I’m sitting at my desk, bewildered, as I wonder: What was that idea I was so excited about earlier?
I pranced in here with a purpose but somewhere between the coffee press and my desk, my mind raced about the upcoming conference call, the cancelled dentist appointment, the 2 p.m. new client meeting and by the time I reached the my desk (7 seconds later)—I’ve forgotten what I originally walked in for. With my purpose now buried, I move on to checking email and further burying any other inspired thoughts.
Sadly, this actually happened. However, this could be why: I own a design business, lead a non profit, sit on a city commission, coach youth soccer and basketball, teach design at night, produce arts events all while staying focused on my family and their needs. While I tend to lean on the overactive side, I think many of us find ourselves in situations where our mental hard drives exceed their capacity and start giving us error messages.
Make A List=Stop Losing Sleep
There are a couple of remedies to this. One, is to simply reign in the activities (which I do). However, there are times when normally manageable commitments seem to cross paths and vomit their needs all at the same time (can you say...holidays). When this happens, one thing that has helped me to get a grip on it all and stop walking up at night, is to make a huge, grand list of everything I need to do.
This grand list includes everything I have on my mind. Yes, everything, from work tasks and volunteer obligations to home repairs and what I need to get from my next visit to Target. It’s one giant mental download of everything in my head. Not only is it a great mental relief but it can be quite fun as I usually find some idea or exciting project that got buried underneath all of my mental clutter.
Like other tips listed here, this task is hilariously easy to implement and gives back a huge payoff of clarity and good ole fashioned piece o’ mind. I started with a couple pages on a note pad. I just listed everything I could think of as they came to mind. I found I enjoyed seeing the contents of my entire head on a piece of paper. I lived with just paper lists for a few weeks but quickly graduated to digital documents. While paper is always accessible, it tends to look like a 3 year old art project after a few days. Digital allows for a quick and clean copy-paste for prioritization and elimination.
My current method is a hybrid of sorts. Every 3 to 4 months I create a grand list digitally. Then, I take the list and put each task or item on its own sticky note. Then, I prioritize them on a white board under the categories: today, this week, this month and this fall (or whatever season is currently underway).
I then focus my week by taking just that weeks priorities and placing them back on a single sheet of paper or digital to do list. I simply move one or three items up daily and focus on only those.
“It’s no wonder you can’t sleep”, my wife often states after I list everything I have on my mind. While making a grand list isn’t a cure all, it has given me relief every time I take 30 minutes or so to list everything crammed in my dome. I try to make a new list at the first sign of a forgotten task, no matter how small the task is (like forgetting to turn on the dish washer). I take it as my mind giving me a subtle warning it’s reaching capacity.
However, don’t wait for a break down. Also, don’t let the complexity of what I do stop you as I just strongly suggest simply emptying your mind and making a grand list. Then, try to prioritize it and see if you can see a game plan emerge. At the very least, it will act as a mental release valve of sorts. So, clear your head and forget about being forgetful—for a little while.
Actions For You:
1// Make a grand list on paper. Take a week and write down everything single “todo” action you may have in your head.
2// Prioritize them by this month, this week and today (feel free to add whatever time frame that suits you).
3// List this weeks top priorities on a new document and focus on only 3 a week (sound familiar?).
Bonus: Resource to Check Out
My preferred digital tool for my grand lists and weekly to do’s is Evernote. This handy app has been a godsend as it allows me to create lists on my laptop or mobile device and sync nicely to all my devices via the cloud. It has “todo” check list capabilities, organizes all my lists (or notes) in order of most recently updated and many more features I have yet to use.
This book by Stephen R. Covey has some very powerful methods and tools to help you prioritize your roles and tasks. It bases your actions and decisions by what you value most. Franklin Covey also have very handy paper based planners. I’ve used them in the past and found them very effective indeed. It’s a must for new comers to organization or those who are extremely frazzled.
This book, by David Allen, seems to be for the more seasoned planner or organizer, in my opinion. It has some very helpful methods for filling and sorting your mental, digital and paper-based inbox’s. This book also advocates the use of a master todo list and provides some excellent questions to help trigger any forgotten tasks that may still be causing your mind to worry about unconsciously.