Ever found yourself with so much going on in your head, so many things that you need to take care of, that you just… freeze?
You’re trying to get some work done but another task interrupts your line of thought, something to be added to something, someone to call, something to pick up, that meeting you’re not quite prepared for, that friend’s birthday party that you totally forgot about, did you take out the trash? You start doing something, then drop it halfway to start something else “before you forget”, then you get distracted by your phone, spend a good 15 min browsing, get startled, get back to work and repeat.
At the end of the day you are dead tired. You feel disappointed because you didn’t get as much done as you should have (and as much as you know you’re capable of). You start feeling anxious as the unfinished business keeps piling up. The stress is keeping you from resting and getting a good night’s sleep. The next day you are even more distracted and unproductive.
How do you break this cycle?
The first and most important thing is to bring order to your thoughts. Having your thoughts organized will improve your focus and will help you prioritize.
First step – write it all down
The next time you feel overwhelmed by the amount of thoughts, tasks and ideas storming your mind, take a breath, grab a pen and paper (or open your favorite app for notes) and write everything down. Just get it all out. Doing only this will be enough to relieve the pressure and the mental overload.
Second step – organize
Once you have the list separate it into two: things that need you to take immediate action about (the To-Do list) and ideas/random thoughts. Leave aside the ideas/random thoughts for now. Focus on the To-do part. Add deadlines if any, break down any big task into smaller ones if needed. Since you have the list in front of you it will be much easier to prioritize and get started.
As you go through your day mark off the tasks you get done and write down any new ones that come up. This will keep the clutter away and will prevent the mental overload piling up again.
What about the second list? Keep adding to it as well. Every time a random thought or idea interrupts what you’re doing don’t try to push it away or to “save” it for later. This will take up much more of your focus and thought capacity. Take a moment to write it down, then get back to your work. This will releive the tension and it will be easier to get your focus where you need it at the moment. At your spare time go through the list of throughts and ideas. Some of them might get moved to the To-Do list, others might serve as inspiration.
Bonus tip: eliminate distractions
Once you start with what’s on your to do list make sure nothing will interrupt your flow. While having the To-Do list in front of you will still help you get back on track faster, the interruptions cost you time and mental energy. So put your phone aside, turn off that TV, mute all messaging apps and just do your work.
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.