The Importance of Mental Space

What's sitting in your mental space? Let's talk about the importance of mental space and how it affects our ability to function.

The Importance of Mental Space

I'm sure you know exactly what I mean when I say that just because you have the time to do something doesn’t always mean it’s the right time to do it, or that you'll be able to get it done swimmingly.

You've got time in the equation, but what about space...mental space...?

There can be so many factors at play during times when we just don’t feel mentally prepared or settled enough to do something. You could describe it as being mentally cramped, when the thought of squeezing another care/concern/concept into your consciousness just feels too much. (The alliteration just happened by the way).

When your mind is cluttered, it is so hard to focus. To execute. You cannot give your 100% because you're not mentally available. It's virtually impossible to get the same kind of results that you would if you had mental clarity and freedom.

The tough thing is, when you’re in a state of mental fog, your responsibilities, tasks and deadlines don’t go away. You’ve still got to attend to all these things even though you might not be in the perfect frame of mind to get them done.

In such situations, if you want to be able to produce work/results you can be proud of, you’ve got to:

1)      Firstly acknowledge the lack of mental space.

2)      Take baby steps and work toward de-cluttering that mental space.

It can be quite hard to talk about what goes on in our heads sometimes. Whether that’s talking about mental health, our battles with motivation or just adjusting with the situations and people we have to deal with on a daily basis.

But just because these things are hard to express doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Mental space, for example, is so necessary to function healthily and to reach your full potential.

Trying to manage your work and mental space can be compared to the process of getting ready to cook something.

Before you start cooking, you need to clear your kitchen space. This involves wiping down table tops, clearing unnecessary items away etc.

Why? So you can have the space to put your ingredients out and freedom and flexibility in moving around your kitchen. The same applies with your approach to daily tasks and projects. You need mental space.

It’s the foundation you need to get a job done well.

What are ways that your mental space can become cluttered?

Worrying about future events can take up your mental space. Your mental space can also become dominated by distractions that you allow to sneak into your life. Or you might just have a lot on your plate. Perhaps it’s a mix of these three things: you’re busy, but you’re also frequently distracted, and you're often worrying about upcoming events.

First, you need to acknowledge the state of your mental space. If you don’t, you’ll allow yourself to fall into a pattern of producing sub-standard results. When you acknowledge that your mental space has become cluttered, then you can move on to de-cluttering it.

Sometimes a cluttered mental space is characterised by not having the time to do what you love or need to do, but other times it’s marked by simply not having the energy – because you’ve overspent yourself elsewhere.

When you’ve acknowledged its presence, do what you can to free up your mental space. This requires being both gentle and firm with yourself. After all, if your mental space is crowded, you likely already feel overwhelmed, but it can also be overwhelming to contemplate how you’re going to get back to normal.

  • If you know that you’ve developed some time wasting habits, find ways to cut these out.  Think of the benefits you'll experience when you remove these unnecessary pursuits/distractions. 
  • Try to make an action plan related to your worries. Focus on what you can do to make the situation better, and let go of what you cannot control.
  • Finishing tasks can also help you free up mental space. Lingering tasks can fill up our mental space the way that idle apps fill up digital cache. Finish using the 'app' and swipe it from your screen. This enables you to move on. What lingering task can you complete in the next few hours or next few days?

On a physical level, sleep can be very helpful. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep can melt away the stresses of the previous day and clear up mental space.

You can also manage your mental space by giving yourself time to just think and meditate. On a daily basis, our attention and time is divided up by and for others, but how much do you retain for yourself?

  • Spend at least 15 minutes each day allowing yourself to think about what went well and what didn’t. Make a tiny goal that you can work on the next day. Nothing ground-breaking, but something do-able, that will make a difference.
  • When you are able to collect your thoughts, it’s like taking those books and papers that we’re scattered all over your desk, and neatly stacking them up, even arranging them in a binder. It feels much better doesn’t it?

Do you see the importance of mental space? Even with an abundance of time and a list of ideas, if you don’t have a clean and clear mental space, you won’t get far. You need a clean canvas to paint. Find out what’s cluttering your mental space and free it up for the things that are important now. 

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