Have you ever felt like your mind was trying to pull you in many different directions at once? I call this mental clutter. Right when you are ready to focus on one thought or idea, another one pops up. Think of it like you’re receiving an email from yourself and you can’t turn off the notification signal. Borrowing on ideas from David Allen I came up with a quick method that helps me get back on track. I call it CIA.
Mental clutter is your brain trying to keep track of all your goals, appointments, to-do’s, and ideas. Unless you have written them down, your mind can get overwhelmed with trying to keep up with it all. Fearful that you will forget something important, it keeps reminding you at the most inappropriate times. These constant reminders end up causing you endless distractions. By using your planner to record your intentions and then scheduling them into future appointments, and upcoming tasks, you allow your mind began to relax, freeing up mental space so you can focus on the task at hand.
CIA is a formula for dealing with interfering thoughts that try to steal your attention and interrupt your current thoughts. CIA is an acronym for consuming thoughts, intention, and action.
The C (consuming thought) is whatever thought you are obsessing on at the moment. Let’s say for example, that you know you need to purchase airline tickets for an upcoming vacation. Right now, isn’t the best time to do this because you are in an important meeting. But because the tickets are also important to you, your mind is constantly reminding you to buy them.
Using the CIA solution, you write in your planner:
C (Consuming thought) – I need to buy airline tickets.
The I (intention) is what your consuming thought would look like if you had already completed it. By turning your consuming thought into a tangible goal, you can now start forming a plan of action that will lead to its eventual completion. In this scenario, your intention is to have purchased the tickets.
In your planner write:
I (Intention) – I have purchased the airline tickets.
The A (action) is the very next step you will take to begin turning your intention into a reality when you have the time to take action. The beauty of this action step is that you are not required to know every step you need to take at this moment, just the very next step to take. That leaves you to hash out the other steps later so you can focus your attention back to what you are currently doing. In this case, you look at your calendar and see that you have a break in your schedule at 3:30 today.
In your planner write:
A (Action) – Go online and order the tickets at 3:30. Then pencil it into your schedule.
You might be thinking you could just hold on to that thought in your head and then complete the task when you get a moment later in the day. The problem lies in the fact that your mind is obsessing over the tickets now, and it won’t allow you to be fully present in the current moment. Also, if you are like most people when you do get a free moment you probably won’t remember. It will have slipped your mind until you find yourself trying to focus on something else, like dinner or falling asleep for a good night’s rest.
CIA is an excellent way to clear up your mental clutter at the end of your work day before you go home. It allows you to relax and be more fully present with your family knowing that what needs to be done in the next few days is successfully recorded in your planner and not left to your mind to have to keep up with it.
Question: How do you deal with mental clutter? You can leave a comment by clicking here.