Are you ever feeling overwhelmed with the amount of thought running through your head? Do you ever find yourself being blocked from actually completing a task or a project just because your mind is currently using all your energy creating ideas and solutions and you have nothing left to actually start doing?
I find myself in that place quite often in the last few weeks. Current lockdown has enabled me to finally sit down and not only put a name to some ideas that have been nagging at the back of my mind for some months and years already, but also to start bringing some of these ideas into life, like this blog, for example.
However, there are so many things I have to take care of, so many areas I have to explore, evaluate and either implement or drop, or keep to think about later. And some of them are totally unfamiliar to me – and dealing with unfamiliar issues always makes me anxious, because I feel the need to do everything perfectly and how do you do perfectly something you didn’t even know it exists few hours ago (like web hosting or domain name 😁)?
Not being familiar with some part of what I need to do to end up with a solution I want makes it very complicated to create an instruction. And without an instruction – I feel lost. My mind is running in circles through various pieces of information and tasks that I should do, not being able to prioritise or sequence this and I feel blocked and unable to move forward.
I know myself for years, so this situation comes as no surprise to me. I know I’m perfectionist, I know I have to settle for good as I know that the best is the enemy of good. I know I have to constrain my urge to find a single perfect solution and choose the one which is suitable and offers quality.
It took me years to read a variety of books and researches on the topic of overthinking and creative procrastination. It took me another few years to devise certain technique that allows me to benefit from the ideas of time management and productivity experts by fusing several systems into my own.
First, you need to accept that you are using only some tiny part of your brain in your everyday activities. The potential capacity of your brain is far more higher than what you use on the daily basis. There are various theories of how much of our brain are we actually using (google brain capacity usage theories), however, it is clear that we are not using our brain to 100%. So what is the rest of your brain is doing, while 3/5/10% (choose the percentage you believe) of your brain is participating in the active decision making? Right, – muling over the ideas you’ve had throughout the day :). Meaning, if you have thought “I have to remember to clean the windows next weekend” and then went back to doing your work, chores etc. – significant amount of your brain is still playing with the thought about cleaning windows. Over and over again. And again. And again. Using up your energy resources for this process. And at the end of the day you wonder why is it you are tired and exhausted even if you have not done anything specifically demanding today.
To ensure your brain lets go of a thought wich is important you have to store this thought in a secure location. And your conscious and subconscious brain has to be sure this is the location where the information will not get lost.
So, go and create a single bulletproof storage for all your ideas. It is important – just one single location. I use Google keep for this purpose. I categorise my lists by priorities and focus areas – it helps me to differentiate between tasks and choose what to do depending on my mood :). And remember – this should not only be a list of things to do, it can also be a list of thoughts to think, topics to elaborate, books to read…you got it.
Once you have a plan, you prioritise it. To be able to prioritise properly, I use common sense, critical thinking and.. google :). Never underestimate the power of external experience – I find it personally appealing to learn from the experience of others.
However, just a list of things will not make your subconscious brain give you a break (i.e. release energy resources it’s using). It will use the energy to remind you that you have certain items on the to do list you have to take care of, disregatding whether the item is due today or in a year. So, in addition to knowing you have stored the important information in a single place where you will certainly not lose it, it also needs to know that you will not forget about it.
Set reminders. I personally find Google Reminders and Goals (Google Calendar native tools)beneficial. With reminders, you make sure you don’t forget anything. and with Goals you make sure your calendar reminds you to do certain actions to create a habit – so you don’t forget doing this afterwards.
I am also inspired by Tony Robbins’ Wheel of Life combined with Paul Meyer’s Wheel of life when setting goals as well as certain other techniques for clarifying what is important for me, that help me to figure out what is it I really want.