Write It Down to Gain Control

Sometimes life comes at us too fast. Everything is vying for our attention, from apps to people. And while at work, we go from one task to another. Pow, pow, pow— just knocking stuff out.

But this overstimulation can make you anxious. Next thing you know, you’re unable to focus. You’re frustrated. And down and down you go. Maybe you have an anxiety attack. Maybe you feel exhausted. Maybe you burn yourself out entirely. Either way, you’re heading in the wrong direction.

But what if you could slow everything down. What if you could gain control of what’s happening?

I have a trick.

Write it all down.

You see, when your phone rings while typing that email and an incoming slack message catches your attention, your focus is pulled in three different directions. It makes it tough to get anything done. And your mind is like an engine. And just like an engine every time you switch focus, you switch gears. You’re grinding them. And by the end of the day, you’re frazzled and your brain is mush.

So the first trick is to write down the task you’re working on. I recommend a sticky note. Even if it’s on your calendar. Write down the task, and stick it in front of you no matter what. What’s on that sticky note is the only thing you’re supposed to be working on. When you finish the task, toss it in the trash.

Next, write down everything you do. I do this in a journal. I know, it sounds a bit crazy, but it works. You literally write down everything you do. One day may take up pages. Doesn’t matter. And I mean everything. If you’re writing the email to Carl and the phone rings with your mom on the other line and you take that call, write down “Email to Carl” and “Phone call from Mom” as soon as those tasks are complete.

The idea here is to create space so you can get into a rhythm. Going from one task to the next without a break is hard. And sure, you can take breaks in between. But it’s the accumulation of small tasks that’ll get you. Not the big ones.

Writing soothes the mind. You’ll find your breath and balance between your work. And you’ll also gain a sense of control.

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