The space between our ears contains the entire world, the known universe, existence itself. Everything we are exists between those few short inches.
Ironically, that space needs to be as quiet as possible for us to focus. Focus is where productivity occurs and focus is a very quiet place.
Quieting the Internal Noise
The most effective way to create a focused, quiet internal workspace is to get unnecessary stuff out. Yup, we’re talking about making lists.
Belle Beth Cooper wrote, , “We pack all the madness and ambiguity of life into a structured form of writing. In short, making lists is a great way to increase our overall happiness and feel less overwhelmed” (“The Surprising History of the To-Do List and How to Design One That Actually Works,” Buffer, October 13, 2013, http://blog.bufferapp.com/the-origin-of-the-to-do-list-and-how-to-design-one-that-works).
It’s so true. Lists space our thoughts out, quiet down our minds, and allow us to focus on just the one thing that needs doing now.
There are lots of list types we can use to create a more focused mental state. Here are a few to consider:
- Project-Based. This is a list with a series of activities enumerated that make up a complete project. Tasks and subtasks are enumerated in a structured format to ensure that project objectives are encompassed and completed. Nothing really new here.
- MITs. MIT stands for “Most Important Today.” An MIT list focuses our attention on those few (very few) things that are today’s top priorities. A new MIT list is created every day from the larger master task list. Creating and maintaining the MIT list elevates these items in an engaging way. Sam Glover, writing for the Lawyerist, crafted a nice article on MITs, titled “MITs: A Simple Way to Be More Productive” (July 9, 2014, http://lawyerist.com/75090/mits-simple-way-productive/).
- Bread Crumbing. This means capturing the ideas floating in our heads (the bread crumbs) when we have not completed a project but must attend to another matter. For example, we have to attend a meeting but are deep into drafting a client document. Instead of running off to the meeting, consider jotting down at the bottom of the current page all the ideas and associations that are top of mind before abandoning the effort. We can quickly get back into the effort by leaving ourselves these bread crumbs.
- Associated. These lists are associated with other aspects of our lives. For example, we can craft lists with these characteristics:
- Action-Based: items related by activity (errands, meetings, calls, etc.)
- Time-Based: items related by time of day or week (mornings, Saturday, etc.)
- Location-Based: items that relate to each other spatially (office, house, boat, etc.)
- Effort-Based: items that are related by the amount of effort expended (intensive, odd-lot [see above], etc.)
Using any of these can make greater sense of the world and improve productivity.
Get Quiet, Get Productive
Find ways to quiet down your mind. It’s odd at first, but once the mind quiets down, the focus increases. Greater focus results in higher productivity.