The nagging thoughts of all the tasks that have to be done like the emails screaming for attention, the speech points you must prepare for the next company meeting, the lunch with that all-important client, the missing button on your new shirt, the meeting agenda to send out to your team.
All these thoughts can weigh you down and beat you up before you even arrive at work or start the day. You feel bogged down by these thoughts reminding you that you're not "firing on all cylinders" but rather just treading water. What if you had a simple system to manage the many items flooding your mind with the half-done, half-completed tasks that must be done still?
Mentally dump. It's a simple prescription I prescribe to CEO's, professionals, organizations, mothers, fathers, students, even kids.It will help you clear up your mind, heart, and spaces so that you can be free and clear to work on the task at hand - to be a better employee, employer, manager or leader.
With clear mind you can be boundless with your creativity. With a free heart, you can tune in to your passions and be in "the flow" with your life's work. I have always loved creating lists, journaling and doing these "mental dumps," but I never realized how cluttered up I could get if I didn't have a system to manage it all.
I still test out the "latest and greatest" tech tools to see if any of these tools can save me time. And I have always been passionate about time management systems, having explored every imaginable brand and system, because I loved the idea of having a "planner" that contained my "life," including contacts, dates, projects, goals, and to-dos.
So I now teach others to have a special place to write down their goals and dreams, both personal and work-related. Mentally dump what's on your mind, so you can free up your valuable heart and headspace. Get it onto the page, where you can see it and take action on it, rather than letting this "internal clutter" run rampant in your head and drive you crazy.
Free up your mind for your visions, inspiration, imagination and inventions. Figure it out on the page and take your next steps when you see it on the page rather than trying to figure it out in your head. I am a huge fan of the morning mental dump, because if I don't do it, my thoughts lead me astray, bouncing me to and fro from place to place, all while I'm sitting at my desk.
Before I know it, my thoughts have taken me far away to beautiful Bali, and the house where Julia Roberts's character was staying in the movie Eat Pray Love-oh, wouldn't that be a nice place to visit and spend a few months writing there? I've gotta turn off this incessant noise, this chatter inside, about things that must be done today.
My first rule for the day is to mentally dump. What does mental dumping look like? It's just writing down everything you must do, need to do, and want to do! It's rambling on and on about the big stuff and the small stuff, your action items, tasks, goals, dreams, and fears! At first, it may be difficult to write down everything, but once you do, you'll find that you cannot begin your day without doing your mental dump.
You will find that it is the perfect Rx for the wandering, confused, and saturated mind. Dump it on to your task list. Dump it on to the page. Write down all those tasks and items that are filling your consciousness at that moment in time. Don't judge or filter what comes up, simply go with the flow and declutter all that comes to mind.
Write and write until there is nothing left inside, only free and clear space for you to create a productive and efficient day. By doing this, you've already taken action on one of the most difficult parts of this process - getting it all out. This is similar to what I do with many clients to help set up their office for success - empty every drawer, literally dump it out on the floor.
Once empty, then you can properly discern what you really need to help you to be the best you can be, and what you need to let go of. Thoughts can infiltrate our brain. Thoughts can run amok in our heads, polluting our minds, keeping us from thinking pure, clean thoughts-new thoughts that lead to new behaviors and fresh, new ideas.
In this age of information and hyper-connectivity, there is so much focus on finding the next big thing, the new disruptive technology or idea. But how can we tune in to those ideas? How can we catch those fleeting thoughts and inspirations, if our mind is cluttered up with so many other items that need to be acted upon?
This is why I feel the mental dump is critical to success. When left bouncing around inside our head, tasks can be a mundane, never-ending list of stuff that can deaden our senses. Once each task is on the page and out of your consciousness, you can organize it, wash it, calendar it, and take care of it, once and for all.
Projects can overwhelm us in our head, creating an ongoing list of to do's-where to begin, where to end, when to schedule. If left unsettled in the head, it becomes a maze where you hit a roadblock, just wanting to hide under the desk, take a nap! So, the goal is to mentally dump every time you start thinking about anything. Carry a notebook with you.
Put it into your phone on the task list. Jot it down on a post-it.I'm a fan of just putting it down. At least you can do something with it, written down. However, what I most advocate is a system where you can organize the to-dos into categories, with like-items together.
