I know how to get stuff done, and I can teach you how, too. I have tools and systems for all the stages of workflow (collect, process, organize, review and do). I have an inbox and project lists which I clear and review weekly. I say no to activities that don’t support my goals and priorities. For the most part I capture and process new tasks as they occur to me, adding them to my Master Project List or scheduling them on my calendar. I have a notebook handy for capturing stray thoughts when I want to stay focused on my current activity and not worry about losing the thought.
But life happens. Sometimes I get lazy, or sick, or preoccupied, or I’m traveling, or busier than usual, and stuff piles up (physical and mental clutter), and I start to get overwhelmed. When that happens I make a new list: a mind dump. Sometimes multiple lists are required. I make lists because my head would explode if I didn’t! When things pile up — on my counter and in my head — and I need to spend some time sorting through papers, or clearing clutter, to regain control of my physical space, I know that each item I touch will trigger more thoughts as I work and that I will need to capture them somehow. A mind dump is an excellent way of clearing one’s mind. Here are my favorite ways to do it:
My Patented (not really) French Door Mind Dump Technique
Sometimes I get several sheets of paper, tape them to my French door window panes (which are conveniently located to my office desk, dining room table and kitchen counter), and grab a black Sharpie. I prefer a black Sharpie to a lighter, thinner pen or pencil because it makes the items seem more real to me — bolder, more concrete, less likely to be ignored later. I tell myself, “I will tidy up (or work on this project) for an hour, and every time I think of something else I need to do I will write it down on the appropriate list and continue tidying (or working on this project). I will not stop to actually DO any of the items until my countertop and my brain are clear.”
By Category: If the problem is that I got lazy and am just playing catch-up, I pre-sort the lists by category, labeling them HOME (e.g. change light bulb), WORK (e.g. finish newsletter), SELF (e.g. make Dr. appt.), and OTHERS (e.g. call Mike). You can use whatever the major categories are that represent your life (KIDS, SCHOOL, SPECIAL PROJECT, CHURCH, HEALTH, etc.)
Sooner or Later: If I am really feeling pressed for time, the lists become more time-focused. I call them TODAY (this seriously must be done today!!!), THIS WEEK (these are the next things that need to be done), SOONER (these tasks and projects are not quite as urgent, but they’re important to me), and LATER (these are things that can wait for further analysis; some may truly need to be done within a few weeks or a month; some may just be ideas; and some of them may end up being purged from the list altogether).
I already know that some of the tasks need to be done sooner than others, but until I determine which ones can wait, and write them down, it FEELS like they all need to be done NOW! Once I’ve captured them in their broad time frame categories I can break them down into smaller tasks (if necessary) and schedule time to accomplish them without stressing out about all of them right now.
Before or After: This is another version of “Sooner or Later”. It could be BEFORE TRIP and AFTER TRIP, or BEFORE EVENT and AFTER EVENT. An “event“ can be anything coming up soon that I have to prepare for and am a little worried about: a presentation, a holiday, house guests, a party, etc. Figuring out which things can wait until “after” takes the pressure off thinking I have to do everything on my mind NOW. It helps me relax and focus on the relatively few things that really need doing “before” the trip or event.
NOTE: You don’t have to have French doors for this to work! You can put your lists on a bulletin board, or keep them together on a clip board. It depends on your preferences and how much stuff you have on your mind. You can also simply list everything on your mind as it occurs to you, in no particular order, and sort it out later, which is a more traditional and perfectly good mind dump method.
What do you think? Will one of these ideas work for you? How do you clear your mind? Please share in the comments below!—————————————————————————
Copyright 2013 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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