Clear Your Mind’s Clutter onto Lists, Calendar

Mind ClutterMind Clutter results in lost time, frustration, reduced effectiveness and diminished productivity.

Ever approached your work with the thought, “I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start”?

One of the first things I suggest is a “Mind Clearing.” Let the mind relax by capturing all the To-Dos on paper. If some items are like tangled webs, the use of a project-action plan or a white board can untangle them.

Relief is almost immediate, because the mind has space to think and process what is important. Even if you are not in control of the projects you’re assigned, making the To-Do List can be calming. Suddenly there is clear space, freedom to think. This leads to deciding what is most important and to making a step-by-step plan to get it done.

Put work you are concerned about on your calendar even if it is scheduled out several months. Unfinished projects contribute to our mental clutter.

Time management specialist David Allen says: “It is not that we have too much to do. We have too many things left unfinished.”

Creating focus time is a way to get projects done and eliminated from your To-Do List. Do you work best focused for long periods on one project or do you do best with variety in your day?

You can do in 15 minutes what will take you an hour with interruption, so build into your schedule an
uninterrupted hour to focus on a project.

Here are some ways to make sure that hour is uninterrupted:
– Explain to others why you are letting voicemail answer your calls.
– Move to another space, for example, an empty conference room.
– Put a sign on your door that says “Working on a project. I will be available at 11:00.”
– Turn off the email notification and your phone.

An hour of focus on a task/project allows you to stretch your prime time and complete projects. This will have a tremendous effect on eliminating mind clutter. An added benefit could be that you get work done that you normally come in early or on Saturday to do.

Grab a sheet of paper, a whiteboard or your favorite electronic tool to do the Mind Clearing.

Next look at your calendar and schedule some blocks of focus time.

Taking these steps will reduce your mind clutter, leaving you clearheaded and moving forward to accomplish your goals.

Being Connected 24/7 is Counterproductive

Being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week is not something people decided — the trend has crept up on us silently like a fog. From the 1960s through the 1980s, many professionals went to work at 8 in the morning and left at 5 in the evening. Work rarely interfered with personal lives, with the exception of physicians.

For many of us that schedule is inconceivable. Some companies now demand you request permission to leave behind the laptop when you vacation. Seventy-five percent of vacationing employees check in by phone or email, some several times a day. As time management consultant and author Harold Taylor notes, “Work is no longer a place you go to and then leave.”

Should we accept this as the new normal, or is there reason to be concerned?

Many studies have concluded this constant connection is creating high levels of stress. And that causes a myriad of other issues including higher risk of heart conditions and problems with concentration and memory that affect work performance. Up to 90 percent of all primary health-care visits are related to stress, costing the U.S. economy $1.1 trillion in lost production and $277 billion in treatment for everything from heart disease to skin disorders.

Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of “Crazy Busy,” sees many people who can’t focus, are forgetful and think they have attention-deficit disorder. He labels their condition “attention-deficit trait.” Almost half of all American workers don’t take their vacation days. Apart from the health risks, people who don’t get out of the office tend to be less creative, less productive and, ultimately, less effective. To improve performance, people need to take time off.

Can you take control?

To develop the mindset that technology should work for you will require you change some habits and readjust your thinking. Consider the bottom-line benefits to you personally, to your family and to your career.

Deciding on real motivation to change is key to making the change. Here are some ways you can take back control:
– Set boundaries on how often you check email. If the idea of not being constantly available makes you nervous, start checking your email every 15 minutes and gradually build up to an hour, then two hours. Having your email notification constantly on is death to productivity.
– If you have a project that needs your full attention, turn off all communication devices. You will be surprised at how much faster you will complete the project when you give it your total focus.
– Do you get jittery thinking about going to lunch and leaving your cell phone in the car? A client of mine said she forgot to take in her cell phone to a lunch event and never enjoyed anything so much.
– Take your vacation. Start the year by scheduling time on your calendar.
– Have a no tech day. Resume your hobbies. Often our best ideas come to us when we are having down time.

Trying to be productive by being connected via technology 24/7 is counterproductive. Instead, we increase our stress, make more errors, find it difficult to focus and get our lives out of balance. Start thinking about time management in a holistic way and control technology so it works for you. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”