Empty The Mind

In the prior post the series on Mind Like Water was introduced, with the goal of creating a life of effortless abundance. Do you dare? Then, read on.

A key step in achieving the state of Mind Like Water is:

Empty your mind…

What, empty our mind? What is THAT supposed to mean?

It means, empty our mind of the endless distractions that unnecessarily eat-up brain power. Doing so frees-up our powerhouse mind for higher level “thinking” and/or more enjoyable activities vs. stressing-out on unattended “to-do’s”.

How do we do this? We must simply become very well-organized. Please trust in the fact that it is MUCH simpler to be organized than not.

Most people have many things swimming around in their head, at any given moment, including:

  • Errands that must be run
  • Tasks that must be completed
  • Projects or meetings that must be planned or scheduled
  • Appointments to attend and/or lead
  • A test to study for, a presentation to rehearse
  • Reminders to pay a bill or to make that phone call
  • Etc.

And, this spans both our personal and professional lives.

The typical person will “scatter” the above across many platforms, including (but not limited to):

  • Individual notes on pieces of paper
  • “Partially” in an electronic calendar or in a page-per-month (paper) calendar. That is, some have a calendar of events for business but not personal matters. And/or they are captured in separate places.
  • In an email inbox for which the list of emails spans multiple screens
  • In a voicemail inbox that we must remember to revisit to replay the message in order to act
  • On a whiteboard on the fridge, or office wall
  • Stacks of paper and/or reading materials in multiple inboxes, in multiple locations
  • Worst of all, in one’s head
  • Etc. – The possibilities are endless

Are you stressing, just thinking about all the moving parts? Doesn’t it feel like a ball and chain around the ankle?

Rest assured, there is a much better way.

At a high-level, we really only need to do the following:

  • Capture EVERYTHING (a one-time event)
  • Create and manage a single task list
  • Create and manage a single calendar
  • Disposition the incoming

How do we get there and stay there?

Capture EVERYTHING

To get started, take the following steps to capture EVERYTHING that you “think” you must do, each place you must be, etc.

  1. Write it all down on a single list. At this stage you can “start” with paper, or just dump it all in list form in MS Word or Google Docs.
    • It can help to place things in buckets (e.g., personal, professional, etc.)
  2. Reconfirm that each task or activity you’ve captured absolutely MUST be accomplished (at some point in the future). Remember, whenever you say “yes” to something, you are saying “no” to something else. If the task MUST be addressed (at some point in the future) proceed to the next step. If not, remove it from the list. Instant progress!
  3. Set or confirm the date for when the task or activity:
    1. Must be worked on, or
    2. Requires a follow-up step, or
    3. Must be completed
  4. Determine if you are absolutely the best person to do each task, or if it would be better to delegate to someone with more availability, talent or someone you are grooming to grow in their career or personal life.

Don’t stop until you’ve written it ALL down. Think school, family, work, church, etc.

Now that you have the list of EVERYTHING you must attend to…

Create and Manage a Single Task List

To create the single task list:

  • Place each task in your electronic organizer (e.g., Google or Outlook Tasks) which will automatically sync between your computer and smartphone.
  • Sort / organize the tasks by:
    • Desired due (or next step) date
    • Priority: A=Must be done (on the specified date), B=Next up, as time permits, C=When possible
    • Type (Personal / Professional)

To manage the single task list:

  • At least once a day review the list: before going to bed and/or first thing in the morning
  • Confirm next steps for any items that weren’t accomplished yesterday and set the appropriate priority and due date.
  • Confirm what is on the list for “today”
  • Skinny the list (of priority A’s) down to as few as possible that absolutely MUST get done today. The reasoning; plenty of new things (fires) will come up today that will require immediate attention. As such, be thoughtful about what you really MUST get done today. Then, if/when you have spare time after going as far as you can with the priority A’s, tackle some priority B’s. Or, knock off early and go mountain biking…

By-the-way, there is a true story (covered in a prior post) about a high-powered consultant recommending the above to an executive who gladly paid $25,000 for the idea because it DRAMATICALLY improved his productivity and that of his entire company. The benefits to be realized are worth FAR MORE than this small fee 🙂

Create and Manage a Single Calendar

To create the single calendar:

  • Place every single appointment you must attend (class, business meeting, dentist, kid’s baseball game, date) on your calendar. Preferably an electronic calendar (Google or Outlook Calendar) that automatically sync’s between your computer and smartphone.
  • If it is a recurring event (e.g., happens weekly, monthly, yearly) – make it recurring and it will automatically show-up until the end-date you set. In other words, set it once and forget it!
  • Be sure to account for any travel time between appointments. This can include blanking out an hour on your calendar for travel time to/from the appointment so that you don’t inadvertently commit to meeting with someone during this time, unless you can do a phone call.

