Situational Mental Clutter

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Do you know when you have situational mental clutter? Almost everyone experiences it, but may not realize they have it.

An example of situational mental clutter

I recently posted this on Facebook: “I had to come up for air!...Don't get me wrong - it's a great opportunity to have been commissioned to write a course on creative problem-solving for NAPO U - but I hadn't anticipated the amount of work involved! Of course I want it to be a great product so I've been putting in loads of development time and it's currently all-consuming until after the recording date 7/25. So, hey peeps! that's why I haven't been around much. Miss you!”

This is a great example of an event that causes situational (or temporary) clutter, both physical and mental. I fully admit it – the bed didn’t get made a few mornings, the dishwashing got done in one mad frenzy or left for my husband (my ever-understanding, supportive hubbie!), and the household chores were packed into the following weekend. I put off follow ups and other business conversations, and my to-do list remained untouched. The result was that I had mental clutter rattling around in my head – when on earth was I going to get it all done?!!

What kept my stress level down was that I recognized this as “situational mental clutter”. Since it had a name, I knew how to deal with it. I had only two jobs during this phase: 1) finish the course on time, and 2) do only the other tasks that were essential and time sensitive.

I wanted to share this story to reassure you that situational mental clutter is common. Almost everyone experiences it at one time or another. Other events that can cause situational clutter are graduation week, an unexpected work project landing on your desk, vacations, a medical or emotional emergency, or add your suggestion here _______________.

How do you manage situational mental clutter?

Remember I talked about filters a few posts back? In my case, I shifted my perspective for the course from it being a royal (albeit enjoyable) pain in the butt to appreciating how it would be an important calling card in my portfolio. It will also form the basis of my own courses on creative-problem solving and productivity in the future which means I’ll avoid reinventing the wheel. Another filter was knowing that the NAPO course will be an ongoing revenue stream since I’ll receive royalties each time it’s downloaded.

What filters will you apply?

As you begin to anticipate when an opportunity might create situational mental clutter, a good habit is to evaluate the opportunity against pre-set filters or criteria before agreeing to it. For example:

·      “If I say “yes” to this project, does the benefit outweigh the inconvenience?” For me, taking on the course was a ‘break-even’ scenario: what I’ll gain from having produced the course just about made up for the reduced business development activity; over time though, royalties should move the needle from ‘break-even’ to ‘gain’.

·      “If I say “yes” to going to this event, will it feed my cultural or socializing needs or just make me feel exhausted and unable to be present with my loved ones?”

·      “Boss, if I say ‘yes’ to this project, which of these other projects can I put on the back burner or delegate?”

If you’re not sure which filters or criteria to use for your decision-making, discuss it with a trusted friend. Or schedule a free phone consult with me – I’m very good at helping folks figure out what’s important to them.

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