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5 Ways to Create More Mental Space

We live in an information-rich, time-poor world. Here are five simple ways to unclutter your mind, think more clearly and boost your effectiveness.

Today's hyperactive and attention-demanding world makes reflection no easy task. Nonetheless, we still must find a way to carve out "mental space" so we can think clearly, plan, reflect, dream.  Peter Drucker expressed the value of reflection years ago even when the world was not so information-rich and time-poor.

He said, "Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action."

My youngest daughter has a special area in her room where she can chill and relax. She calls it her "chillax zone." Although your chillax zone might not have big pink pillows and a fluffy white carpet, we all need to make a time and place that offers us mental space. Your space might be your car as you drive home after work, a reading or meditation corner in your house, your bathtub, your gym, a nearby park where you walk--anywhere you can be alone with your thoughts. The thinking, planning, and reflection you do in this space helps you get off the treadmill and rise above the daily whirlwind to gain valuable perspective.

Here are five simple ways you can create more mental space:

  1. Schedule meetings for 45 minutes instead of one hour to build in time to synthesize your thoughts in-between meetings.
  2. Create a recurring, weekly meeting with yourself, even if only 15 minutes, to reflect on your thoughts about yourself, your team and your goals.
  3. Occasionally turn off your car audio or digital music so you can think on your way to work or debrief on your way home.
  4. Take a walk.  In the morning to prepare for your day; after lunch to get fresh air and re-energize; in the evening to unwind and reflect on your day.
  5. Disconnect from all forms of technology for one hour a week to get back in touch with things and people who are right in front of you. (i.e., experience real life vs. virtual life)

Not only is a mind a terrible thing to waste, it is a terrible thing to clutter.  Find the time and space to free your mind to do what it does best--think.

Reflection Questions:

1. How can I adjust my schedule to take back at least 15 minutes a day of uninterrupted time to reflect?

2. When can I turn off background "noise" (e.g., radio, TV, computer screen) for a few minutes to gain some valuable reflection time?

Read free chapters from the author's book Leadership Matters for more practical leadership insights.

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Last updated: Jun 19, 2014

LEE COLAN | Columnist

Lee Colan is founder of the L Group, a consulting firm that equips and inspires leaders at every level. He is a leadership adviser, presenter of practical ideas, and a Thinkers 50 nominee for Top Management Thinker.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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