clear mind

I poll people regularly about how overwhelmed and distracted they feel. I simply ask them to rate, on a scale from one to 10, how overwhelmed they feel, and how distracted they feel.

The average answer to both questions is about eight out of 10.

As a rule, people are overwhelmed in the modern world.

Years ago I discovered a simple and very effective procedure for clearing your mind.

Here’s the method in a nutshell.

The Clear Mind Procedure

  1. Take out a blank piece of paper and write the words “What’s on my mind?” at the top. Then write down everything that’s on your mind.

  2. Take out another piece of paper, turn it sideways, and create three columns. Label these three columns: “active concern,” “maybe later,” and “delete.” Sort all the items on the first piece of paper into the three columns on the second piece of paper.

  3. Delete all the items in the delete column. Tell each item, one by one, that you’re done with them, and that they should go away and never come back.

  4. Take the items from the “maybe later” column and put them on your “maybe later” list. (If you don’t keep a “maybe later” list, start one.)

  5. Take the items from the “active concern” column and put them into your planning system. (If you don’t have a planning system, then get one.)

This procedure might well have saved my life about 10 years ago. I was a mess. I was completely overwhelmed with an unfinished dissertation, social turmoil, two young children, and a struggling business at the time. I couldn’t think straight with everything on my mind.

Once I started using this procedure everything cleared up, even before I solved all my problems. And I’ve been running clear ever since.

Now, let me leave you with one last thought.

“Everything” Means Everything

This process can work like a charm. But it takes a few tries to get everything out of your mind.

To help with that process, here are a few things you should include:

  • unfinished tasks

  • trips you want to take

  • people you think you should do lunch with or touch base with

  • skills you want to develop

  • subjects you want to learn

  • areas of your life in which you feel inadequate—physically, knowledge-wise, skill-wise

  • regrets about your past choices

  • daydreams about what you would do differently if you could re-wind the clock and start over again

  • ways you feel trapped

  • interpersonal conflict you’re involved with

  • home repair issues

  • home renovation ideas

  • things you’re dissatisfied with and want to change

  • goals other people want you to pursue

  • worries about the economy

  • worries about loved ones

  • habits you want to establish or break (but have had little success with so far)

  • and anything else you remember that has come to mind at some point over the last few days

All that stuff competes for your attention. And if you want a clear mind, you must deal with all of it.

Give it a Try!

Go ahead. Give it a try.

And don’t be surprised if you get dozens (or even hundreds) of things off your mind.

This post by Jim Stone appeared originally on Quora as an answer to the question “What can I learn/know right now in 10 minutes that will be useful for the rest of my life?

Updated 6/19/2020