🌻A Stupidly Simple Way to Declutter Your Brain Within Minutes
Just like your closet, if left unchecked, your brain gets cluttered. Learn how to clear the mess.
Have you ever felt anxious and burned out looking at your to-do list? Or have you ever found it difficult to wrap your head around all your roles and responsibilities? Then you know what having a cluttered brain feels like.
As our lives have become more complex in the modern world, we’re constantly being bombarded with information. And if you don’t take the time to sort that information out, your brain will go crazy.
To stay calm and sane in the face of this bombardment, we need a system to manage everything that goes in our heads.
But before we jump into the actual system, let me tell you a little story.
When Kurt Lewin, the father of modern social psychology was sitting in a restaurant, he noticed something peculiar — the ability of waiters to remember orders of customers who hadn’t paid their bills and their inability to remember the items once the bill was paid. Interesting isn’t it?
A part of my work involves serving as the manager of a small business where I often find myself behind the counter, talking to customers and billing their items. I’ve observed the same tendency in myself. As soon as the customer pays the bill, I forget what they bought from us.
But if they haven’t paid, I might still remember their exact bill amount and order details, even a couple of days after the interaction.
Intrigued by this phenomenon, Kurt Lewin asked one of her students, Bluma Zeigarnik to run a number of experiments.
As a part of her research, she asked people to perform simple tasks like solving a puzzle. Then she would interrupt them in between and ask them to shift to another task. This time, they were allowed to finish that task.
In the end, she’d call the participants to find out which task they remembered the most. The result? People remembered 90–100% more about the unfinished task than about the finished one.
This is the “Ziegarnik Effect” which simply states that “people tend to remember unfinished tasks better than finished ones.”
#So What Does This Mean for Our Brain?
The Zeigarnik Effect explains why we find ourselves worrying and overthinking about unfinished tasks and projects; why we would suddenly wake up at night remembering to follow up with an important client; or why we would keep thinking about that unfinished proposal when having dinner with our family.
Small bits of information like this can clutter up your brain quickly if left unchecked.
David Allen famously said, “Your brain is a bad office.” What he meant was that the brain is not designed to store stuff. It’s designed to solve problems and execute.
If you keep using your brain to remember all the things you have to do, it will spend all its brainpower trying not to forget. There will be little power left to actually do real work.
What is the best way to clear out a cupboard that is too cluttered? To take everything out and only keep what is necessary. The same is true for your brain. You need to write down every stray thought that is bothering you so you can look at it objectively.
A “Brain Dump”, as it’s called, allows you to capture abstract thoughts that plague your mind. The massive hurricane of thoughts that goes on in our minds often stresses us out.
The best way is to turn to your notebook (or laptop) and write each of them down. Once you can see them clearly in front of you, you can choose which ones are worth focusing on.
#How to Perform a Brain Dump
Doing a brain dump is simple. There are no rules. Just write whatever is on your mind. Whether you need a new light bulb, want to draft a sales letter, make a presentation to the board of directors, plan a picnic, or pick up your kid from school.
There’s room for everything. This is the phase where you’re just getting those ideas out of your head. Once you’re done, your brain doesn’t have to worry about remembering all those details. They will be taken care of because they’re written down.
#After doing the brain dump, you can do two things:
Leave the list and go on with your day. The point of this exercise isn’t to make you more productive necessarily. It’s to give yourself a breather.
You can also look at the list and organize and/or prioritize it. You might find it helpful to batch similar tasks together or start working on the one that stresses you out the most.
When should you do this exercise?
I’d say you shouldn’t wait till the time your brain is screaming “timeout!” Ideally, have a system so you can record your thoughts as they come to you. This could be in a journal or in a note-taking app — something that you have access to at most times.
You can also use this as a journalling strategy at the start or the end of the day. Doing it at the start helps you begin the day with a clear mind knowing exactly what you have to do and more importantly, what you don’t have to do!
On the other hand, doing it before bed helps you relax knowing everything is written down and will be taken care of. No more worrying about forgetting an important task as you go to sleep.
#The Bottom Line
If you find yourself overwhelmed try doing a brain dump. More often than not, you’ll realize that everything was okay — you just needed to write your thoughts down to make sense of them.
It’s an effective way of solving problems and seeing your thoughts for what they are. It helps clear the mind of anxieties, worries, and stresses leading to a calmer, joyful life.
Think of the brain dump as regular cleaning of your mind. It makes space for new ideas, inspirations, and the cognitive ability to take action on things that matter.
CONTRIBUTED BY Shivendra Misra
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