A guy told me once, “A van is great! The hold a bunch of stuff and if you ever need anything, you just slam of the brakes and it all comes forward and hits you in the head!” In my lifetime, I’ve had a van or two and you know what? He was right!
We have a tendency to use our brains the way that guy used a van. We are quick to make commitments but we don’t manage them very well. In our mind, we take those commitments, those things that we want to do, and we create what David Allen (in his book called Getting Things Done) calls “open loops”. Open loops are those incomplete things that we have in our minds. “Open loops can include everything from really big to-do items like “end world hunger” to the more modest “hire new assistant” to the tiniest task such as “replace porch light bulb”. All of those things that you want to do or get done…all of those things that you haven’t finished yet that seem to come and visit you when you’re trying to go to sleep. Those “open loops” that we remember when we are wanting our mind to relax but they keep popping up.
So, you have all of these open loops in your mind and you are being constantly reminded that there are things to be done; places to go, errands to run, things to do. How do you keep them from robbing you of your peace, your sleep, and your sanity? You’ve got to get them out of your head and onto a to-do list. Get out a piece of paper and write down all of the things that are floating around in your head; all of those open loops. Get them out of your head and onto a to-do list.
I wish I could remember who said it so I can give them credit but someone very wise once said, “Your brain is factory, not a warehouse”. I love that! Your brain is a factory of thoughts, ideas, plans, and strategies. It keeps things moving. A warehouse is used for storage and filing. Factories produce while warehouses stockpile.
So, here’s an exercise that you can do to help you get stuff out of your head and into your to-do list. Take a few minutes to sit down and write everything out that you need to do. This may be a list that you add to throughout the day. Get all that stuff out of your head and onto your to-do list. Next thing, go through and start putting them in an order of importance. What is the first thing that needs to be done? While you’re sorting through, if you have some things on your list that will only take a moment or two; go and do them. Close that loop and be done with it! Those things that will take more than 2 minutes, put them on your list and put them in order of importance. Now that you have a list, you have a plan. Work the plan.
If you’re stressed out about open loops and things that are keeping you from relaxing, then get them out of your head and into your to-do list. Here’s a little bonus for you: Doing this weekly is an exercise that many top execs and millionaires use to plan out their week. If you want to be successful, do what successful people do. I want to encourage you to put an end to sleepless and restless nights by getting those open loops out of your head and into your to-do list. In fact, why don’t you start right now. Get out a sheet of paper and make a list of what’s been rattling around in your head. What needs to be done that you’ve been putting off? Now, GO and DO! Be more productive, more efficient and more effective!