Stop feeling lost in To Do lists and start the day with your mind at ease.
Words swirl around my mind, my thoughts full of things to remember, tasks to complete, deadlines to maintain. Before I even take my first sip of coffee, my mind is abuzz and anxiety is lingering around the corner.
Do you know the feeling? Even with useful systems in place to manage everything on our plate, we can still get hit with a daily dose of overwhelm.
How do I manage it all? How do I make the endless demands stop nagging at my insides? When do I get a minute to slow down and experience anything fun, at all?
Those were the questions I asked myself every morning while my mind whipped through the unanswered To Dos: things not yet recorded anywhere; a new idea I should really try; something I was worried about but couldn’t act on; and so forth.
I had been doing a lot of work on finding some time for personal reflection and planning – something I hoped might help navigate these unanswered To Dos. I had it in my mind that it needed to be some grandiose experience: candlelight, a warm bubble bath, a sparkling glass of champagne … The idea of reflection, like journaling, felt so romantic – I created an internal pressure to set the stage.
So, I didn’t do it.
Then, I created this thing I called the Brain Dump. That doesn’t sound romantic at all, does it?
It’s not. But it is an amazing 3 minutes of my day I will never, ever live without – ever again. And that sounds like love, doesn’t it?!
So, what’s a Brain Dump?
Every morning before I start my work day, before I open my e-mail or check on any To Do lists, I sit down with a notebook, a pen and timer. I write the date at the top of the page, set the timer ( I usually use the one on my phone) for literally just 3 minutes and go – I start writing. A stream of consciousness of all the things on my mind.
I need to finish that Facebook ad and respond to this e-mail and pay this bill and clean the bathroom and take out the trash and find a gift for my nephew’s birthday and ….
In 3 minutes, I generally scribble about a full single sheet in my 8.5 by 11 notebook. After those 3 minutes … I can BREATH! Fresh air! No more mind whirling ideas nagging, interrupting my day and distracting my focus. The amazing thing is, after a few weeks of this practice, I’ve found that some things I’ve had absolutely no “I Need To Do’s” and instead my 3 minutes is filled with writing about things I am thankful for, things I am dreaming of, things that make me happy.
You might be thinking – OK, great – write a bunch of stuff done and it’s my chest. How does that really help?
Well, this second step is super important: After my 3-minute timer goes off, I go back through the list and highlight each action item I find within. I add a circled number by each, and generally end up with between 2 and 7 action items.
Then, if its something I can literally do in 1 minute … I just do it! If not, I add it to my task management system (I recently started using Things and Love It!) and schedule the task for a time when it’s more appropriate. As I either finish the task or add it to my list, I then check it off in my notebook (I’ve included a page from my Brain Dump notebook to give you an idea.)
It’s not beautiful, it’s not romantic – there’s no candlelight or bubble bath … but when you’re done, you’ll feel like you’ve just celebrated something. A weight is lifted, and you’re free to go about your day. Back to your focus work, back to enjoying the moment without distraction. Nothing was missed there’s nothing to worry about … it’s time now, to just be.
*** About Lyssa ***
Lyssa Schmidt is the author of “Perspective: Capture Life’s Worth,” a recently released book that inspires readers to improve their own lives while simultaneously not losing sight of fleeting, precious moments.