Declutter Your Mind and Remember What Is Really Important

Early in my journey towards increased productivity, I had an “ah-ha” moment when I heard David Allen say that your brain isn’t for holding ideas; instead, it is for having ideas. Like many people, I tried to keep most everything in my head.  But I was always losing track of many things I needed to do.

In his “Getting Things Done” methodology, Allen says the key is to capture everything in writing. He says, “our brain is like a computer – if you fill-up the RAM with things you have to do, you’ll never get anything done.” The goal of Getting GTD is to help you achieve “mind like water,” which allows you to take on challenges more effectively.

While liberating, the capture process cannot be a one-time event if you are serious about improving your productivity. 

The first time you attempt to capture everything you are holding in your brain on to paper, it can seem overwhelming and take much more time than you think it might. Allen recommends you isolate yourself from interruptions and write everything down on paper. Only put one item on a single page as that will help when you process everything later. Record every loose end or idea that comes to mind. You don’t need to write down too many details, as you will fill in the items later. Then go through everything on your desk and in your files and note any open loops. Look around you. Think about all of the responsibilities you have. Keep writing everything down. In his “Getting Things Done” book, Allen suggests you should set aside a full day for this exercise.  My own experience is that it took every minute of that day, and then I noticed that it was like there was a crack in the dam for a few days as more and more ideas kept flowing.

The experience taught me to get into the ‘write it down’ habit. I always have a pen and paper with me. My wallet has a small built-in notepad and pen. If I get an idea while driving, I use Siri to send me an email reminder that I can enter into my system later.

To make the system work, you always need a method for recording it, or ideas will just clutter up your head again. Plus, no one has a foolproof memory.  You won’t be alone. Shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis said, “Always carry a notebook. Write everything down… That is a million-dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!”

Even though capturing ideas is now part of my routine, I set aside some time at least monthly to do a mini-capture session.

Yes, this process takes time. But I discovered that keeping my mind clear allows me to be distraction free. We’ve all experienced the moments where we concentrate on something important, but then our thoughts are hijacked by something that we need to do or remember. It causes stress and reduces our ability to focus. Using a system like this allows us to keep our brain focused on what is important at that moment without worrying about other things.


If you are serious about getting organized and being more productive, I highly recommend David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done.” If you purchase it HERE, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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