Updated: Apr 22, 2022
In the age of information overload, it’s more important to organise your mind than ever before. Today there’s more information available than across all human history … combined! Billions of bytes of data are uploaded onto the web every second. Over 10,000-minutes of video recordings are uploaded onto YouTube every minute. And new books are published at such a rate that, were they stacked in a single line cover to cover, they’d extend out at over 30mph!
To make matters more complex, the modern world is saturated in information. ‘Every day,’ Daniel Levitin tell us, ‘we are confronted with dozens of decisions, most of which we would characterize as insignificant or unimportant,’ (Organised Mind – p4).
Yet, regardless if the decision is as seemingly simple as what colour socks to wear with this suit, such decisions still cause brain drain. And the small insignificant decisions can weaken our capacity to make important ones. This perhaps accounts for why Albert Einstein wore the same style suit every day, for that was one less decision to make.
Why you should organise your mind
As our homes, workspaces and lives become increasingly cluttered and chaotic, it is more important to be organised than ever before.
"The number of possessions the average person has now is far greater than we had for most of our evolutionary history, easily by a factor of 1,000," (The Organised Mind).
How we organise our things can have a dramatic impact on reducing stress and time wasted searching for stuff. In addition, organised living spaces can have a positive impact on your mental processes.
In this article you will learn powerful methods to improve the organisation of your mind. Develop strategies and systems that unleash the true potential of your cognitive capacity. Enjoy enhanced and clearer mental focus. Reduced stress, anxiety, and confusion. Become more effective in everyday life.
Tip #1 - Recognise that memory is fallible
The brain processes, filters and stores billions of bytes of information every day. In the modern world we’re required to remember far more than our ancestors. Yet, while the world has gone and got bewilderingly complex, the brain has remained largely the same: slow, cumbersome, and susceptible to distraction.
It’s like we’re using 90s computing software in the age of quantum super-computers. Evolution hasn’t kept up pace with Moore’s Law.
However, there are some simple methods of upgrading the brain and improving storage capacity. The following Tips deliver the most high-tech organisational tools straight out of Steve Job’s pocketbook.
Tip #2 - Organise your life
Organising your life may sound like a complex process, but it’s actually quite simple. And the small investment can payoff with increased productivity and the satisfaction of greater time utilisation.
When organising your life, you’re not aiming for a radical overhaul or the reformation of everything that you do. It’s just about establishing a few basic habits and routines . . . to start off with.
These habits and routines will come to form a foundation on which you can build an organised and effective life.
To get started, have a go at one or two of the following tips and bring a bit of organisation to your day.
1) Implement an exercise routine. Start each day with 30-minutes of gentle exercise.
Tip: if you’re not much into your exercise, consider Yoga instead. Try to find the time for a 30-minute relaxing Yoga session.
2) Make a short list of the most important things that you want to achieve. Now, once you’ve made the list, ask yourself the following questions:
Q) Am I actively pursuing them?
Q) Do my habits and behaviours align with my goals?
Q) What should I be doing to achieve my goals?
Q) What resources do I need to help me on my journey?
Related reading: Secrets of Productive Reading
Tip #3 - Write To Do Lists
It’s helpful to think of your working memory as a bag with limited capacity. Once filled it won’t hold anything else.
Your working memory can hold about 7 ‘chunks’ of information. When it’s reached capacity, things start to fall out. This we call forgetting.
Well, there’s one super easy way to lighten the load, and that is: make to do lists!
To do lists act like external memory storage. Instead of burdening your brain with information, load-up your to do. This way your mind will remain free and flexible to focus on the tasks at hand.
Related reading: Checklist Manifesto
Tip #4 - Implement a visibility board
True, I probably could have come up with a better sounding name. ‘Visibility board’ hardly rolls off the tongue, and neither does it leave an indelible impression on the mind.
Yet, a less oxymoronic name could not have been coined. For the visibility board is exactly that: a prominently placed drywipe board on which your write messages – to yourself.
Think of the visibility board as super-sized to-do List. The only difference being the informational content that your write on it.
Visibility boards are best used for general things like calculating your financial outgoings, reminders – “Don’t forget to pick up the kids!!!” – and running shopping lists – “Ran out of cayenne pepper!”.
Used in this capacity visibility boards reduce the number of things that we must remember.
Here’s how to create your very own visibility board in 6 Steps:
Step 1: Locate a position of prominence for your board. Sound places include: the kitchen, by the front door, on your TV.
Step 2: Procure a 2-foot by 3-foot piece of white drywipe board.
Step 3: Procure a drywipe pen.
Step 4: Fix you visibility board in place.
Step 5: Either split the board up into sections – such as: shopping list; finances; To Dos; etc. – of just leave it blank.
Step 6: Decide what your first message will be an write it!
Alternatively, splash the cash on a drywipe board. Amazon basics drywipe board costs a mere £20, yet it is perfect for making visible tasks and responsibilities.
