the secreto to happiness

The Secret To Happiness? Inbox Zero For Your Mind

The secret to happiness?

A clear mind.

It is not really a secret. I bet you knew it already. The big question is: how do you get there? How do you clear your mind and get rid of all that stress and mental clutter that is holding your happiness and productivity back?

It is easier than you think. Let me show you how to do it in just 4 easy steps:

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When your inbox gets filled up with emails, you take the time and make the effort to clean it out, right?

What about your mind? Do you take time to clear what’s going on in there?

Most people don’t.

No wonder so many walk around unfocussed, unhappy and quite confused of why they are not seeing any meaningful progress in their lives. According to recent studies, up to 70,000 thoughts pass through your mind… every day. That is quite the massive number that can wreak havoc in your brain. And a good chunk of them are recurring thoughts. Thoughts and reminders that keep coming back and you keep putting them in the “I’ll take care of this later” mental drawer.

It is time to take care of all that “mental clutter”. It is time to press the reset button and reboot your brain. When you take care of all those random thoughts in a systematic way you are going to feel relieved. Your focus and productivity will also get a good boost from this exercise. And if you ever wondered what is the secret to happiness, this is as close as it gets: a clear mind!

Let’s do it.

It’s only 4 steps.

the secret to happiness

Step 1: Get It All Out

It is time for a mind dump.

Block off some time on your calendar (30 – 45 minutes would do it). Find a quiet place where noone will disturb you. Leave all electronics behind, find yourself a good old-fashioned pen and a piece of paper (the best productivity tools btw) and let it all out.

One thought per line.

You need to lose that holiday weight, write it down. You wonder what happened to your desk-mate from grade school, write it down. You need to pay your phone bill, write it down.

Whatever is in your mind, just write it down. Don’t worry about making it pretty or organized. Just let it all out. Keep writing until you cannot think any more.

You might find it to be a challenge at first, but once you get into it, the thoughts are going to start flowing almost on their own and you’ll get in the groove. Just keep writing.

Once you are done, put the pen down and take a little break. A few minutes would do. Just walk around, stretch those shoulders and neck and allow your brain to take a breather too.

Step 2: Prioritize Your Tasks (Like A Boss)

Look at all those thoughts and tasks. Isn’t it amazing how many of them were in your mind? I bet the list is much bigger than what you expected it to be.

Let’s make sense of it all.

Go through your list and rate your tasks from 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest), based on these two criteria:

  • Importance – which of these are highly important (or urgent), or which ones will bring you the fastest results? This is a great place to make use of the 80/20 rule and find the 20% of the tasks that will provide 80% of the results.
  • Annoyance – which of these are things that keep on bugging you on a constant basis? It might not be something important. It could be as trivial as you forget your keys every time you leave for the gym, but it keeps annoying you all the time.

Rate everything from 1 to 5. If it will provide you with great results, or it will bring you lots of happiness and less annoyance, it’s a 5. If it’s something “eh, whatever” it’s a 1.

Again, don’t worry about making it pretty. If you are unsure what to rate something, go with your gut. There is no right and wrong, this is your list and your rating.

Step 3: It’s Go Time

Look at all your 4s and 5s. This is “Master To-Do List”.

These are the things that were previously stuck in your mind, lowering your focus and happiness. These are the things that you constantly think about. Let’s take care of them.

It is time to either go ahead and do them or schedule them.

If your 4s and 5s have tasks that you can do in a few minutes, go ahead and do them. Pay that bill, fix that leaky faucet, clean out that messy bottom drawer of your desk. Start crossing those tasks off your master to-do list.

If you need more time for your high-priority (or high-annoyance) tasks, schedule them. Take out your calendar and figure out when you are going to take care of what. Block off that time and get it done. Don’t just let them sit on your piece of paper. Schedule them and get rid of them, or you risk those tasks and thoughts slipping back in your mind and getting you back to ground zero.

Do them or schedule to do them in the future. It is a black and white world. There is no middle ground.

Step 4: Let It Go, Let It Go

You took care of those 4s and 5s, but what about the rest?

Good question, glad you are paying attention!

Are you ready for the secret to happiness? You need to let them go! Choose not to do them and not to worry about them.

Consciously choose to let them go!

It might seem like a hard thing to do at first, but it is easier and more practical than you can imagine. You have limited resources, time and energy. You cannot do it all and you should not even try. And not in a “give up” kind of way, but in a “choose to be smart about it” kind of way.

Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
~ John Wooden

Does it really matter if you finish that book you’ve been reading on and off for months now? If it does, you would’ve finished it by now. Would it make a dramatic difference to your life, or to your happiness level, if you {insert your 1s and 2s here}? Do you really want to get it done or is it your ego that comes into play?

You are never going to run out of things to do, guaranteed. There is no end that you can reach, no finish line. So you need to make peace with that and learn to let some of your lowest priority items go. Choose not to do them. Find a logical argument against doing them if you have to, be OK with it, let them go.

Over To You Now

Done! You have now successfully re-booted your brain and cleared all of that mental clutter.

This is the secret to happiness: having a clear mind, having a mental inbox zero.

The first time you do this exercise, you are going to feel really relieved, relaxed, happy and in control (and a little bit exhausted). You are also going to produce a master to-do list for yourself. These are things that are either going to help you march forward (the important ones), or stop holding you back (the annoying ones).

Ideally, you are going to go through this process a few times per year. At the rate of 70,000 thoughts passing through your mind every day, it is easy to create mental clutter, so it is important to take the time to reach your mental inbox zero.

Clear your mind, reach happiness, re-boot your brain on a regular basis… your productivity and success will thank you for it.

Question: what other methods to clear your mind and achieve happiness do you use? Share in the comment section below: