The first time I experienced absolute mental clarity, I was skiing. In fact I was skiing straight for the edge of the slope. It was a steep drop. Whatever else was on my mind, suddenly wasn’t. I avoided the drop and live to tell the tale. I avoided the drop because I was able to focus solely on swerving away from the edge. I could not have done the same with numerous other things occupying brain space. I wouldn’t have been able to do it had I been reminding myself to put the bins out, feed the cat and call my parents. This is a vital lesson: you simply can’t give your best without giving over all of your brainpower to a task. And yet we constantly don't do so, and curse the disappointing results
The other thing about the experience, which I have been able to replicate numerous times since, was that it felt great. Despite the impending danger I felt serene. Not only is clarity of mind and purpose good for saving your life or achieving your potential, it also feels amazing!
The opposite of clarity is overwhelm, where nothing is within our control, and we are running around but never catching up with ourselves, or completing the things we should. We forget engagements, miss deadlines and never find time for ourselves. If this is the way you feel then you are in good company - most of the world feel the same. The truth is though, with very little effort and a small amount of knowledge, clarity, calm and organisation is EASY.
So what is holding us back? What is preventing us from absolute focus and peace of mind? The short answer is storage. This is easily understood in terms of physical clutter. When you come home, busy with thing to do, and find your room or your home messy, filled with suff, it causes stress. This is exactly the same with your brain. When it wants to do one thing, it will become stressed and distracted if it has to step around mental clutter. In order to rid ourselves of this clutter, we must make our mind redundant from the job of storing the endless lists of to-dos.
We store lists for all sorts of things in our brain. Shopping lists, current projects, places to go and people to see. Our mind is not built for storing, it is built for solving. Yet if capacity is taken up with the former, it can’t properly function to solve problems.
Take some time to actually consider all of the stuff going on in your life, from the hundreds of tasks needing to be done at work, to laundry and cleaning at home, looking after pets, seeing friends, reading books and exercising, it is amazing you can get any of it done without collapsing from stress.
How often do you forget things you need to do? Or let a brand new idea slip from memory? This creates untold distress and anxiety, as you may be aware. So stop using your brain as a filing cabinet when there is a much better way of managing your life.
Enter the complete life management system.
In an organisational system we need three elements:
First you need to draw up a list of every interest and hobby and task and project you have going on in your life. You will not be able to do this in one sitting, so spend 48 hours recording everything you do or need to get done. Include everything: laundry, dusting, changing bed sheets, shopping, separate work projects etc. The end result will be a monumental list of activities which you are supposed to remember and balance. Within each project or activity write out each subtask, when you do this and how often.
Once you have this neatly mapped out, you’ll need a system for setting reminders for these individual tasks: you can use a calendar or diary or phone reminders for this. I have found these methods to lack versatility and flexibility. As a result I have produced a special mean of doing this, which I now teach to business leaders. You can learn more about that from my eBook, here.
Finally you need a method for quickly recording ideas as they come to you. There are a number of apps that can do this, and voice memo systems too, but I don’t believe anything can beat pen and paper for ease, speed, versatility, and of course, 'battery life'. Paper is the perfect recording technology in the short term. Carry one pad and pen with you wherever you go and write every thought and idea down as soon as it crosses your mind. If you are driving, pull over. Your brain is not the place to store it, and attempting to remember them will distract you, causing stress. Get it down and get on with life. Then make it a daily habit to add these recorded new tasks and ideas to the project maps you have drawn up.
The key to any organisational system is having a simple, solid routine for storing, recording and reminding. You must compliment your reminder approach by regularly setting new reminders for ongoing tasks and projects. Leave nothing to chance. Get in to good habits and never depend on memory, which only increases stress and a feeling of overwhelm. I prefer to do this each evening so that I get up each day with intent and no distractions.
My new eBook, on building a fully fledged life management system without paying for software, is available now. It will be FREE until 17th September 2016.