If you’re a human being, we would wager that you’ve been a victim of the phenomenon known as ‘the monkey mind’. This doesn’t mean you think on a par with primates exactly (although some of us may have our moments!); it actually refers to a combination of lack of concentration and focus, and an inability to control your thoughts. The result of this is a chaotic inner world in which you may find your thoughts jumping from one subject to another without any real coherency or flow.
Naturally, this can result in a large amount of procrastination. Estimates say that the average person has around 70,000 thoughts per day, which is something to think about in itself! When we can’t seem to access the ability to organize thoughts effectively, there can be a tangible impact on our day-to-day productivity levels – not to mention our mental and emotional health!
It is easy to become fully immersed in thoughts, which equates to getting lost in them… and it’s equally easy to be blissfully unaware of this fact. The good news is that it is more than possible to gain control of your thoughts and organize them to your advantage.
Read on for our top four ways to organize your thoughts effectively:
Making a written plan - whatever the occasion - is a great way of organizing your thoughts. A simple ‘to do’ list or organizer will help you to structure your daily activities, develop focus, set priorities, and keep track of what you plan to achieve. Likewise, if you have a problem to solve and are struggling with chaotic thoughts or indecision, writing down what is important to you about the situation, how you feel and what you wish to achieve will help you to cultivate clarity.
Writing down intentions has the positive effect of making you feel accountable for what you did and didn’t achieve. It’s a useful way to stay focused on your goals, as well as being a marker of how much focus you have, how realistic your plans are and in which areas you can improve.
If you commit to keeping a regular diary, this will serve as a record of your thoughts. Not only will you be able to see patterns in your thinking by going over your entries later; you’ll also be able to remember important details, keeping ideas fresh in your mind. Writing your thoughts down is a powerful way to organize them in the moment, whether you wish to get to the bottom of an issue or just cement ideas and inspiration in your mind at the time.
Analyzing thoughts this way allows you to ‘step outside of them’ and assume a more objective perspective, so you can unravel feelings and motivations. This allows you to make better sense of anything causing confusion. When you can see your thoughts unfolding on paper, monkey mind thoughts will become more obvious, and you’ll have a much better chance of calming them.
We’re not suggesting that you slack off in the name of mental clarity, but very busy people tend to have very busy minds. Stress levels could rise quickly when you feel that you’re against the clock, but rushing through everything to stay on track can be counterproductive. Tasks will have to be completed, sure - but if you wish to bring your A-game as often as possible, performing under your own mental pressure isn’t conducive.
Thoughts are likely to descend into chaos quickly if you don’t allow yourself regular periods of downtime in which your mind isn’t actively focusing on a task. This is similar to meditation in a way, except that you don’t have to actively pursue clarity. Just take five to ten minutes at a time to switch off from planning, projecting or achieving and your thoughts will be able to calm down temporarily.
This serves as a simple reset for the mind so that when you return to your activities, your thoughts gradually come back into alignment with the tasks at hand rather than whizzing through your head fuelled on cortisol.
Meditating to organize thoughts may sound counterintuitive given that meditation requires you to empty your mind. Meditation is not necessarily all about clearing the mind of thoughts, however; it is more about calming the mind, developing focus and cultivating a positive mental attitude. It’s no mean feat to completely banish thoughts for more than a minute or two, unless you happen to be an ascended master… and even then, there’s no proof anyone has nailed it!
Meditation has the effect of helping you to calm your central nervous system, which also allows you to balance your emotional state. Your emotional state hugely impacts your thought processes, and vice versa – the two are intrinsically linked. When you meditate regularly, you become more peaceful both emotionally and mentally, which naturally brings clarity of thought. In turn, clarity of thought makes it much easier to sustain focus in any given moment.
Although meditation may seem difficult at first, with a daily practice of only ten minutes or more, you should start to reap the rewards… although the more frequently you do it each day, the more obvious the benefits will be. Even regular three to five-minute meditation intervals over the course of each day will serve you well.
As you can see, a few simple practices each day is enough to calm the monkey mind and develop the clarity you crave. With practice, your ways of thinking and processing become habitual, and the strategies above may no longer be quite so necessary in order for yo to retain clarity and focus day-to-day.
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