Congratulations, you’ve got thoughts which need organising. Imagine for one moment the reverse and concede this is one problem that’s good to have.
Your time, energy and attention however, are each precious commodities and it’s prudent to protect and conserve them. If your thoughts remain disorganised, they’ll jangle for your attention and make concentration difficult.
Focus is possible only when you still your mind. With every thought in place, you are free to unleash your creativity.
Learn how to organise your thoughts then tap your full potential.
List Every Thought
Lists are your first step towards more organised thoughts. List everything that’s in your head, don’t worry about priority.
Then make a second list once everything is down. Sift, catalogue and prioritise as you compile the second list.
Without a list, your brain continues to remind you of any unlisted thought. A list lets you understand everything that’s in your head.
A further benefit is when you tick items off your list, you build momentum. Each completed action produces a flare of satisfaction that makes you feel good about yourself.
Let The Details Blur
Scan across the surface of your thoughts. Let the details subside and see if you can grasp the bigger picture. Identify any hotspots or peaks. These are places hungry for your attention.
Allow the details to blur. The process of surface skimming provides perspective and enables you to understand priorities and identify connections.
When you see the bigger picture, it’s easier to decide where to place your focus.
Do A Brain Dump
Sometimes your mind is like a crowded market, your ideas and thoughts call for your attention. In the middle of the noise and chaos it is impossible to find the path back out.
Write everything that’s in your head. Keep going until there’s nothing left and notice how much quieter your mind becomes.
By acknowledging your thoughts you pacify them. In the stillness this creates, you will make new choices.
Chunk Up Your Thoughts
Your mind constantly searches for patterns. When you have too many thoughts, it’s useful to chunk them up. Ask, what is this a part of?
Example: Book flights, choose a hotel, find dog-sitter and hire car becomes ‘organise the trip’.
By chunking up, you narrow down the number of thought categories which makes it easier to prioritise.
Use a Single Word To Categorise Your Thoughts
Your thoughts can swirl around unnamed. In this state they are more like emotions than formed ideas.
Feelings lead to actions, which generate more feelings. This is a loop you must be in control of.
Being derailed is otherwise too easy.
Name your thoughts. Use a single word. Take charge.
Visualize Your Thoughts
When thoughts remain unspoken inside your head, they are hard to manage. You miss the opportunity to link ideas together. Thinking this way is inefficient.
Visualise your thoughts. Use tools like mind maps, pie charts and doodles.
Once thoughts are outside your head, you design the way they look, the way they interface.
Patterns are easier to see, thoughts become productive
Re-Order Your Thoughts With Index Cards
You may categorise your thoughts, but the real magic happens when you build in flexibility.
If you record your thoughts on index cards your collection system is inherently flexible. You can stack cards, colour code, merge, re-order, discard.
Instead of a static list, shuffle your cards into whatever arrangement makes sense
Sleep On It
Sleep can be productive. To maximise the power of your unconscious, assemble your thoughts using one of the above methods.
Allow yourself to digest everything you have collected.
This first step quietens anxiety. Once you’ve collected your thoughts, sleep will unlock your mind’s ability to find patterns and connections.
You will then awake with a better grip of your priorities.
Work Out Your Best Time
Make sense of your noisy thoughts when you’re at your peak time of day.
Some people are larks, others owls. Work out your optimal time of day and dedicate some time in that window to implement one method mentioned in this article.
Talk It Out
Often, thoughts are incoherent and difficult to pin down. They are like sensations, which leave you feeling anxious, tense, stressed or distracted.
Sit with a friend or family member and talk them out. It may help you name what’s bothering you. A conversation helps to uncover what lies behind your thought.
Once in the open, you can work out what to do.
Weave Thoughts Into A Story
Ask: What are your thoughts trying to tell you?
See your disparate thoughts as elements of a story. Find the narrative that runs through them.
Then develop this into a story that explains a broader truth. Alternatively, take a single thought and make that into a story to see what happens to it.
Humans are instinctive story tellers. By turning thoughts into stories you unlock a powerful tool to understand the bigger questions.
Get A Dose Of Nature
Perspective is everything. Thoughts that loom large in your office, become less impressive when contrasted with the raw beauty of nature.
Fresh air, exercise and a view have physiological and psychological effects. Use them to fuel your body with oxygen, adjust your field of view and open your mind to new possibilities.
All this happens with no mental effort.
Bonus: Stay In Control
If you reach a moment of clarity, enjoy.
Then in the next instant, figure out how you will avoid the problem from recurring.
A simple strategy is to set up a thought log. Whether you use a notebook and pen or an app, your goal is continuously to collect new thoughts as they occur to you.
Once a week, reflect on your collected thoughts. Consider which need a plan and which you can safely leave.
A simple plan can protect you from similar problems in the future.