Humans have thousands of thoughts per day. I’m not sure which number is valid, but I’ve heard anywhere from 6,000 to 60,000 thoughts run through our minds each day! Either way, it’s a ridiculous number of thoughts for us to deal with.
It’s no wonder we often feel overwhelmed, experience foggy brain syndrome, and sometimes just feel disorganized when it comes to our businesses. Most retail business owners wear MANY hats—even with a good team in place.
How Mind-Clutter Affects Our Work and Our Time at Home
When I get into my shop, I have tasks related to inventory, social media, email marketing, and CEO work. On top of all that, I have creative work, like painting a custom piece of furniture for a customer. I feel like I’m hopping from one extreme to the next, all while taking care of customers in between tasks.
Over the past few months, I’ve frequently walked into my store and been all over the place. And when this happens, I tend to waste time.
I only work in my store Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 AM – 4 PM and every other Saturday. I have to make the most of my time and be as productive as possible in those 6 hours. I do NOT want to work on my retail business while I’m at home.
It’s not just me, though. In Master Shopkeepers, I see brick-and-mortar store owners share how they have a hard time focusing on the never-ending tasks on their to-do list, along with the stressors that come with tackling big projects.
So what can we do to declutter our minds so we can focus on the tasks at hand, organize our days, and get the critical stuff ticked off our lists?
Do a Brain Dump
We store A LOT of information in our brains. But that’s it. Our brains hold that information without any organization. Our brain doesn’t always nicely package it, file it in a system, or lay out the steps we need to take to feel like we can take action.
If anything, a cluttered mind causes inaction and overwhelm. This is what’s been happening to me when I walk into my store.
So the first step in a brain dump is to…
1. Write it out!
Whether it’s a daily decluttering or a project decluttering, what helps me the most is to dump all these thoughts out onto paper.
Just put pen to paper, or your fingers to the keyboard, or your stylus to your tablet—choose whatever works best for you.
I usually start with pen and paper and then, if needed, move onto something like Trello, a project management software (you can find all the resources I use in my business here!).
Let me share an example of my daily mind decluttering:
I got into my store one day in early March. Not only was our studio cluttered because we had lots of projects going, but my brain was cluttered, too. Clutter causes overwhelm and either inaction or wasted action.
So I took out a pen and literally dumped everything I needed to do in the next six hours onto a piece of paper. It was sloppy, and it was ugly. But it didn’t matter!
You might be thinking, “Kathy, this is just a to-do list.” But it’s not. If I brain dumped a to-do list, it would be miles long. And most likely, yours would be, too! This is about taking everything that requires immediate action and putting it onto paper so you don’t miss anything and so you can move forward with a plan in place.
The next step—and this is the IMPORTANT one:
2. Make it realistic and do only what’s important.
If you haven’t read The One Thing by Gary Keller, I highly recommend it. One premise in the book is to focus on what’s IMPORTANT, rather than constantly putting out fires.
Taking this into consideration, I wanted to focus ONLY on my 6 hours of store-related tasks. I took it one step further and created a short list of what absolutely NEEDED to get accomplished on that day and in that time frame.
It was a list of maybe ten tasks. It was imperfect (no wasting time making your brain dump pretty, for the perfectionists reading this!). It wasn’t in any particular order, either.
Once I dumped it all out on paper, I felt my shoulders drop a little. Okay, now I can focus. Doing just one task at a time, along with the satisfaction of crossing off each item, meant that I was #winning in my store that day!
Ten things might seem like a lot in six hours. But they were all relatively short tasks, and I went at them with a plan. I only worked on ONE job at a time without allowing any distractions. Before moving on to the next task, I had to get the one thing I was doing, done.
If I value my six hours in the store, then I have to make how I manage my time there a priority. When you start to value your time, how you handle it becomes a priority.
Bonus: Make Your Brain Dump Even More Impactful by Decluttering Your Physical Space
Studies show that a cluttered workspace—whether it’s an office, work studio, or even your store—contributes to the feeling of overwhelm.
This is another thing I often hear Master Shopkeepers members say: when they declutter their work area, the overwhelm lessens, and their efficiency increases.
So go ahead and declutter! Get organized and make your workspace what it needs to be so you’re the best shopkeeper you can be.
I looked back and checked for how many times I thought I shared these tips in previous episodes because I was sure I had. I was SHOCKED to see I only mentioned “brain dumping” once, back in Episode 33!
In that episode, I talked about Trello, one of my all-time favorite business tools. If you want to brain dump a larger or more long-term project, I highly recommend brain dumping into a project management software like Trello, Asana, or ClickUp.
To summarize, here’s how you can declutter your mind:
- Do a Brain Dump
- Write it out: preferably pen and paper, but digital works, too.
- Make your action list realistic and do only what’s important.
- Bonus: make your Brain Dump even more impactful by decluttering your physical space
I’ve realized over the past year that my zone of genius is systems and processes (the “zone of genius” concept is from another favorite book, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks). My brain does really well with data and loves to make sense of it, whether it’s a long list of numbers or a bunch of cluttered thoughts.
When I’m working with my 1:1 clients, each client’s needs and frustrations are different. But I don’t have them fill out a questionnaire when we start working together. Instead, I start with a brain dump call.
I want them to dump ALL of their business-related thoughts on our first call together. And they always do! They sometimes apologize for it, but that isn’t necessary.
I don’t do this to make them feel bad, and I’m certainly not wasting their time on that first call with me. I take the thoughts they’ve brain-dumped, organize them, and come back with a personalized roadmap to their success.
Their brains are just too cluttered to see it on their own.
I hope you’ll try a brain dump this week when you feel cluttered or overwhelmed. If you do, be sure to let me know how it goes by sending me a DM on Instagram!
- Take the 2021 Savvy Shopkeeper Survey & enter to win a 1:1 coaching call with Kathy (the survey is open until Friday, March 19, 2021, at 5 PM EST).
- Savvy Shopkeeper Resources & Tools
- The One Thing by Gary Keller
- The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
- [03:34] How mind clutter affects our work and our time at home
- [06:44] Do a brain dump
- [08:46] Write it out!
- [10:43] Make it realistic and do only what’s important
- [14:17] Bonus: make your brain dump even more impactful