More Solutions to Overwhelm and Stress: Reducing Brain Clutter


Everyone has the same number of hours in a day and yet some of the clients I’m working with seem to manage time better than others. Some of the busiest people with less time apparently get more done with less stress and overwhelm. How do they do it?

I’ve observed and worked with a lot of successful executives. Those who accomplish the most aren’t necessarily the brightest or the best leaders. They are masters at managing overwhelm, being decisive, setting clear priorities and following their plan. They are efficient and productive.

It’s not so much how we manage our tasks as much as how we manage the things that clutter our brains and our mindset. In my previous posts I mentioned things that contribute to the feelings of overwhelm and stress:

  • Ambivalence, indecision and self-doubt
  • Tolerations
  • Unfinished projects
  • Trying to mentally remember something
  • Random mental clutter


What Exactly Is “Mental Clutter?”

This is the ‘stuff’ of daily life that has no permanent home. It’s all the things you need to do, the things you want to remember, the special dates, a funny story, but which have no time or next steps attached to them.

It’s easier to keep a space neat when everything has a place. Your desk and your office are important spaces for you to keep organized. And so it is with your mind.

But when there are numerous things that have no place and we try to hold them in our working memories, like a “don’t forget” list, they turn into floating anxiety. Brain clutter just takes up unnecessary space and creates anxiety because we don’t really have a plan. We not only risk forgetting, but we put our brains under unnecessary stress because things that aren’t filed and “solved” create loose ends.

So you need to keep a calendar, a master to-do list and a place to jot down every random thing that pops into your mind that you want to remember. When you rely on your memory to keep track of your tasks and grocery list and “someday” projects, your brain quickly fills up and, at some point, becomes overwhelmed.

Get all of this information out of your head and onto paper or an electronic file. This frees up space to concentrate on what matters most – the tasks that really matter to you.


Recognizing and reducing mental friction and brain clutter is an intentional process. It doesn’t need to happen all at once to see immediate changes in productivity and feelings of energy. Change one small thing at a time, then another.

As author Brigid Schulte explains in her book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, “Clearing the clutter in my head and the guilt that hung over every halfhearted decision has given me more peace of mind than any elaborate time management system.”

What will you need to do to start to declutter your brain today? Got questions or need help decluttering? Contact me.


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