One of the problems with being a disorganised mess doing unfocused busy-work all day every day, is you lose the ability to be creative. When you fill your brain with todos and reminders, there is no space for your brain to relax and think and develop ideas you may have to improve your life or your work.
As David Allen says, “your brain is a crap office” and by that he means your brain is useless at remembering to do the right things at the right time. That is why your brain reminds you to buy milk, not when you are at the supermarket, but when you open your refrigerator at 7 AM and find you have no milk. It is why you remember to call your colleague in Frankfurt not when she is in the office, but when she has gone home for the day. If you rely on your brain to remind you to do things at the right time, you are going to find you are not performing at your optimum best and you will add unnecessary stress to your life as your brain is continuously reminding you to do things when you cannot do them.
This is why it is so important to get your commitments, todos and ideas out of your head and into a trusted place. By trusted place I mean somewhere you regularly look at and review. It could be a simple note taking application on your phone or laptop, or it could be a little notebook you carry with you everywhere you go. It really does not matter where you put them, what matters is you do not keep them in your head, or on a random scrap of paper you will lose.
I discovered this a long time ago. In my early working life, I always thought I was organised. The truth is I was not. Sure, my diary was well organised and looked beautiful, but I was not in the habit of collecting my commitments, only my appointments. In my early working life, I worked in car sales. We regularly had a morning sales meeting where our sales manager would tell us which customers to follow up, which ones to arrange delivery for and what housekeeping needed doing that day. In those days I confidently thought I could remember all these things and never wrote them down. What I found was that when the day began for real, with customers coming in and out of our showroom, all those little tasks my sales manager gave me at 8:30 AM were forgotten by 11:30 AM. My sales manager regularly asked me after lunch if I had done this, or done that, and that reminded me of the things I had forgotten to do. By 5 PM, only around 20% of what I had been asked to do was done and I spent the last hour of the day as a stressed out mess trying to remember to do the things my sales manager had asked me to do in the morning sales meeting without having to ask him to remind me, and incurring his wrath.
It was after a few months in this job that one day the general manager, one of the most organised and stress-free people I have ever met, showed me his diary. It was a beautiful leather bound A4 diary with a week to view and at the bottom of every day, there was a space to put the things you had to do. He told me where to buy one of these diaries and on my next day off, I drove the forty-five miles to buy one. That diary changed my life. I soon got into the habit of writing everything down and from that day, I found I very rarely get stressed. That one moment led to my obsession with productivity and I quickly progressed on to a Franklin Planner. After that, there was no turning back for me.
What I found was that by making the commitment to write everything down in a trusted place immediately I was asked to do something, cleared my brain of a task it was not designed to do. It also gave my head space to think about more important things in life, creative things, and made me a better salesperson and ultimately gave me the space to think about what I really wanted to achieve in life.
I learned that if you truly want to reduce the stress in your life, you need to stop overburdening your brain. Your brain is an amazing thing. But if you fill it up with stuff that can easily be put somewhere else—a diary, Evernote or Todoist for example—then you are seriously reducing its ability to work at its most effective. You are hampering its ability to come up with creative solutions to problems and difficulties and when that happens you get stuck in the rut of busy-work, missed commitments and a lot of stress.
If you do find yourself missing commitments, feeling you are running around all day not achieving very much and feel stressed out, try emptying your brain of all the stuff it is trying to remember into a notebook, diary or note-taking application. Take that notebook or app wherever you go and get into the habit of writing everything down. Within a few days, you will feel a lot less stressed and you will find you will have much more time to come up with creative solutions to things you were unable to solve before.
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My goal in life is to help as many people as I can to live the life they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.