Taking the time to sit down and organize your thoughts can come with some tremendous benefits. We all have thoughts that swirl around in our minds all day long, but a lot of the time they can feel a bit muddled—so employing some strategies for thought organization can be an amazing tool.
By organizing your thoughts, you can better understand the root of certain issues like stress, anxiety, and depression, and you’ll have an easier time setting goals and sticking to them. Here are some strategies for getting started on your thought organization journey.
How to organize your thoughts with a journal
One of the absolute best ways to organize your thoughts is with a journal. By putting pen to paper, you can begin to better understand exactly what your thoughts mean and how they can be useful to you. Here’s how to organize your thoughts with a journal:
1. Use a bullet journal
At Silk + Sonder, we’re huge fans of bullet journals—and one of the biggest reasons for this is that they make excellent thought organization tools. Bullet journals help you better understand and prioritize your thoughts, feelings, and goals.
2. Draw a mind map
A mind map is a diagram used to organize information in a visual way. It starts as an image in the center of a blank page (usually with your primary, maybe vague thought) and then other ideas can branch out from that.
3. Make a pie chart
You’ve probably used a pie chart before, but probably not to organize your thoughts. To employ this technique, start by drawing a large circle on a piece of paper and write down thoughts in different parts of the circle. By looking at these thoughts, you can decide which ones are most important and take priority.
4. Use a mood tracker
Silk + Sonder has a mood tracker included in every issue, and for good reason: A mood tracker helps us figure out why we may be experiencing certain moods, at which point we can take action accordingly. By tracking how different moods correlate with specific thoughts, actions, people we interact with, or even foods we eat or how much we sleep, we can better organize and figure out what certain thoughts mean.
5. Make a list
A list is one of the simplest ways to organize your thoughts: Take out your journal and make a list of all your thoughts, and then try to figure out what they may mean on a deeper level, and how you want to prioritize certain thoughts or feelings—and which thoughts you want to eliminate completely.
6. Free write
Ah, the power of free writing. It can feel intimidating at first, but it’s an excellent way to organize your thoughts. To get started, take out your journal and focus on one thought. Write down what you think that thought may mean, why it’s important or not, and how you can use it to further your goals.
7. Write a letter
If free writing feels too daunting, try writing a letter — either to yourself or someone else, even if you never intend to send it — breaking down some deeper feelings around one or two thoughts you have consistently. By doing this, you can better organize these thoughts and understand what they mean.
8. Use a calendar
This concept might seem odd at first, but by writing down different thoughts on certain days, you can decide on which thought you want to focus on each day. The simple act of listing these thoughts in a calendar format can help you see them in an organized format and prioritize them accordingly.
How to organize your thoughts beyond journaling
There are a handful of ways to organize your thoughts beyond journaling, too. These include:
9. Make a recording of yourself
If free-writing intimidates you, making a recording of yourself is a great alternative. You can talk through your thoughts and feelings in a stream-of-consciousness way that can really help with organization.
10. Use a video messaging app like Marco Polo
If you have a good friend or family member who loves to talk through thought organization with you, a video app like Marco Polo can be very helpful, especially if talking into the void isn’t really your thing. While in-person or phone conversations are great, when the other person doesn’t have the opportunity to respond immediately, you can get your thoughts out in a more pure, umuddled way.
11. Make a vision board
While you can make a vision board in a journal, making one that you hang up on your wall and look at on a regular basis can help keep you stay on track when your thoughts start to swirl. Whether you draw, write, or cut out pictures from a magazine, creating a vision board centered on your thoughts can be a helpful thought organization tool.
12. Talk to a therapist
A great way to organize your thoughts? Enlisting the help of a mental health professional. While we often think of therapists as people we reach out to when things are really bad, they don’t have to be, and their professional insight can be incredibly helpful for thought organization.
13. Put sticky notes on your wall
Take out some post-it notes, write down your thoughts on them, and put them all over your walls. When you see them, they’ll serve as visual, organized reminders so these thoughts don’t just exist as vague concepts in your head.
By sitting in a quiet, distraction-free place with your thoughts, you may find some clarity around exactly what certain thoughts mean. Meditation can be especially helpful when you want to eliminate destructive, useless, or anxious thoughts that are just that — thoughts, not reality.
15. Get more sleep
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Americans are sleep-deprived. This is really a shame, because sleep is crucial to our mental and physical health — and it can be invaluable when we’re hoping to organize certain thoughts or feelings. So if you’re just not able to organize your thoughts or feelings, start by sleeping on it.
16. Write your thoughts down on index cards
Think index cards are just for memorizing vocabulary words and obscure facts for an upcoming exam in school? It's time to reframe the narrative, because index cards can be a great place to dump your thoughts and then start organizing them.
17. Disconnect from social media (and the TV)
While there's a time and place for social media use and TV-watching, it's probably not when you're trying to organize your thoughts. So disconnect from Twitter, LinkedIn, and your Netflix account and watch those thoughts fall into place.