And then it was December.
The next few weeks are my favourite time of year. First there’s Christmas, when I get to spend quality time with family, and my house is full of joy and laughter and warmth and colour. (And chocolate.)
Then comes the New Year, full of hopes and dreams and the start of a better life. It’s the time of year I feel most motivated and most full of excitement at the possibility of positive change. (And the most sure that I’ll finally kick the chocolate addiction.)
This year, the motivation kicked in a little early. I’ve been gripped by a sudden need to get my shit together so that I can start the new year afresh. That means tying up all the loose ends, completing all the niggling tasks that have been hanging around for a while, and starting new habits that will stand me in good stead once 2015 hits. I don’t want to wait until the new year before I start becoming a better person, I want to do it now! I want to hit the ground running.
With that in mind, I sat down the other day when I had an uninterrupted hour (yes, it was blissful) and started a brain dump. It’s something that I’ve been meaning to do for a while but never quite got around to it.
- So what’s a brain dump?
Basically, it’s a master ‘to do’ list. It’s when you sit down and “dump” everything from your mind onto paper. Anything you’ve been meaning to do, any calls you’ve been meaning to make, any clothes you’ve been meaning to mend, any subjects you’ve been meaning to research… Everything goes on the list.
- How do you do it?
You just sit and write. That’s it. For me, I pulled out an empty notebook and just got writing. I filled seven A6 pages with random notes — everything from “clean the bathroom” to “decide where to put the crockpot”.
Now’s not the time for editing or thinking too much; you just need to get everything out of your head so that, when you’re done, you don’t have to remember to do anything anymore — it’s all there in front of you.
- Any tips?
Of course! Sure isn’t that why I’m doing all this typing!? 😉
- The best time to do it is when you know you have a large chunk of uninterrupted time, so that you can get everything out of your head in one go. Interruptions and distractions breed forgetfulness.
- Don’t worry about making it pretty, or categorised, or colour coded, or anything fancy. As long as it’s legible, the rest can come later.
- Do a walk-around of your home. You’ll be reminded of things that need doing — handles that need fixing, toys that need mending, hems that need taking up, squeaky hinges than need oiling… You’ll also come across papers that need filing, bills that need paying, forms that need completing, empty packaging that needs recycling… You get the idea.
- Don’t go TOO in-depth. If you have “clean the bathroom” on your list like I do, you’ll already know that that includes scrubbing the toilet and mopping the floors. Unless there’s something specific that you want to include that you might not otherwise remember — for instance, I have “declutter toiletries” on my list, or you might have “disinfect toilet brush”, etc. — you don’t need to include it.
- Also, now is not the time for DOING, it’s the time for WRITING. “Doing” right now is just distracting. Add it to the list and keep going.
- OK, I’ve finished. Now what?
Now you start working through the list! Some items will only require one action to get them done (like making a phone call), but most will involve numerous steps (like the above example of cleaning the bathroom). Slot them into your weekly schedule so you can get a small bit done at a time.
The object here isn’t to overwhelm yourself with the zillion things you have/want to do, it’s to make sure you actually get it all done. Do your ‘brain dump’, but don’t look at it every day. Break it down into smaller chunks and just keep plugging away at them, bit by bit. Once you’ve completed a few tasks, go back to the list to find a new batch. (And don’t deny yourself the satisfaction of ticking off the previously done ones.)
As you think of new things to do, keep adding them to the list. Instead of panicking over its ever-growing length, you should be taking comfort in the fact that all that stuff was swimming around your head anyway. Now that it’s down on paper, you can stop stressing about it and know that it’s all under control. It’s written down, so you’ll get to it.
You won’t have to keep saying, “Oh yeah, I keep meaning to do something about that” every time a random chore enters your head. Instead, your new mantra is, “It’s OK, it’s on the list.”
By the time 2015 rolls around, you’ll already be getting your shit together, while all the other poor unfortunates scramble to even figure out which shit they should be focusing on.
New Year’s resolution? It’s OK, it’s on the list.