I’ve got to study for a test…My cell phone bill is due…I have to write an assignment by Monday…I don’t have time to watch a movie anymore…My TV isn’t working so how do I watch Masterchef Australia?
There are a great deal of things that are on your mind and at times it can be very overwhelming. How do you make sense of it all and prevent it from affecting your work and leisure time? Compartmentalize, compartmentalize, compartmentalize.
Consider your mind a near-infinite storage space lacking an effective filter that segregates each and every one of your thoughts into positive, negative, relevant, irrelevant and so forth.
Although schemas are the base of organisation in cognition and thought, nothing is classified in a concrete manner and thus an influx of ideas and thoughts can sometimes muddle your clarity of mind just as an overflow of water can debilitate a dam.
The solution lies in streamlining everything on your mind and classifying them accordingly to relieve the stress of this cognitive overflow.
This is a simplified version of David Allen’s inbox-sorting procedure and once you follow the steps you’ll understand how it’s similar to sorting through your email inbox. Here are the 5 steps to clear your mind:
1. Take a piece of blank paper and go to a place where you can write peacefully without any distractions. Now, write down everything that’s on your mind. This is similar to stream of consciousness writing where you write continuously and go with the flow of your thoughts. Don’t worry about how many things you pen down because at times there will be a lot on your mind and other times very little. Just make sure to keep writing until nothing else comes to mind. Things to jot down include and is not limited to:
- Unfinished tasks
- Skills you want to develop
- Things that stress you out
- Interpersonal relationship problems
- Things you want to learn
- Bad habits you want to break
- Trips you want to take
2. Now on a second piece of paper create three columns titled:
- To be done
- Maybe later
Sort each of your items from the other piece of paper into these three columns. Take care when categorizing the items because the more accurately you do, the more clear your mind will be by the time you finish the process.
3. Take all the items from the Delete column and send them off into space. You can do this in any way that fits you best. When I finish each exam, I tear up the subject syllabus and toss it into the trash, symbolizing its finality and the fact that I no longer needed to worry about it. If you want to just tear the Delete column and toss it into the trash or or shred it in a paper shredder. It’s up to you. Once you’re done, you’ll look at the other two columns with a new found sense of clarity to proceed further.
4. Transfer all the items on the Maybe Later column to a Maybe Later List that you can tuck away into a folder, somewhere where you can access it later after taking care of immediate items. You’ll have some peace of mind and comfort in knowing you can attend to these items later when you are ready without burdening yourself immediately.
5. Incorporate the items from the To Be Done column into an effective planning system. Do what works best for you. If you put the list on a fridge to remind yourself daily of what needs to be done, then do it. If you prefer using a daily planner or reminders on your phone to schedule things, then do it. Be organised and it will definitely help in the long run. You’ll be disintegrating major goals into sub goals and this motivates you to keep going. Soon, all the items on the list will be accomplished and you can move onto the Maybe Later List.
*This process could take a few hours if being done for the first time. Subsequent attempts take less time.