Back in January, “all the bloggers” were coming up with a word to represent their year. I was so inspired by these words — faith, challenge, believe — but none of them seemed to actually fit me and what I was trying to accomplish. I ended up settling on awareness and that was a pretty good word for me. When I’m not aware of what’s going on around me, I make poor decisions, forget things, and feel generally chaotic and frazzled.
In an effort to become more aware — more present — less forgetful — one thing became abundantly clear… I wasn’t actually able to become more aware because my mind was too cluttered. There was no room left on my internal bookshelf, no RAM available in my brain. My mind was always so focused on the dozens of things I needed to be doing, especially those which I knew I was likely to forget.
To keep a long story short, over the course of this year (so far), I have discovered that the root of many of my problems — bad habits, disorganized house, forgetfulness — are due to having too many things going on inside my head and not having a good system for keeping track of everything.
For the last couple of months, I’ve been focused on fixing that. I’ve created to-do lists and systems. I’ve chucked systems and started new ones. I’ve used a paper notebook, Outlook, Evernote, and about thirteen different task management systems.
I don’t have it all figured out yet, and I haven’t found the perfect system for myself. But what I have done is gotten much of what was in my head OUT OF MY HEAD. Okay yeah, some of it is in a notebook, some in Evernote, some in Outlook, some in Gmail… I still need to work on that. But my life is already so much more clear, so much more focused, so much more organized.
On the way to the doctor for one of our children last week, I grabbed a container of medicine, a form we were supposed to bring, and some immunization forms for summer camp. With these things in hand, I said to my husband, “Can you believe I remembered this stuff?” In the past, I would have forgotten something and had to take a separate trip later in the week.
Getting things out of my head and into a system has freed my mind in a way that I can actually feel. When I look around my house and notice things I need to do, I put them in the system then forget about them. When I have ten minutes and want to try to accomplish something, I go to the system to see what needs to be done.
I still need to work on simplifying the system, prioritizing tasks, and contextualizing tasks (something I learned from David Allen’s Getting Things Done) but it’s amazing how far I’ve come.
Now I need to figure out what to do with all the space I freed up in my mind. Time to learn Spanish perhaps?