Do you ever feel like your brain just has too much stuff going on all at once? You’ve got to remember to pick up your dry cleaning, feed the dog, find your car keys, and by golly, you’ve got to make time to actually use that gym membership this week. And that’s all before you even start thinking about all of the things at work that you have to get done!
All of these small tasks we try to keep in our head throughout the day pile up. They stress us out. They keep us from being productive with tasks that actually matter. Worst of all, we usually forget at least one or two of them, and that keeps us up at night. This, as you can imagine, is not conducive to a healthy, peaceful lifestyle.
Here’s a quick acid test. How many times a day do you say to yourself, “Oh yeah, I can’t forget to do that!”
If it’s more than a few times, your brain is cluttered. Here are 5 awesome and proven mind-hacks to de-clutter your brain so that you can focus on what’s important and get more things done—without feeling more stress.
Yeah, yeah. I know. If you’ve read any productivity book, blog, newsletter, pamphlet, hieroglyphics, etc. they all suggest this. “If you want to feel less mental strain and get more done, you need to write down your tasks and ideas.”
Why? Because it works.
But here’s the thing: that’s where the advice stops most of the time. It’s a nice idea, but that’s all it is—unless you understand why it works and, perhaps more importantly, how to do it correctly.
Writing your tasks down is all well and good, but if all you do is write them down and then still stress about them, you’re not getting much use out of the exercise. Here’s the only way writing your tasks and ideas down will actually have an effect on your productivity (and believe me, the effect will be tremendous): schedule the task to be done at a certain time and date and then immediately forget about the task after you write it down.
Wait, what? How does that work?
The whole point of a task list is so that you don’t have to worry about whatever it is that you wrote down. That’s why you wrote it down, right? If you get into a habit of writing things down, scheduling them, and then not worrying about them until they’re “due,” you will see dramatic results. Check your task list in the morning and again at lunch if it’s particularly packed—easy.
The reason that most people who try keeping a checklist like this tend to fail is that they don’t see results right away. Here’s the deal: you’ve got to stick with the cycle of writing something down, forgetting, and then checking your task list for the day for at least two weeks. It’s going to take some getting used to, but please, if you’ve never actually tried it before, take my advice and just start doing it. You WILL see results.
A lot of us need to be constantly “on.” Unfortunately, being constantly on can also mean being constantly interrupted—but it’s safe to say that most of us could unplug for bursts of 30 minutes. Turn off your phone, shut down your email (no minimizing, actually shutting it down), get off of Facebook, no Twitter, nothing but what your current task is. Work on that task and only that task for the next 30 minutes interruption free. I promise that the world will wait.
Look, I get it. You’re busy. It’s easy to shave a couple of hours off of sleeping so that you can pack more waking hours into the day. Even if you’re not terribly busy, maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “I’ll just finish watching this movie before bed…” and then regretted it in the morning (I’m guilty of doing this about a million times).
It’s not a “sexy” piece of productivity advice, but sometimes we tend to forget just how important it is to get enough sleep. If you’re tired and foggy during the day and just can’t seem to get your brain to settle down, try sleeping more. Even an extra half hour can work wonders.
Slowing down is pretty much anathema to the 24/7, 365, always-on, always-going, always-something world we live in. Remember that story from when you were a kid, The Tortoise and the Hare? Sometimes it’s perfectly all right to take the tortoise’s approach. You just might win the race.
Another way to look at it is quality over quantity—which would you rather do: accomplish all of your tasks, but shoddily (or “half assed” if you prefer!), or accomplish half of them, but really, really well?
Slowing down means less mistakes and a higher quality of achievement.
This is especially important if you work in an office-type environment. If you start feeling frustrated or just “burned out,” stop what you’re doing—you’re not making much progress anyway, right? Stand up and move around for five minutes. Talk a little walk (outside if possible). Get a little air. Move your body. I’m not saying to run a marathon here or to start doing squats in your office. A little, tiny bit of movement can clear your mind more than you’d think.