David Allen of Getting Things Done fame says it best, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” Why? A characteristic of the human brain is limited working memory space. When holding ideas in this limited working memory space, the ideas or thoughts cycle in and out of focus. Some thoughts occupy the top of mind slot temporarily. Time passes, new stimuli emerge, and new or recycled thoughts push their way to the limited front-and-center real estate of your focus. Thus, thoughts and ideas are often NOT visible or easily accessible. Once you transform the thoughts, which are circulating in your mind, into visible notes, either in digital or paper form, you create two categories of significant benefits.
1st: CALMING YOUR MIND:
By capturing your thoughts and relieving yourself of the burden of recalling (and needing to recall at the right moment), you have begun the process of calming your mind. Research demonstrates that the brain will stop reminding you to remember when you write the thoughts down. Benefits of a calm, clear mind?
1. A clear mind generates new ideas instead of recycling the same ones. Since ideas are the currency of all creative and meaningful endeavors what’s not to love?
2. A calm mind is a prerequisite for developing concentration and focus, the secret sauce that makes creative and meaningful work possible.
3. When you have calmed your mind, you can be more attentive and notice what IS (reality) rather than what we imagine. A cluttered, distracted mind is rolling with anxiety and fear generating thoughts from the past or about the future.
4. To be more fully present, you’ll need a calm, clear mind. Cultivating presence allows you to really listen to your colleagues, support staff, boss, child, partner, student, etc. Active listening opens a host of opportunities for connection, understanding, and conflict resolution.
2nd: STUFF GETS DONE:
Once your thoughts and ideas become visible, they develop life and grow!
1. Visible thoughts and ideas are far more likely to hold your attention, survive, and mature than those random thoughts and ideas that repetitively cycle through your short-term memory.
2. Visible thoughts and ideas are much easier to clarify, categorize, organize, and turn into manageable tasks and clarified ideas.
3. Manageable tasks and clarified ideas are much easier to prioritize into action steps.
4. You are FAR more likely to act on prioritized action steps than random thoughts and ideas in your head!
The cultivated practice of consistently transferring thoughts from your mind to paper or digital text is a crucial step in reaching your goals or accomplishing your dreams. The benefits of having (1st) a calm mind and (2nd) tangible, visible thoughts and ideas exponentially facilitates your success.
What Welcomes the Magic?
Once you reliably know:
- what projects, large and small, you have committed to,
- what ideas need development,
- what actions are needed and when,
- what tasks you can abandon . . .
then you’ve paved the way for the magic that makes long-term meaningful goals a reality!.
- Paper method: Keep a designed pad on your desk, kitchen counter, nightstand, etc. for capturing ideas & thoughts as they come. Carry a small notebook for capturing those ideas on the run.
- Digital Method: Choose a note-taking app you’ll use regularly. Consider voice to text notes. Send yourself emails with quick ideas and thoughts.
New habits insist upon your consistent practice before they take root. But once you put in the consistent practice and build the neural pathways, productive habits reward you again and again and require much less effort!