Do you ever feel scattered or like there is too much in your head? When you have a spare moment, do you have so many things in your head that you don’t know where to start? Do you wake up in the night wondering if you have missed something?
These are symptoms of a larger challenge – trying to keep track of everything or of many/most things in your head.
The metaphor I like is the shopping list. Many people keep a shopping list on their refrigerator and every time they finish something in their cupboard or fridge, they write it down on the list. Then they take the list with them to the store on Saturday and they shop for all the items they need.
Those who don’t do this often manage by remembering what they need in their heads. This leads them to often arrive at mealtime to find they don’t have the necessary ingredients. This leads them also to going to the store more than once a week. And once at the store, they don’t remember everything they need so they often walk down each aisle and buy what appeals to them. Under this method, they don’t always get what is healthiest, best or least expensive. And often they don’t get what they need.
Having a list makes us purposeful. “Purposeful” is a word I use to mean “operating consciously and pursuant to a known purpose.” People tend to fall into one of two camps – purposeful or somewhat directionless. Now if you are not acting purposefully, it does not mean you are willy nilly, going whichever way the wind blows. It just means that you may not be consciously going out to get what you need. You may need to visit the grocery store 5 times before you remember the ice cream. Obviously, this is not the best use of your time.
Our brains are brilliant at focusing on one thing at a time. They are not great at remembering things. Sometimes they remember at the wrong time – like in the middle of the night. Time management is energy management. Trying to keep everything in your head is tiring. Your energy drains and it is harder to get everything done.
So try this – sit down and write down every single thing you can think of that you need to do. You might have a list for home and one for work. You might even have different lists for different projects. Effective time management involves experimentation – try different mechanisms and see what works. You might have a large “everything” list and a smaller “today” list. Keep your list in front of you or it won’t be very helpful. If you write things down in a reliable place, you can let go of it which frees up your brain to focus on the task at hand. You will feel a physical sense of relief.
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