Clear your mind: fixing your mind and mindless lists

Original author: Chris Bailey
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One of the most effective ways to clear your mind is to extract from your head everything that constantly pops up randomly in it: your expectations, the things you need to do; things that need to be put in order, and somehow systematize all this. This article contains several methods for clearing the mind of things and deeds that prevent one from concentrating .

Return to neutrality


When you go into the kitchen and see 50 plates in the sink, the desire to cook is noticeably reduced. The same thing happens when you return to the computer, and you see a bunch of open tabs in the browser when you wake up, and you have to do a lot of things before jogging, when you have to eliminate the rubble on your desktop before you start working.

Get to know the idea of ​​returning to neutrality. Return to neutrality- This is a ritual in which "whenever you finish a job, you return everything to a neutral position." According to Thanh Pham, the author of Asian Efficiency, when you return to a neutral environment, you noticeably reduce the risk of postponing the business you intend to do. Returning the situation to a neutral state eliminates the need to perform a bunch of actions before starting work next time.

Pam also gives several other examples of how to return a situation to a neutral state:

  • Solve issues with family, friends, and your partner.
  • Prepare everything for the next morning after you finish your morning ritual.
  • Get enough sleep at night to prepare for tomorrow.

What is the point: if you find that you are putting things off for later, perhaps the problem is not in your head, but that you are not returning the situation to a “neutral” state in order to be ready for the next time you have to do the same action again. Clearing the space and putting it in a neutral state is a great way to clear your mind and focus on your New Year’s goals .

Make a “waiting list”


One of the important points in David Allen’s Getting Things Done system is keeping a list of everything you’re waiting for, so you don’t have to think about it while you work. You probably already have a list of things to do, because if you don’t have one, then you have to keep a bunch of obligations in your head that pops up in your mind every day. And this is so tiring!
A “waiting list” contains everything that you expect at a particular point in time.

Whether you are waiting for an e-mail, a letter, a phone call, a text message, a reply by voice mail, or even a parcel from the eBay website, when you add this to your waiting list , you can stop thinking about it and free up valuable brain convolutions for thoughts about then more useful.

And then (and this is very important!) You look at your list periodically in the week so as not to miss anything. When you schedule a waiting list, you no longer need to think about it when you work, the mind is freed from many things that otherwise you would constantly remember.

A couple of tips on how to make your waiting list even more effective:

1. Group items, for example: e-mail, Internet, text messages, calls and paper letters. Grouping items according to different criteria (location, for example, “home”, “office”, “cottage”) significantly reduces the time it takes to process and organize the material in the list.

2. Keep track of how long you have been waiting for something. If any message or call is late, you can politely remind the appropriate person, for example, so that he hurries with the answer.

A waiting list will make you infinitely more productive. Here are a few more arguments:
  • A waiting list helps focus. When adding items to the list after sending an email or voice message will become part of the daily routine, you will understand its value. You can be sure that everything is under your control when it is on the list (and you regularly review it), and you can better concentrate on your activities at any given moment.
  • Nothing will be missed. When you keep track of everything you expect and regularly review the list, it’s almost impossible to miss something.
  • People are very impressed when you control everything so well.
  • Updating the list does not require much time. This is a tiny price for the opportunity to get rid of excess mental burden and stress.

Keeping a waiting list is one of the most effective ways to help clear your mind and focus on important goals.

Introduce the ritual of “fixing the mind”


From time to time, when the author of the article has 15 minutes in silence, he turns off everything (including a computer and a cell phone), sets a timer for 15 minutes and lays on a sofa with a notepad.

He discovers that the mind is still working at 10,000 rpm and gives out in large numbers such things as: things to do (but not fixed in the list); what is expected; ideas for the A Year of Productivity project; long-term ideas / plans and more.

We often have a whole gallery of thoughts in our heads that we have no chance to look at. When you force yourself to withdraw from business for 15 minutes with a notebook and pen in your hands, there is nothing left for your thoughts but to defragment and streamline, and the best of them will begin to surface.

This method also helps stick to goals, as all open questions that continually pop up in your head (what you need to do, make a schedule and plan for the implementation of goals) come to the surface.
Another similar ritual: take a walk around your home (or office) with a notebook and pen in hand. Do nothing, not even small things; just record everything that needs to be done so that all this is recorded in one place and leaves your head.

Both methods help to fix everything that needs to be done in one place. This not only helps to organize all things, but also free your mind from all tasks, even the smallest.

The next time you have 15 free minutes (or even if you don’t have it), try to disconnect everything and lie down or take a walk with only a notebook in hand. You will be surprised how much you write down.

Create a “mindless” list


One of the experiments that the author did for his A Year of Productivity project was listening to 70 hours of TED talks for a week (an experiment on the ability to store information in memory). During the experiment, he could easily make thoughtless actions (cooking, cleaning, gardening, exercising, etc.). Even when listening to podcasts, audio books and while talking on the phone, there is still enough free brain gyrus to perform any thoughtless and mechanical actions.

Researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found out that our brain is capable of processing 110 “bits” of information at a time, and talking (or listening to TED talk / podcast / audiobooks) takes 60 bits of our attention. This is good news, because even listening to the abstruse TED talk about dark matter, you still have a brain resource for doing some things that do not require understanding.

It follows from the above that you can easily make thoughtless actions while listening to something productive. That's where the idea of ​​a mindless list comes from. Such a list contains everything that does not require mental effort that needs to be done. These are things that:
  • They require a lot of time, but little attention.
  • When performing which you do not need to think.
  • Tasks in which you can rely on the power of habit.

To create a thoughtless list, simply write down all the thoughtless things you need to do in one place. Follow your plan while listening to podcasts and more! This list may include the following:
  • Wash and fold laundry.
  • Sweep the path in front of the house.
  • Walk a rake in the yard.
  • Wash and fold the dishes.
  • Sweep the floors.
  • Clear the driveway.
  • Remove trash from the desktop.

Such actions practically do not require understanding, which means you can listen to something useful during such classes.

Thoughtless actions require little attention from you, but often a lot of time. And since it is advisable to rely on the power of habit to fulfill them, you can easily get important information at the same time - from a TV, radio or cell phone.
Crossing out items from a mindless list while listening to something useful is very pleasant and allows you to do more in less time. Fixing mindless things (which you can do while doing something productive) is a great way to unload the brain in order to better focus on your goals.

Another great way to be productive with your mindless list: combine all the boring routine that you have to complete over the course of a week into one big time block in one day. This will leave you more time in the remaining days of the week for much more important things.

PS We recommend another article on the topic - 10 things that I learned about productivity, living in seclusion for 10 days .

The author of the translation is Vyacheslav Davidenko, founder of MBA Consult .

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