Learning how to manage your mental space is one of the most important life skills you can develop. For me, it helps to think of my mental space as a physical space, of which I am the landlord.
So, mental space is an interesting concept. Even though it's not very tangible, we all know that it exists, especially when we're running out of it.
When there are so many things going on all at once, lots of stuff coming at you, demanding your immediate attention; your mind is racing and spinning out of control. It feels like your brain is about to burst and you don't know what to do with yourself.
That's when you realize that your mental space is limited.
Learning how to manage your mental space is one of the most important life skills you can develop. If you learn how to effectively manage your mental space, you can be incredibly productive and have a lot of things going on at once without driving yourself crazy and burning out.
The trick is to think of your mental space as a physical space of which you are the landlord. Here are 3 ways to be a better landlord of your own mind:
1) compartmentalize your space
When you think of your mental space as one big room that you have to fit your entire life into, you want to start by organizing the space.
In a real living space, you would have a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen and a basement, for example. This compartmentalization into different spaces helps you organize your life, because now you know what activities happen where; and also where different items are supposed to go.
In a similar way, it can help you organize your mental space if you compartmentalize your time; so that you can have specific blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks or issues.
Now pay attention, this only works if you guard your space!
If you leave your books in the kitchen, your blankets in the living room and your coffee cup in the bedroom, soon your house will be cluttered and disorganized.
The same goes for your mind. If you're worrying about the fact that your car urgently needs to be fixed while you're at work; and you're worrying about that report that's due on Friday while you're having dinner with your family; your mind is going to cluttered and you won't find much peace.
So compartmentalize your time and mental space; and force yourself to defer thinking about certain things, until the time you have allotted for it.
2) eliminate stuff you hate
I recently read a book that I really recommend, called "don't do stuff you hate".
This book challenges you to get out of the mindset of I have to, and switch to a mindset of I choose to. Because at the end of the day, you don't have to do anything, but you choose things because they're the best available alternative to you.
It's actually funny how similar this mindset is to the Marie Kondo method of tidying that is now becoming increasingly popular, where you only keep the stuff that "sparks joy" in your life.
Switching your mind to think this way primes you to seriously challenge all the have-to's in your life and see if you're really not better off without them.
So think of that thing that's sucking away your mental energy and seriously challenge yourself to see if the consequences of not doing it really outweigh the extra mental space you would have if you gave it up.
And if you do decide that it's worth it, then that is also liberating, because now you don't have to see yourself as a victim of your circumstances anymore.
3) keep your tenants in check
If you have a job, you are a quite literally renting out room in your head. Lots of things that you would otherwise not have to worry about are suddenly your concern – they enter your mind and occupy mental space there.
If you rent out a room to tenants, temporarily, you obviously don't want them to wreck the place in such a way as to render the room unusable, by the time they leave.
In a similar way, if you're coming home from work and you are mentally so wrecked and exhausted that you can't do anything else for the rest of the evening besides watching tv; this job is probably not a good fit for you.
You have to make sure that the tenants of your mental space respect the space they're renting; and don't occupy way more of your mental space than they're paying for.
You are the landlord of your own mind. Space is limited.
Treat it accordingly.