The Mindsweep: Emptying Your “Psychic RAM”

Digital Brain

I’ve been using the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology over the past 10 years as my personal productivity system.  I love GTD because it doesn’t just provide a way for me to keep on top of everything; it also provides a way for me to recover if – and when – when life gets out of control.

This recently happened as my family moved and my sense of order was completely eradicated.  My desk became a dumping ground for papers and mail until it was almost unusable, and my brain was overwhelmed with the next “to-do’s” or things to remember. Ever been there? I felt stressed and burned-out and it was hard to know where to start.

Sweeping out your mind

Enter one of my all-time favorite productivity tools:  the Mindsweep.  One of the core principles of the GTD methodology is to get things out of your head – fast – and store it in a trusted system. Our brain can do some wonderful things, but it can also be our worst enemy.  We can wake up in the middle of the night worrying about something we need to remember to do that we can’t do at that moment, or we go shopping and forget that one item we needed to buy.  Writing things down and processing it into a trusted system helps take the mental load off and allows us to stay focused on the task at hand.  We’re less stressed because we’re not spending our mental energy trying to remember everything.  At that point, we are working smarter, not harder and we are quickly approaching the point of “stress-free productivity”.

While the goal is to write things down the moment a task or thought pops into our heads, sometimes we need to set aside a dedicated time to clear our minds.  Often one thought leads to another while other times you may not be completely aware of what information is nagging at your subconscious and taking up precious mental RAM.  David recommends emptying your psychic RAM periodically via a Mindsweep.  The idea is to write down anything that is taking your attention.  There isn’t a specific order and some things may not be work related, but the goal is to clear your mind of everything grabbing your attention.  You would be surprised how many things vie for your attention at a single time.  (As I was unable to do a review for while, my Mindsweep resulted in 75 action items in one sitting!)

Wunderlist Contexts

The Mindsweep one of the best ways I’ve ever found to quickly relieve stress and regain focus and energy.  When possible, I like to try to do it before important meetings or events so that I can give my entire attention to that commitment.
It’s one of the quickest ways I’ve found to help me get back on task and recover after those chaotic moments in life that we’ve all experienced.

While I’ve used paper systems in the past (and sometimes still do) for my Mindsweeps, I tend to prefer to put the items directly into my personal organizational system.  I’ve used a variety of systems over the years, but over the last two years I’ve settled on Wunderlist.  I’ve arranged the my various lists by context, but I also added an extra list that I entitled “Mindsweep” where I do the actual process.  I find this saves me the step of then entering the action items into my system.  During the Mindsweep, the goal is to go for quantity, not necessarily for organization, which is why I’ve created a single list for the Mindsweep.  Once I’ve emptied my brain of everything on my mind, I then organize my action items by dragging and dropping them to the appropriate context.

The Mindsweep, in combination with my trusted system, is invaluable in helping me regain the point of stress-free productivity.

What is your trusted organizational system?

Photo Credit: Judy van der Velden; digitalbob8

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