Tip #5 - Take notes
Memory is fallible. As Marc Wittmann says in his book Altered States of Consciousness, ‘the span of working memory,’ that is the ‘short-term retention of things such as numbers, words, and visual symbols’ has the capacity of ‘between several seconds and perhaps half a minute,’ (ASC – p47).
One simple way to support our weak memory capacity is by taking notes.
Note taking enables us to capture more detail while improving accuracy of the information captured.
Tip #6 - Simplify your surrounds by becoming a minimalist
Minimalism is a burgeoning ‘counter-culture’ lifestyle trend where adherents – or practitioners – reduce the number of things they own. As well as reducing possessions, either by selling stuff or giving it away, minimalists only buy what they need. And when they buy, they typically buy second-hand wears. But usually they just make do.
The purported benefits of minimalism align with our ambition to cultivate an organised mind. Minimalists maintain that their lifestyle reduces stress, and anxiety while also freeing up time for creative pursuits.
Related reading: The Minimalist Home | A Guide to Decluttered & Resourceful Life
Tip #7 - Stick with what you need
The man who got the minimalism movement moving, Joshua Becker, maintains that by only living with the things you need you will ‘remove distraction of excess possessions’ which will enable you to ‘focus more on those things that matter’
People who have transitioned to a minimalist lifestyle report the following benefits:
Freedom from the desire to acquire
Save more money
Feel like they have reduced their environmental impact
Step 1: Start by making a list of only those things that you actually need.
Step 2: Round up at minimum of 10 items that are not on your list and either sell them or make a charitable donation.
Step 3: Set yourself a goal only buying essentials for the next month.
Step 4: When you’ve achieved Step 3, extended the duration to either 4, 6 or 12 months.
Step 5: Meanwhile, continue decluttering your surrounds. Those things that you don’t need, get rid!
Related reading: The More or Less | Finding the Life You Want
Tip #8 - Do you really need that many keys on your keyring?
The cluttered keyring is emblematic of the entire concept of the organised mind.
This idea stems from a personal experience. For some reason I’d amassed loads of keys on my keyring. Yet, I only needed three. Whenever I came to a locked door it would take me ages to find the right key. So frustrating trying keys that don’t work!
For weeks I resolved to declutter my keyring to those keys I need. Once I did it seemed to make life so much simpler. Why, I asked, why didn’t I do this years ago?
This small change, so simple in and of itself, made a positive difference by marginally reducing unnecessary clutter.
I now invite you to declutter your keyring.
Tip #9 - Time to take out the trash: spring clean your wallet/purse
Much like a cluttered keyring, a wallet or purse packed to bursting with plastic, pennies and receipts, is an organisational ticking timebomb.
Seemingly innocuous, such ‘low-level’ disorganisation can burden the mind, cause confusion, and blunt effectiveness.
Think about the annoyance induced when you needed to return that recent purchase but couldn’t find the receipt. Or the panic you were in when you’d lost your bank card, only to find it hiding amongst the multitude of expired credit cards, loyalty cards and wedge of receipts.
But the good news is, these pockets of disorganisation are easy to ameliorate. If you decide to implement just one of the many ways of organising the mind outline in this article, make it this one.
Tip #10 - Reaffirm your goals anew each day
Organising your mind is also about organising your mental focus. One effective way to do this is by regularly reaffirming your goals each day.
By establishing your goals every day you will direct your energies to tasks and activities that will move you a step closer towards your goals.
For example, reminding yourself each day that your goal is to lose weight, will motivate you to make healthier dietary choices. And perhaps even squeeze in an hour’s exercise as well.
This technique is effective irrespective of your goal. The following examples give an overview of how to reaffirm your goals.
Make a list of between 1 to 5 goals.
If you’ve listed multiple goals, prioritise them by putting the most important goal at the top.
When you’ve created your list place it beside your bed.
Each morning on waking, read your list.
As well as reading your list, tell yourself what you will do to achieve your goals.
Related reading: Managing Oneself
Tip #11 - Mindfulness meditation
An organised mind is built on a firm foundation of control and focus. Most minds are chaotic vortexes a whirl with a million and one through fragments.
Practicing mindfulness meditation can bring about order and serenity. In addition to facilitating awareness of the ‘wandering mind’, research into ‘mindfulness meditation shows, various components of attention improve through regular and persistent practice,’ (Marc Wittmann – Altered States of Consciousness – pp56/57).
You don’t have to consign yourself to cloistered cell for 23-hours a day to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness meditation. As Wittmann says, ‘some of the positive changes appear after just a few days’ of short practice sessions. With a mere 10-minutes of daily mindfulness practice you could enjoy some of the following benefits:
Awareness of emotional dysregulation
Awareness of the wandering mind
Awareness of external and internal distractors
Related reading: The Little Book of Mindfulness
Congratulations! You have taken decisive steps to organise your mind. Having no doubt implemented at least one of the tips above, you are enjoying the stressbusting, focus-enhancing power of being organised.
Why stop there?
Now emboldened with your newly found organisational confidence, consider implementing another tip!
Related article: Stress | Everything Your Need to Know