De-clutter Your Brain in 3 Easy Steps

3 Steps to De-Clutter Your Brain

Recently I listened to a wonderful book on productivity and getting your life and office in shape.  Getting Things Done by David Allen breaks down the art of stress-free productivity in a way that can apply to anyone’s situation.  All of the tasks that build up in our everyday lives can manifest into an endless and stressful list.  Unfortunately many of the little things can go forgotten and stress us out even more.   How long have you needed to pick up some AAA batteries for the remote?  Do you remember when you are in front of batteries in store?  Of course not, our brains are not made that way.  You remember you need batteries when you pick up the remote and it doesn’t work.  I took Allen’s system and after applying it to my own life broke it down into three easy steps:

1. Get it all out of your head and into one place.

The first step to becoming stress free is getting all of this information and clutter out of your head.  For this phase you will need an “in basket”.  This should be a literal basket that will collect any items in your home needing attention or to dos listed on individual pieces of paper.  Walk around your home or office and collect all the items that require some sort of actionable item.  As you think of things that you can’t actually put in the basket write each item on its own piece of paper and put it in the “in basket”.  Allen goes in to much more detail regarding this process in his book.

2. Organize!

After you have collected all items needing attention that you can possibly think of you will need to organize them.  For each item what is the next actionable item you need to do to accomplish the task?

Every item will fall into one category:

Defer: Something you can’t do at the moment because you are waiting on more information, someone else needs to address it, etc…

Delegate:  Can someone else handle this?

Do: These are the items that you will do!  If it will take less than two minutes take care of it immediately.

File: Some things will have no “actionable items”.  For these you may just need to file them into other categories such as reference, items to read, project support materials and the like.

3. Don’t Try, Do!

The best approach to getting things done is to organize your action items by how they can best be done.  Is it an errand, a phone call, an e-mail?  Put all of your errands into one list so when you are out you can take care of things.  Phone calls can be completed when you have a few extra minutes and your cell phone on you.  Some things will need to be done at a computer.  If these are all in one list you can knock them out when you have free time at the office.

I really hope this system helps you like it helped me become stress free and get much more done.  Getting control will also promote creativity and free up your mind for great ideas to flow more easily.  I encourage you to pick up Getting Things Done by David Allen and find out more about his filing systems, how to set up a home office, and project management, he really is a genius in this area.

Are your to dos controlling your life?  Are there certain things nagging at you that need attention but never get done?  Please share what helps you de-clutter your brain and good luck!


  1. Hi Cortney
    I’m a big fan of David Allen’s GTD too, and a good “brain dump” is the best way to get started in clearing your feeling of overwhelm. And that flow chart is super helpful.

    • Cortney Nichols says:

      Yes Debra! I didn’t realize that all of the little things that needed to get done were weighing me down so much until I got them in one place. Glad to hear you are a fan as well!

  2. Tayla Naden says:

    My to do list definitely controls my life. I often use a system similar to this and keep track of it all online. When things get bad, that’s when I have to start writing it all out just to make myself feel better.

    The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten is – if it takes only five minutes to do it, get it done now! Those little to-dos add up fast, and the more I have to do, the less brain-space I have to think about the big stuff.

    • Cortney Nichols says:

      That is very similar to David’s system, he says two minutes, but close. It makes perfect sense though, why keep it in your head stressing you out when you could just get it done and “Eat the Frog”.

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