Spring Cleaning for the Mind
-Or decluttering the junk drawer in your head
I’m sure everyone has a kitchen junk drawer. You know the one, the place where everything goes. Perhaps you opened it recently looking for a phone charger and you found it, but the cable was wrapped around a pair of lefthanded scissors, caught up in a cloth tape measure, a fistful of rubber bands, paperclips, chip clips, useless ink pens and expired coupons for mouthwash.
When you realize the drawer won’t close there are two options: lean into it and force it closed until next time or pull the whole thing out and dump it on the kitchen table for some spring cleaning.
Our minds can get like the junk drawer, overflowing with random thoughts, appointments, questions unanswered or unasked, random bits of information, incomplete chores, and really important thoughts that keep getting forgotten until they are pulled out connected to the recollection that you need to buy a new phone charger cable because the one in the junk drawer only works if it is held just so.
I have found that the solution is the same in either case, however, instead of dumping your mind out on the kitchen table it is best to pour it out onto paper.
Get a pad and just start writing, the pending chores, ideas, events, un-had conversations, questions, answers, and suggestions. Just get them all out into a long list on several sheets of paper. Not the whole thought, but enough to jog the memory:
Talk with Joe about the mower,
Call Karen on her birthday,
or Start a restaurant that serves only mac-and-cheese.
Once your head is relatively clear, and you have shaken it once or twice to dislodge any stuck thoughts, treat it the same way you would the drawer contents.
Start putting it into piles, like with like. Begin these lists on separate sheets of paper, scratching each from the main list as you add it to lists titled: errands, chores, work, ideas, meetings, questions, etc.
"You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."
- Marcus Aurelius. Click to tweet
I’ve talked at length about mindfulness as a part of LOE #2. It’s tough to be mindful of anything (or nothing) when you are constantly mindful of everything everywhere all at once. So next, you just need to find a way to contain everything without refilling the junk drawer.
First, throw away what is no good and isn’t serving you.
Now, we must figure out what to do with what’s left.
If it can be scheduled, schedule it. Add it to a calendar app. These can be set to repeat on a specific day of the week or month - whenever. If you don’t have to remember to get your tires rotated or pay your taxes, that’s one less thing.
Then use a notes app on your phone to capture everything else on separate lists with headers like:
Chores (things I need to do around the house that can’t be scheduled)
Errands (Things to do while I’m out)
Quotes (I actually keep mine on cross-referenced 3x5 cards, but that’s just me.)
Then I keep several running lists:
Books to read,
Ideas for next week’s post
Things to look up or research.
Now you just have to trust the list, refer to it as needed, and update it as required. If it’s on the list, it doesn’t need to be junking up your thinking. The system works if you trust it and keep up with it. If not, you won’t be able to wait until next spring to do another cleaning.
(Full disclosure, my kitchen junk drawer is highly organized, a fact that has nothing to do with me.)
Read. Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
I’ve talked about the concept of Ikigai before. It is the intersection of what you love to do, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can make a living at.
I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who have subscribed to Think. Read. Write. Repeat. I started this just six months ago as a method to force myself to produce writing each week and share the things I think about.
The first issue went out to about forty friends that I signed up. We now have well over four-hundred subscribers which I think is amazing.
I wanted to ask that you send it on to any friends that you feel would benefit from joining the club.
I also want to thank those who regularly comment, (Brett, Chief) and those of you who email me separately to ask questions. I enjoy the correspondence. Let’s keep getting better at getting better.
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Words of wisdom from those who said it best:
Be impatient with your action and patient with the results.
It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.
~Henry David Thoreau
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for.
Thanks for reading and sharing. See you next Thursday!