Give yourself time to think

When can you think?

It’s Thursday and although it’s a short week, it’s been manic. I felt like I was working on 20 different projects at the same time. Rather than stopping to think, prioritising my day, yes, I just kept going. There was no progress whatsoever and it was horrible! Do you know this feeling?

Today is the day to change this! I’ve taking some time out to think and so should you.

Acknowledge what’s going on.

This week, I had so many different thoughts running around my head. Important and urgent activities like completing the revised proposal popped up just like trivial thoughts (“I’m hungry. Why are there no decent snacks in this house?”). All of them stopped me from focusing on the activity I pursued that very moment. It was so frustrating!

Write it all down.

To stop this madness (also known as inefficiency), I made myself a cup of tea and took my notepad out. I wrote down everything that came to my mind. Buying Christmas cards for my loved ones, who to contact for this nagging technical question, vacuuming, reviewing the last pages before sitting a professional test, following up on a request, returning my friend’s call. I wrote e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g down.

This mind sweep, as David Allen refers to it, can take a couple of hours if you’ve never done it before. Now, this may sound like too much time to think. Whether you’ll just set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes or go all the way, you’re making a start and that’s the important thing! You’re giving yourself time to think and are putting your thoughts on paper.

You can always continue this time to think exercise no matter where you are. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen or your phone/tablet if you’re doing it electronically. You can do it during your commute (provided you’re not the driver), while you’re waiting for an appointment, on an aircraft and so on. You may want to write your thoughts and consequently the activities down in the privacy of your home or in a quiet spot in the park with this gorgeous weather.

Prioritise it.

It quickly became obvious that some of my thoughts were about activities that were either trivial or for some time in the future (e.g. not urgent). These were easy to be marked as something to do later. Having them written down, I acknlowedged them and knew I wouldn’t forget them.

For the more urgent and important activities, like submitting this one document before the deadline, I started prioritising them. What needed to be done by when? Looking at the deadlines was the first step. Next, I considered the time it’d take me to complete these activities. Finally, do I have all the information or tools to work on it?

This helped me to 1) plan my day and 2) break anything into smaller bits. After all, I can’t focus for 6 hours and telling myself I’d work like that… I’d end up in disappointment and frustration.

Schedule it.

This is probably the activity that most of us are struggling with. We can describe what needs to be done when, but often, we don’t map out our day and include these actions. Julie Morgenstern recommends you looking at your day in 3 blocks: Morning, midday, afternoon (adjust if your work/awake times are different).

Tackle your urgent and important activities first and if possible during the block when you’re the most productive. Go ahead and eat that frog! This may be different depending on your own style and may not be during the morning hours. And that’s okay!

By putting the activities into your calendar and allocating a realistic timeframe, you’re on the best way to achieve them!

When was the last time you took some time out to think? If you haven’t tried it yet, are you going to try it now? If you like any support, do email me directly! I’m curious to hear how you got on so leave a comment below.

Until next time,

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