Just the other day, I was asked to think of another creative way to organize to-dos, since the idea of categorizing like-items is apparently worn out, old, used, used up. But why do we need to come up with a fresh way to organize when the tried-and-true way is still the simplest way? Why do we overcomplicate our lives?
Why not do something that has worked for years and has been tested by the productivity experts? Why try to come up with something inventive for entertainment's sake, for the sake of being new? There are numerous smartphone and computer applications that try to make this concept of "to-do" as easy and accessible as possible to the layperson. But could it be this simple:
- Jot down your to-dos, thoughts, feelings, ideas, and dreams on one page or in a notebook
- Organize them into categories, or like-items
- Prioritize and pick three from each category
- Schedule those priorities into your calendar
- Show up and do that task
Yes, I'm saying it can be this simple. You don't need a sophisticated, creative, inventive new way to do this. Why not use what you already have first, and see how it works? Let's use technology to help us automatically categorize our tasks, so we don't have to rewrite them.
Then your system can act as your virtual personal assistant, reminding you when to take care of the task. I would highly recommend learning to use a program such as Microsoft Outlook, which already has a built-in system for this exact purpose, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Why carry your entire life around inside your head and heart? Why not live out your heart and your head in the present moment, open spaces for new experiences and adventures to come in and fill up your consciousness with new life, vigor, and miracles?
Why not mentally dump all those new ideas that will soon become old, and allow them to manifest, to take shape and form, to become the dream actualized? Why not express your stuff today instead of waiting for tomorrow? Don't let another day go by with this stuff swarming around in your head like buzzing bees, annoying you.
Each time you swat them away, they're going to keep coming back, creating a buzz, reminding you of the tasks you have left undone. Lighten the load, and swear that today, once and for all, you will begin mentally dumping whatever comes into your head and heart. Smile as you think about how light you will feel.
Smile as you think about your ideas finally becoming realized. Smile as you take that first step towards realizing your dreams, one to-do at a time. Smile as you become enthralled with the idea, Can it be as simple as that? Can my work and life be that easy and effortless? A series of to-dos checked off my list, a series of dreams and projects and ideas on a page being carried out systematically?
Can it truly be that simple? Mentally dump every day. Create space for taking care of your most important "stuff" in your work and personal life. The mental dump is a simple prescription you can apply to help you stay on purpose with your goals and vision for your ideal life. Embrace the ease and effortlessness of a simpler way to get things done, and make all your dreams come true. Yes, it can be that easy. Miracles abound!
Exercise. Your master list.
Get out a notebook or create a section in your journal, and start writing a list of every single to-do, goal, project, or whatever is on your mind. You can call this your Master List. If you are using Outlook or another computer program, the Task List or To-Do List will become your Master List. This was one of those wonderful lessons I learned from Jeffrey Mayer's book, If You Haven't Got the Time to Do It Right, When Will You Find the Time to Do It Over?
Exercise. Three "next best" actions.
Every day you will add to your Master List. Every day you will look at your Master List and decide what the three most important "next best" tasks are. These are the to-dos you feel will yield the most positive outcome. I learned this wonderful lesson of how to focus on what is truly most important from Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Once any task is completed, you will put a line through the task in your journal, or check it off your task list within Outlook or whatever computer application you use to track your tasks. Do not rewrite the task list or create a new list every single day. The point is to get into the habit of putting all your thoughts on the page, preferably in the same place, every single day. Get into the habit of dumping every single day. Get into the habit of looking at this list every single day.
Get into the habit of deciding what the three most important "next best" tasks are for the day. Get into the habit of only focusing on getting those three tasks done for the day. Once you complete those three, then pick three other tasks to work on. The point of this exercise is to get you to laser focus on only the three most important tasks, so you do not get overwhelmed with the multitude of tasks on your list.
You can only take care of one at a time anyway, so why worry about the hundred other items on the list until you have the time to deal with them? Lastly, congratulate yourself when you take care of your all-important tasks!
About the Author
June Saruwatari, author of Behind The Clutter: Truth.Love.Meaning.Purpose., is a lifestyle & business coach, inspirational speaker, founder of The Organizing Maniac, and a productivity, time management & organizing consultant. June has appeared on The Nate Berkus Show, and co-hosted TLC's first season of Home Made Simple.