I'm known to be the kinda person with 100 Chrome tabs open at one time...
It's a terrible habit, it slows down performance and is actually a terrible way to remember things.
We treat our brains the same way. Lots of open tabs, lots of juggling, trying to remember things. It has exactly the same effect as 100 browser tabs open. It slows down your performance, it makes you tried, you can't focus because you're either trying to remember too many things, or you get distracted by an open tab.
Maybe that's why we are so exhausted all the time?
Years ago I read David Allen's book Getting Things Done. My system has been loosely based on GTD since, but the once concept that has stuck with me forever is 'Mind Like Water.'
He explains that getting everything out of your head - essentially closing the tabs. Means that your mind is freed up to be creative, to think clearly, to focus!
I used the phrase mind like water. Water is not confused. Water appropriately engages with the environment, no matter what. The idea of having your mind clear enough. You don’t overreact, or you don’t underreact. That’s the most productive state. David Allen
To get into my Mind Like Water state, two things are essential, that I feel anyone can benefit from if they want to be laser focused throughout the day:
- A quick capture system
- A Review System to process captures
Quick Capture System
A quick capture system is simply somewhere you can quickly store anything that is in your head. All the tasks you have to remember to do, all those open tabs in your browser (yes the read ones in your browser, not your head), that email you need to reply to, that book someone recommended to you.
Get into the habit of getting it into some kind of list. This immediately gets it out of your head so you can focus on the task that is important right now.
I personally use a Notion tasks database that everything gets dumped into for review later.
You could use a spreadsheet, a task manager, a notebook.... but for the love of God, don't use post it notes!
A Review System
Just because you got it into a list doesn't mean that it's necessarily out of the subconscious of your brain. In order to be truly focused, we need to believe it's in a trusted system and it's safe until we resurface it again.
Just quick capture alone, won't give you mind like water. You need to build in a regular review system. David Allens suggests a weekly review and I live by this. But for quick captures, you need more frequent reviews.
Personally I review all my incoming 'stuff' at the end of each day and 'process it' into my task management system - which I live in everyday. It doesn't take too long. Maybe 5-10 minutes while I'm planning out my coming day.
- Assigning it to a current or new project
- If it's due this week, working it into a timeblock.
- If it's due in the future - scheduling it.
- If it's something I need to follow up from someone, sending a quick email or message asking for a status.
This has allowed me to close some tabs (both physically and mentally) and actually get focused work done. I use this especially during deep work times when I'm getting distracted. During these times I simply keep a notebook beside me, and write down anything that's popping up that I can process later.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this useful. If you have any questions, find me on Twitter and ask me anything ✌️
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