Stop Mind Churn – Staying Awake Thinking About All Your To-dos
by Nina Sunday
March 22, 2022
‘Mind churn’ is when you lie awake at night trying to get to sleep but instead, your mind is going over and over all the things you have to do. How often is that a problem when you’re trying to get to sleep? That used to be my story until I discovered what causes the stress of feeling like you have too much to do. More importantly, I learned how to fix it through priority management. Let me tell you a story.
Working as conference organiser for an economics forecasting company, I was responsible for preparations for an international trade conference. With 400 delegates flying in from around the world and the event date looming I was feeling overwhelmed as if it was a race against time.
Part of the team was another professional coordinator, more experienced at organising big events. She asked to see my to-do list. After printing it off, she scanned it and asked, ‘Nina, is that absolutely everything?’
‘Hmm. Not really’ I replied. ‘Critical things are on the list, but the rest are up here’ pointing to my brain, indicating I was relying on memory.
Her response? ‘Nina, I only work with people who write down absolutely every to-do.’
After thinking about that, I responded with, ‘Isn’t it a waste of time compiling a long list? There’s so much to do, I’d rather just get another job done,’ I argued, ‘Besides, I know exactly what has to be done. I’m doing it. Shouldn’t you just trust me?’
In negotiation they call it the ‘broken record’ method . . . She repeated, ‘Nina, I only work with people who write down absolutely everything.’
I became more adamant, ‘Surely you can trust me. I organised the last conference. It will be okay.’
She firmly stood her ground, and said it yet again. ‘Nina, I only work with people who write down absolutely everything.”
We had reached an impasse. If I wanted my colleague to stay working on the project, I would need to relent.
I agreed to do what’s called a brain dump. I wrote down with pen on paper absolutely every to-do, on one sheet of paper. To my surprise, it took only 15 minutes. And when done, something interesting happened. I looked at my list and there, in black and white, on one page, was every task in clear focus. Something clicked. With such a full list, I felt more on top of things. It all appeared more do-able than before.
Previously, I felt under pressure with an endless number of things to do. It was a race against the clock. Now suddenly it was all in the palm of my hand. This was a change in perception.
A reframe! With every task recorded and out of my head, the weight lifted off my shoulders. Suddenly I felt more calm, more competent, and more on top of everything.
And I thank my colleague for that mindshift. Unless she had insisted, I never would have discovered the value of getting things done by recording absolutely everything and getting things out of your head.
- Write down, not just the critical things, but absolutely every task you have to do.
- If it’s just a two-minute job, just do it. But if you can’t do it then and there, add it to your list. Otherwise that one little thing may keep you awake at night.
- Relying on memory to remember to-dos takes up headspace better used for planning, improving, setting goals, establishing priorities and thinking strategically and creatively.
- Use a system to capture all your to-dos. Your mind will trust you have a system, you’ll feel more in control. Each night you’ll sleep like a baby, waking up feeling refreshed.
Are you looking for an inspiring, entertaining and transformational Time Management workshop (or speaker for your next event)? Contact us to discuss how we can help you ignite your team’s productivity, or visit our Time Management training web page.
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