What a year of change this has been for many of the people I know. One of adjusting expectations, plans, and goals in many areas of life and I am no exception. My slow recovery from surgery back in February and trying to get back to “normal,” or at least what I think normal should be, has at times left me frustrated and struggling to adapt.
I’ve come to the slow realization that my life has changed and how I used to operate before getting sick will not work now. It’s time to find a different way of doing things from my business, self-care, and caregiving.
These are not necessarily bad changes, but they have left me scrambling to keep up, find a new rhythm, and new routines that not only work but also keep me on the path of healing.
Lately, the journey of finding stillness has been an inward one. Looking at all the mental clutter, I’ve accumulated that has at times left me unsure of what the next priority is.
The Stress of Mental Clutter
I’ve always been a collector. It started when I was still in grade school. With my allowance, I would go to the bookstore to buy a Nancy Drew book to add to my collection, a bookmark, and sometimes a handful of stickers.
Recently, however, I’ve discovered just how far that collecting has gotten me and in some ways has become a burden.
The idea of collecting started out innocent enough but has now morphed from physical collections to mental collections of ideas. Lots, and lots of ideas. More ideas than I will ever be able to pursue.
In the information age, ideas are everywhere. We can learn quickly and easily simply by asking Google a question, and all sorts of answers magically appear.
The problem (for me at least) is that with all this information at our fingertips we find one new idea leads to another, and soon we discover that learning is fun and exciting. Often it is more appealing to keep learning new things rather than going out and applying what we’ve learned.
With all these ideas and opportunities to learn it can keep the brain crowded and cluttered. The result is a heightened sense of anxiety and stress.
- We see all the things we have learned, and haven’t used.
- All the things we still want to learn and try.
- All the ideas we have applied that didn’t work so now need to tweak or move on to the next idea.
No wonder we have trouble finding the off switch at the end of the day.
Decluttering The Mind
In a previous post, I talked about the power of carefully considering what you say yes to and more importantly what to say no to. Understanding the impact of these choices continues to change the way I think about my business, my goals, and my daily to-do lists. In fact, it has even helped me start working on decluttering and reducing stress in my life.
Here is a short list of a few of the steps I’ve been taking.
Step #1 – Reduce the incoming noise by choosing only 2-3 experts to listen to instead of 10:
This is an example of choosing my yes and no carefully and has helped me reduce the number of podcasts I subscribe and listen too. I’ve also gone through and unsubscribed from many of the different newsletters, blogs, and websites I follow. I’m also removing myself from countless Facebook groups and pages that I seem to have collected over the years.
This one step has already made a significant impact on my email inbox by reducing both the volume of email I receive and the distraction of so many voices and opinions.
Step #2 – Reduce the number of projects I’m working on:
This one has been super hard for me. But applying the principle that if I say yes to 10 projects at once, I’m saying no to getting any of them done in a reasonable amount of time, if at all.
Picking my yes carefully, and understanding why I said yes, has helped me navigate through my list of projects and prioritize them. You should see my monthly and weekly project tracking sheets. They are a mess as I re-write them mid month and make them shorter and more focused. Taking this step has given me confidence that I can complete more projects and reach my goals.
Step #3 – F.O.C.U.S:
For some reason, this acronym finally hit home. Coined by Robert Kiyosaki and shared in a blog post by Shelley Hitz, this advice is making one of the biggest impacts in my efforts to declutter my mind and my to-do-lists.
F.O.C.U.S. – Follow One Course Until Successful.
Sounds simple enough right?! But for someone who loves ideas and research has been incredibly hard. It’s a concept that I have to revisit daily.
I should point out here, that I will always have a side-hustle or project, always, I know myself too well. I need variety in my projects and tasks to keep me engaged; I get bored way too easily when focused on one task or project for an extended period.
But, having a big goal as my primary focus and only 1-2 minor goals/projects to work on instead of 10? Well, that is progress, and my goal tracker is showing more completion marks than it has in a long time.
Simplifying to Reducing Stress
One benefit of the changes I’ve been making has been a slight reduction of stress and anxiety. It has become so routine to feel the need to tackle “all-the-things” that I didn’t even realize it was there.
Now that I have some of the priorities figured out, a plan that feels doable, is still varied (essential for me!), and does not ask me to try to do “all-the-things” right now, has cleared up a lot of mental clutter that has accumulated over the years.
I’m learning to release the projects that do not fit right now to a someday/maybe list, and I’m doing a better job of prioritizing what needs to be done now versus later.
- Instead of being in the middle of 3 or 4 books and magazines, I’m only allowing myself one book and one magazine at a time. The rest are put back on the bookshelf. I’m starting to finish books and magazines in a reasonable amount of time. What a concept!
- Instead of being in the middle of several Bible study plans that I don’t always finish. I’ve simplified my routine, and I love it. I’m getting so much more out of my devotional time, and I know I will stay with it and not get distracted by something new.
In my morning quiet time, I needed a plan, that would give me a routine to follow each morning and not leave me hopping from one devotional to another. It has made such a difference in my mornings that I wanted to share it with you what I’ve started to call, “The Be Still Project.”
At its core The Be Still Project is a 7-day set of journaling pages that include:
- A picture of God’s creation to enjoy.
- 1-2 verses to write out each day.
- A list of 3-5 things I am grateful for.
- Writing out a prayer.
- A place to write down things that come to mind that you don’t want to forget.
Each day you will also receive an email with additional thoughts on finding stillness in your life. You can read more about it here or by entering your name and email address below.
Marta Goertzen is an entrepreneur, writer and nature photographer. She daily explores the trails and beaches of the South Central Oregon Coast with her buddy Bailey. You can follow along on their adventures on Instagram. She is also the author of several books including her newest, “Choosing Gratitude: A Daily Quiet Time Journal”.