How To Keep Your Mind Sharp in a Cluttered World

I’m beginning to loathe social media.

And it isn’t the people who are the problem — or their cringe posts, their showing off, and their drama. There’s certainly plenty of that. 

It’s the platforms themselves. 

They’ve increasingly rammed short-form video content into my feed. It’s like a brain-crack that screws up my thinking. I step away from the phone and feel disoriented, unable to read more than a page of a book without feeling the urge to check my phone.

It’s so easy to feel mentally cluttered in 2023. I aspire to have the efficiency of a productivity cyborg. 

Here are some tips that have helped me tremendously.


1. Practice meditation for a sharp mind

One trick is to practice mindfulness. There are tons of guided meditation videos on YouTube that show you how to start. 

When I meditate, I feel free and less stressed out. My self-awareness increases as well. For example, I tend to notice thoughts that put me in a bad mood and how contagious those thoughts are with other bad thoughts. They tend to hit in rapid succession. Then I realize I’m miserable. 

Meditation takes patience. You have to accept that you aren’t doing anything else in that moment. No phone. No TV. Just focus on your thoughts. That’s when you realize how crazy your thoughts really are. 

Anything you can do to reduce your cortisol levels will improve your well-being. Cortisol inhibits higher-level thinking. Your adrenal cortex releases it into your body when your brain decides something bad has happened. It causes your heart rate to increase, your arteries to constrict, and your memory to be impaired. 

When the stressor has passed, your cortisol levels go back down. If you’re chronically stressed, it can screw up your baseline cortisol levels, creating tons of complications for your mood and overall performance. 

This is why the key to decluttering your mind is managing your stress. And meditation is a great place to start. Don’t morph into a raging Karen. 



2. Narrow down a small set of life priorities

I’m a writer, a son, and a boyfriend. I aim to do well at those three things. 

Streamlining your priorities makes it easier to understand where your energy should go. When I first got out of college and entered the workforce, I misunderstood how important prioritization was — perhaps because I was tired of my dad going on and on about it. 

Yet I realized how quickly a corporate job can give you mental whiplash, with so many people asking things of you and demanding you get things right. 

Learning where to direct your attention is everything. The thing is — you can get a ton of stuff done and still get it all wrong. It’s not about getting everything done. It’s about getting the right things done. 



3. Declutter your life — in the literal sense

Start getting rid of things. 

My house has a strict policy for 95% of our belongings. If we haven’t used something in six months, it should probably be thrown away.

I used to lose my wallet every six weeks — or so it felt. And when I say lose , I mean lose lose. Each scenario ended with me having to go to DMVietnam and wait in that awful line to the gates of hell. 

I got rid of things and suddenly stopped losing stuff. 

Another way of approaching this is to walk through your house and look at each object. Then ask yourself, “If I didn’t own this already and I saw it on sale for $5, would I buy it?”

The answer tends to help you qualify the value of your belongings.

When my girlfriend wants to buy new furniture or decorations , I always make it a point to push back and ask , “Will this be clunky junk in a year or two? Or will it sustain itself?”

Our homes tend to get their own form of product bloat. You’ve seen it if you’ve gone to an old lady’s house, particularly one she’s lived in for 40 years. The house is often stuffed to the brim with trinkets, furniture, and stuff she never uses.

All that stuff makes the house feel more congested. It accumulates more dust and needs to be cleaned. Plus, it makes it more difficult to be organized. 

Just remember that all of your possessions are sunk costs either way. You create no savings or money by keeping them. So if they aren’t being used, give them the boot. 



4. Stay task-oriented

Each day I have 2–3 main priorities that I set as goals. Those things have to happen to the exclusion of everything else.

I use Habitica to track my performance. It’s a free-to-use performance app that helps you gamify your productivity. 

As soon as those 2–3 things are done, I move on to everything else. Building out a list at the start of the day helps promote a mindset of structure and sequencing. It promotes being more deliberate with your actions.

I’m already a free-thinker who’s all over the place. The organization doesn’t come naturally to me, so I have to compensate to sharpen my mind and reduce errors. 




5. Exercise (with no sound)

That’s right.

It sounds awful, but it really isn’t. When you blast music like high-octane techno and heavy rock — it risks overstimulating your brain. You can create adrenaline releases that lead to a crash after your workout.

The big idea is for exercise to give you more long-term energy — not to deplete you. 

As a compromise, lower-octane podcasts or audiobooks can work during exercise. They certainly help get your mind off the exertion, which can cause a big crash. 



Determine what things add fog, mental burden, and stress — and delete them

Reduce the belongings, distractions, and people that eat away your time. If you can live deliberately and avoid getting caught up in the head-spinning speed of life and technology, you position yourself to optimize your performance and well-being. 

An active, sharp mind needs simplicity — now, more than ever.