Tag Archives: organize

Clearing Out The Mental Clutter

mental clutter imageSimply put, clutter is stuck energy. It’s a clog in our mental piping that prevents us from working, communicating and acting as effectively as we could. There are more than enough mental-clearing techniques to help us relax and refocus, but these don’t address the ways in which we rebuild the same cluttered mind every day. Here are just instances in which mental clutter may be messing with your psyche and some easily implemented fixes to help you start moving forward.

Clean out your email inbox…every single day – Take a moment and click over to your email. What does your inbox look like right now? If this is the beginning or middle of the work day for you, chances are you’ve accumulated quite a few messages. That’s normal. But how many of these messages were rolled over from the last work day? Some of these messages may even be from several days or weeks ago. If so, you’ve unknowingly been creating your own landfill of emails which might be making for a pretty unpleasant work environment. The fix? Clear the inbox clutter by treating it like a to-do list. Any email that comes in should be read and prioritized before the day’s end. Some emails are a quick response and easily taken care of. Others will require some time or further action before it can be considered ready to archive. For these types of message – utilize folders! I’m always surprised by the number of people who don’t take advantage of the folder organization Outlook and Gmail provides. Label them with titles most applicable for the messages you commonly deal with and the actions they require. With these messages organized, you’ll never risk them “disappearing” under the heap of emails that build up over a week’s or month’s time. Since starting this practice myself, I’ve been much more aware of the messages requiring my response at any given time, know where to find them when I need them and have all but eliminated the dreaded “I don’t think I ever saw that email” moment.

Remove mental clutter by removing physical clutter – I’m not sure when this began for me, but to this day if I’m in a messy environment, I can’t work as effectively. I need to have a clear space which translates to a clear mind. In the midst of a project or a busy day, it’s completely acceptable to have some small mountains of paper fill your desk, but by the day’s end be sure these mountains aren’t left for you to climb over the next morning. If you tackle your physical clutter every day, each new day will begin with a clear desk and a clear mind.

Capture your thoughts in writing – In a world surrounded by cutting-edge technology, you may be surprised to know that we’re still allowed to be human. By this I mean we aren’t expected to commit every task, appointment, phone conversation or change in plans to memory. The times in which I have a lot of mental notes to remember are among the times when my mind feels the most cluttered and least productive. So write it down! Whether this is a pen and paper to-do list, phone app, word document or calendar reminder, capture your thoughts however best fits your lifestyle. It’s simple…the more you put in writing, the less that’s on your mind.

Eliminate unnecessary noise – When I first began running Bennis Inc I would often keep a television set or music on for “background noise.” It’s not so much that I would become distracted by the show on TV or the artist singing the song, but I would become distracted (and irritated) simply by the noise. It was competing with my inner thoughts and making me work harder to concentrate on the task at hand. The silliest part is that I was self-inflicting this irritation and audio clutter. I now recognize that I prefer to work in as close to a silent environment as possible. Some days this can even be setting the phone to vibrate and turning off email alerts. I don’t doubt that some people may work better with a little bit of background noise, but I urge you to try at least one day “working silent” to be sure you’ve given this option a fair shot. It’s not boring when your thoughts really get on a roll!

Address what’s really fogging your mind – If you’ve made your best effort to eliminate all of the mental clutter by following the steps listed above, but you’re still feeling fuzzy and unfocused, there’s a good chance there’s something else in play. What’s really fogging your mind? Mental blocks can come from feelings we’re harboring about a relationship problem, financial stress, or recent negative experience. These aren’t just clutter; these are actual issues that should be dealt with fully. If a personal situation has you distracted in other areas of life, you can’t bury it deeper and hope it will go away. The best thing to do to resolve this completely is to talk it out, go for a run to clear your head or seek a solution if one is possible. Once this major mental plug is removed, you can return to addressing the rest of the minor clutter rolling around.

Whether your mind is cluttered or organized right now, share with us some of your struggles or secrets to achieving a clear mind!



Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Business & Success, Life


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The Yes List: Finding Meaning in the “To Do” List (Guest Blog by Amy Gaines)

The following blog post is part of the Bennis Blogger Battle. Support Amy by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment and sharing it on your social media! The blog with the most hits, wins.


to-do-listIn a recent battle with the ever-growing To Do List, the relationship between completing TDL tasks and building a personal brand developed new meaning: that of being a concrete, comprehensive, collected list of commitments.

Commitments are just that – something we have committed to complete by saying “Yes.” When we complete these tasks, our integrity, trustworthiness, and personal marketability increases because our word turned into our action.

And yet, maintaining the perspective that every item on that list is an opportunity to grow and improve our personal brand takes work. It takes work to guard the items to which we commit, work to keep track of those commitments, work to follow through on those commitments, and work to give 100% of our effort to those commitments. And in the midst of all that work, the tie between our word and our action is easily buried.

However, investing in the effort needed to maintain that perspective reaps significant benefits. Let’s take a closer look at the work involved in building your personal brand by making your word equal your action.

Guarding the TDL

If we are quick to say yes to everything, our commitments become unruly. Even high performers that churn through tasks quickly will eventually be overrun by an unkempt TDL. Learning to say “no” to certain commitments creates an opportunity to limit what goes on your TDL and allows you to focus on specific tasks. Good guidelines for identifying what goes on the TDL include: basic job responsibilities, direct requests from managers, [your] special interest projects, and personal favors.

Organizing the TDL

Many, many resources exist for taking and maintaining stock of commitments on the TDL. A personal favorite is the “Getting Things Done” series by David Allen. Regardless of the method, keeping track of the madness is mandatory.

Acting on the TDL

Break your commitments into actions and act. Keep stock of the resources you need to act on your commitments. Analyze the time a commitment will require before adding it to your TDL to ensure you have the time to complete the actions needed to follow through with the commitment. Above all else, learn to take your word (your commitments) and turn it into action.

Shifting our perspective to recognize the direct connection between our word/our actions and our personal brand is crucial to both success and sanity [especially in the professional world]. Recognizing this connection reminds us of the meaning and importance of each and every task on our TDL because that task is ultimately linked to a commitment. Completing our commitments sets a foundation of integrity for our personal brand that gives us added encouragement and footing to move forward successfully.


Amy GainesAmy Gaines is a functional software consultant in the higher education industry. Her specialties include recruiting, admissions, and enrollment management. She loves to travel, read and write, and chase a thought to completion. Helping customers improve their processes, efficiency and reporting gives her the most satisfaction. Please support Amy by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment below and visiting her personal blog “This Imperfect Life” at


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