Ever have one of those days where you have a lot of thoughts and ideas in your head?
Everything is flying around in a seemingly jumbled mess, and you can’t seem to make sense of anything.
Fortunately, there are ways to capture all those clever little ideas.
In this post, I offer a collection of seventeen different ways to organize your thoughts.
Some suggestions are practical, while others are more creative.
Some suggestions will let you look at your thoughts in a new light, while others will allow your subconscious to organize your thoughts.
Practical Ways to Organize Your Thoughts
Use sticky notes and a wall.
Grab a stack of sticky notes and sit or stand near a wall. Write down one thought per sticky note, and then stick the note to the wall. Continue until you have a bunch of notes; then start sorting the notes by hand into groups.
Draw a mindmap.
A mind map is a way of connecting different thoughts together. Start by drawing a single thought in the center of a piece of paper. Then, draw a line from that thought, radiating outwards towards the edge of the paper, adding another similar, or related thought. Continue adding thoughts to your map, making sure items are related to one another.
Take notes on index cards.
Index cards are a great way to keep track of your thoughts and ideas. You can use the top red line for a main thought, and list out related thoughts underneath on each of the lines that follow, or you could use a single card for a thought or idea. Shuffle your cards as you please to find new ways to sort and organize information.
Develop a list.
Capture your thoughts on a good old-fashioned list. Keep one thought to a line, and keep going until you’ve written down all of your thoughts for the moment. Then, you can go back and start sorting your list into smaller lists.
Make a pie chart.
You’ve probably seen pie charts before. These are charts in the shape of a circle (or, pie), with different areas shaded out. Write down a couple of your thoughts, and then give your thoughts different percentages, or levels of importance. Are there some thoughts that are more important, pressing, or timely than others?
Creative Ways to Organize Your Thoughts
Handwrite a letter.
Turn off your cell phone, put your computer to sleep, and sit at your desk with a blank piece of paper and a pen. Pretend you’re writing a letter to a friend. How would describe your thoughts to them in the letter? Take as much time as you need to think about, and write the letter.
Make a collage.
Create a collage of your thoughts using pictures and images cut out of magazines, newspapers, and so on. Arrange, and then glue everything down to a poster board or sheet of paper. You can also do this digitally, you could create a board on Pinterest for example, of images that catch your eye.
Create a table of contents.
Pretend you’re writing a table of contents for a book. Which of your thoughts should come at the beginning of the book, and which of your thoughts should come at the end?
Make a timeline.
Seeing your thoughts listed in a timeline or calendar format can help give you some much-needed perspective. You could draw out a calendar with the months of the year, days of the week, or even the hours of the day. Write in a single thought in each slot, for example, in each month, or in each day of the week. The idea is to organize your thoughts by what comes first, what comes second, etc.
Make a recording of yourself speaking.
Here’s an easy way for you actually hear what you’re thinking. Record your thoughts on a voice recorder or voice recording app. Put the recording aside for a day or two, and then come back to it and review it. You’ll have a different perspective on your thoughts.
Thoughtful Ways to Organize Your Thoughts
Do a brain-off activity.
What does this mean?
Let your mind sort things out as you work.
Sit quietly or meditate.
Meditation can calm the mind and body. It can also help you sort out those thoughts subconsciously. Draw the blinds, turn off the lights or dim them, and sit quietly in a chair, or on the floor.
Sleep on it.
What seems chaotic and puzzling now, will look a whole lot different in the morning. If you can’t seem to make sense of thoughts in your mind, go to sleep for the night.
Physical Ways to Organize Your Thoughts
Get some exercise.
Move your body and get your heart pumping. Make a visit to the gym, run outdoors, play frisbee or a game of catch with a friend, or walk and do some errands. The change of pace will give your mind a break, and allow your subconscious to work on your puzzle in the background.
Spend time in nature.
Go out and spend some time outdoors. You could sit in the park on a bench, hike a trail, walk your dog, or gaze at a beautiful green pasture. Get out of your heard, and let your eyes take in the sights.
Talk to a friend or family member.
Sometimes it helps to talk things out. You’ll feel better getting things out of your head, and off of your chest. Plus, your friend can help you find patterns that you may be missing, or clarify, and reinforce what you’re thinking.
Tell a story.
The process of telling a story aloud will make you think about what’s important, and what’s not. So, start with one of your thoughts and make up a story about it. “Once upon a time…”
How about you? How do you organize your thoughts? Will you try any of the suggestions listed in this post? Join in the conversation and leave a comment below!