Clear your mind to really get things done!

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Picture this – you’re in the middle of a 10 day vacation at a cabin in a beautiful resort area.  There’s no cell phone coverage, the weather is great and you haven’t even turned on the TV in days.  You are in a stress free state – nothing you have to do right now, nothing to think about, nothing to remember…you’re practically floating.

What if you could take that feeling into your day to day work filled world?  How much more productive would you be if you were truly focused only on the task at hand?  Not thinking about phone calls you need to make, errands you need to run, stuff that you have to get done…not only would you get more done, you’d feel really good about it as well!

The key to that feeling of relief that you get on vacation or when you’re mind is empty because you’re concentrating and ‘in the zone’ is getting all of the stuff out of your head!  You need to clear your mind.

Previously I had talked about the ‘Dark Lord of Productivity’ being the overwhelming volume of collection points that most people have to deal with when it comes to action items and stuff you need to do.

One of those collection points that you absolutely don’t want to keep using is your head…and unfortunately for most of us, it’s filled to bursting with stuff we should be doing sometime and it causes a lot of problems.

I’m pulling together workshop material on Productivity and one of the resources that I’m using is Take Back Your Life! by Sally McGhee and John Wittry.  They do a great job of explaining concepts and giving you the background so it makes sense…such as why it’s so difficult to use your head and remember all the stuff you have to do.

Look out…science stuffhomerxraysm

One of the reasons that keeping stuff in your head doesn’t work well is due to how your brain works.  All of us use a combination of short term conscious memory and long term unconscious memory.

The short term memory is always top of  mind (no pun intended) and very specific…but you can only hold 4 to maybe 10 things in your short term memory at any given time.  If you add something new to the list, then something else falls out.

Your long term memory on the other hand is theoretically unlimited, but it’s not top of mind and generally won’t come to surface when it’s needed (how many times have you gone to the store only to not be able to remember what it is you’re supposed to be buying?).

So here’s the scenario – you’re in your car and get a call asking you to send a critical email to a client.  You don’t have anywhere to write that down and by the time you get to your desk, something else has come up and knocked it out of your short term memory…end result?  You forget to send the email, client leaves, your cash flow suffers, you can’t make payroll and you end up having to close your business!  (not likely to be that dire, but you get the point).

Clear your Mind

The way to combat the use of your head as a collection point is to first clear your mind of all of the accumulated tasks that are in there and not somewhere where you can use them.  Using Microsoft Outlook’s To Do List or using other tools that help you track things, find a quiet space and time and empty your head of all the things that you need to do.  Don’t worry about when, or how important or with who…just make a note of every that you can think of that you need to do.

Then go step by step through all of the facets of your work life, your clients, your employees, etc. and see if you can drum up some more to dos.  Now do the same thing with your personal life.

Odds are you’ll come up with a really big list…and likely feel overwhelmed…but it’s the same amount of work that you previously thought you needed to do, the difference is all of that baggage is now out of your head and onto a list where you can at least analyze it.

Going forward, you’ll want to develop a system that will keep things out of your head.

If you’re in the car and something comes to mind, leave yourself a voicemail or a Jott.

If you see someone out and about and they ask you to do something for them, ask them to send that to you in an email so that it gets collected into your system (and not in your head).

If you’re in a meeting, write that to do action item down and get it into your inbox (or on your to do list) as soon as you’re back to your desk.

Your brain won’t literally feel lighter, but there’s a good chance that you will if you can truly clear your mind and free yourself up to focus, relax and really think.

Have you tried clearing your mind?  Do you trust yourself to remember things?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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