Why We Need to Write Things Down
Welcome to my official "Getting Organized for the Week Ahead" series where I will be helping you maximize your time and minimize your overwhelm. There is an emerging theme among all of us. What I have been hearing the most is we feel overwhelmed. More telling is what I am not hearing. I am not hearing the solutions. I see a lot of head nodding but then fail to take further action. We are so overwhelmed that when we hear or read advice about getting out of overwhelm, we can't apply it. The purpose of this series is to give you actionable steps with quick turnarounds. Just today I was sitting in a meeting with senior managers discussing this very topic. They said things like:
- "I feel like I can't even take my lunch break away from my desk."
- "There just aren't enough hours in the day."
- "It is all so overwhelming."
After we talked it out for a while, I had a very relieved manager say the most critical thing "at least I know I am not alone." So, here is the good news. You aren't alone in your overwhelm. The reality is, you are more organized then you think but life is coming at us fast and furious. We have lost the ability to discern between what is urgent, what is important and what is trivial.
We need quick and simple solutions to get us motivated to take action. My quick turnaround action for you is "write it down."
The first step in David Allen's book Getting Things Done method is Capture. Capture is where you write down everything that is on your mind. I am not a strict GTD'er but I do capture RELIGIOUSLY and LIBERALLY.
Additional support for my write it down tip can be found in research done by Dr. Gail Matthews from Dominican University of California where she found individuals who wrote down their goals were accomplished "significantly more" than those who didn't.
To be clear, I write down almost everything that is on my mind. Usually in a digital note-taking system but pen to paper works well too.
Why I write down "all the things":
- Visually seeing all my thoughts on paper helps me organize them and give them context.
- Simply writing them down is taking action and action begets action.
- My mind has better uses than as a filing system.
- Mental clutter is the worst clutter to have as it erodes your ability to make decisions and solve problems.
- Committing things to writing gives me the confidence to make the appropriate trade-offs.
All you have to do is write everything in your head down on paper. I am not even asking you take action on the thoughts you write down. Simply getting them out of your head will make a huge difference in your minds ability to be productive.
If you are feeling up to it, try these three steps to enhance your success:
Step 1: Don't forget to ask yourself the THREE questions for each week:
- What would make this week the best ever?
- If I could only accomplish THREE things, what would they be?
- What is standing in my way?
Step 2: Take 10 very intentional minutes and write all the thoughts down. On this list will be ideas, to do's, random thoughts, items to delegate, etc. You may have to split your list by area of responsibility (i.e. work, home, children, spouse). Use whatever makes sense to you. I usually just separate work and personal. Keep it simple.
Step 3: Spend this week reflecting on your list. Of course you will act on some of these but as you reflect on your week, takes notes. Some questions that may come up are:
- Is this urgent or just important?
- What is unimportant or totally unnecessary?
- What can I delegate?
The BIG pay off here is that through these three steps, you will get to know yourself better. Knowing ourselves, trusting ourselves, and having confidence in ourselves will be the foundation to improving our ability to make decisions on what is important in our daily lives.