meditation or relaxation exercises can do wonders for your whole body, not just clearing your head. When it comes to clearing the head, these exercises work by giving you time to have no thoughts. Letting your mind rest and reset outside of sleep can really help your focus. It doesn’t have to be a big production either. It could be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, or enjoying a cup of coffee in silence and not really thinking about anything but the coffee.
Our brains are constantly working. Just like any other muscle they need rest too.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do to clear our heads is to get up and get moving. Physical exertion is a wonderful way to clear and calm the mind. It allows our brains to engage in different ways. You don’t have to hit the gym to reap the benefits of movement. Going for a walk can do wonders to clear the mind. Try to focus on your surroundings and what you’re seeing. Breath deep and let your worries go. The nice thing about walking is that you can change it up day to day. Go for a brisk walk, or take your time ambling. Head out on your lunch break and just enjoy meandering around. Set a timer on your phone so you don’t lose track of time.
If walking isn’t your thing, try hitting the pool for a few lengths or jumping on the treadmill at the gym. Join an exercise class of some sort and make it part of your weekly self-care routine. Your brain and body will both thank you.
Making time for a mental decluttering can go a long way to help us be better able to focus. The less our brains are trying to deal with, the more present we can be in each moment. The exercises I mentioned above are some of my favourite go-to’s for when I’m feeling scattered, overwhelmed, or just plain stressed. I’ve found them to be very helpful and they work for me. I know that they all won’t work for everyone, but if you have a lot on your mind and find yourself wanting to clear away some of that mental clutter, I hope you’ll give one or two a try.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Help keep this conversation going b y dropping a line in the comments below and sharing what you do to help clear your head so you’re better able to focus.