This week we’re featuring another article from Forbes. Hope you enjoy.
Like many of you, I took time off over the holidays and changed my environment. This recent journey was busier than usual for me—I traveled to different continents, countries and cities.
I began the trip with my mind full—full of lists, things done and undone, and all that I needed to accomplish when returning home. I also had a mind full of what I was expecting to do and see when getting to my new destination.
I live for that moment when I am away and let go of everything that fills my mind, releasing everything I’ve been carrying with me. I enter a new state of open-mindedness. While traveling, we’re forced to navigate new cultures, languages and foods. To allow in the new, we must make decisions that drive out the old. Situations like exchanging currency, overcoming language barriers and using local transportation all require a focus that borders on survival reflexes. They force all superfluous mental clutter out of our minds.
When this happens, our previously full mind opens, and we become in the moment, mindful and adaptive. But how can you invite mindfulness into your world each day—at home, in your office, during the meeting you’re attending at 3 p.m.?
I admit that mindfulness is a trendy topic, but its roots are thousands of years old and grounded in Eastern culture, Buddhism and most religious practices. My own entry into the practice came years ago through Eckhart Tolle, a soft-spoken, self-proclaimed and well-respected spiritual teacher. His YouTube talks have cleared—and opened—my mind more times than I can count.
Here are three daily practices that work for me to help clear a full mind:
1. Accept That Your Mind Is Overflowing with Both Signal and Noise.
Acceptance of the full mind allows the next two steps to work.
I’m sure I’m not the first one to tell you that a busy mind—and focusing too much on our thoughts, emotions and fears—can lead to exhaustion, stress and even depression. At times it has prevented me from thinking clearly, making the best decisions at the right moments, and being effective and present. It’s actually no surprise that our busy and crowded minds are a product of our overstimulated culture. Just knowing this—being aware and accepting this—is a crucial first practice.
2. Wake up Earlier.
Morning person or not, if you want to treat yourself to one of the greatest gifts, get up before everyone else. And don’t wake up just to get a head start; use the time as an indulgence: read, make a delicious breakfast, meditate, take a walk, etc. If you’re serious about clearing your head, try going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. Night owls may resist, but it’s worth a try.
If you need some convincing, here are two findings to consider from Harvard biologist Christoph Randler’s research:
- According to an article he wrote for HBR to explain his research, Randler writes, “A higher percentage of the morning people agreed with statements that indicate proactivity, such as ‘I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself’ and ‘I feel in charge of making things happen.’”
- Randler also writes, “Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them, my survey showed. They’re proactive. A number of studies have linked this trait, proactivity, with better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages.”
So many of the most successful people I have met are early risers—and not just business or financial success, but also life success. I’m up at 4:30 almost every morning. I’ve been hard-wired to do this since I was a kid. My challenge is getting to sleep at the right time because I’m getting up early no matter what.
Adopting healthy and helpful sleep patterns requires discipline, especially when traveling. I don’t change my watch or my sleep schedule if I’m in a spot for less than three days.
3. Clear Your Mind by Writing.
Write down everything you’re thinking—everything you have to do and everything that is troubling you or that makes you feel most optimistic.
Do this every morning, making it a ritual to clear your mind before your day starts. I can attest that while this is so simple, it’s the one thing that allows me to open my mind, clear my head and know that everything will get done on time. As with so many things in life, knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things.
Brain dumping helps me process ideas and tasks but also frees my mind from holding onto lists of endless things. It’s essentially the same theory for the brain as Tidying Up With Marie Kondo is for our homes.
I’ve tried every planner and app on the market and what works best for me is the notes app on my iPhone. An old-fashioned list. I don’t even try to bucket items anymore. I review it every morning and check it when I need a reminder throughout the day. Any time my mind is full, I add to it.
As with everything, having an open mind is a choice. A full mind is a slower mind, a more cluttered mind, an overtaxed mind, a less effective mind.
You can read the article and see my profile on Forbes.com here.