To manage the single calendar:

  • Look at your calendar at the end and/or beginning of each day, to confirm what is coming up.
  • Confirm you are prepared (have the necessary support materials and have baked-in the necessary travel time).

The good news: For those daring few who have done ALL of the above…You have now emptied your mind.

images - Calm

Isn’t this a much more pleasant image (calmly contemplating important and/or fun-filled plans, tasks and activities) with a mind emptied of “trivialities”. Trivialities defined as ANYTHING that does NOT absolutely require our immediate attention.

That is, we no longer have a bunch of unrelated, un-prioritized things swimming around in our mind, in an effort to try and remember it all. We need not remember A THING! It is all stored in (what my wife calls) our electronic brain. And, we will be prompted, via the simple processes outlined above to attend to each as they come up.

And, finally, by doing the above with a simple tool that sync’s between our computer and smartphone, we are able to view and/or attend to these items at any point through-out the day or night. Especially, during those odd moments when we are in a waiting area, suddenly have a few minutes to spare before the next meeting, etc.

Disposition the Incoming

Now, all we have to do is keep it flowing (like water) by handling the never-ending incoming.

Incoming items (tasks, activities, appointments, etc.) can arrive via:

  • Walk-ins
  • Phone call (or voice-mail)
  • Email (the highest volume and most troublesome, for most)
  • Paper (mail)
  • Etc.

Realize, just because it appears (in our email inbox, for example) does NOT mean that it requires immediate (if any) attention. However, each item must be immediately “dispositioned” – so as to keep our mind empty for more important things, than trying to remember…

Here are a few steps to immediately disposition each incoming item:

  • Determine if any attention (at all) is required. If not, delete, disregard, trash it or file it away for future reference (if necessary).
  • Determine if you are the best / only person who can do it. If there is someone else, assign it accordingly.
  • If you are the best person to attend to it, place it on your:
    • Task list with the date and appropriate priority, or
    • Calendar on the date / time of the engagement
    • Note: If the task will take 2 minutes or less to complete it is often beneficial to simply get it done RIGHT NOW. However, we must be truly disciplined in this practice or we’ll end up running down bunny trails only to end the day without completing our most important commitments.

Then, immediately get back to work on the priority A’s for the day, unless one of the incoming items truly is a priority A – for today!

At this point, I must address my pet peeve. Over-flowing email inboxes. I shall not hold back on this one, because of how truly important this is 🙂

I cannot tell you how many times in my personal and professional life I observe someone’s inbox with (quite literally) hundreds, if not thousands, of emails.

Managing one’s inbox in this manner requires the constant reviewing, re-reviewing, re-re-reviewing, re-re-re-reviewing (do you get the picture?) of these items in a VERY POOR attempt at making sure things don’t fall through the cracks.

Guess what? If you are managing email this way – THINGS ARE FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS.

Think – MY HAIR IS ON FIRE!

The reason? There is a bomb that went off, or is waiting to go off, somewhere in your inbox that has been left unattended. And, it will ONLY be attended once someone else (your boss, co-worker, creditor, spouse, etc.) makes you aware of it – hitting the fan…

Instead, follow the above steps for handling incoming email. And, once dispositioned, we can:

  • Delete it (if we NEVER have to refer to it again).
  • File it (in a folder: Business, Personal, Project-A, Client-B, etc.) for later reference (if needed) or follow-up, per the item we will have entered on our task list or calendar.

Bottom-line: If you want to be HIGHLY effective in your personal and professional life leave NOTHING in the inbox. If you don’t do this, well, things WILL fall through the cracks. Hardly the practice of a person whom others would want to assign ever-increasing responsibilities (which equates to increasing compensation / a.k.a. MONEY).

In the words of Forrest Gump. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

In closing, emptying the mind isn’t some new age psycho-babble. This is a truly pragmatic practice and a key step in creating a life of effortless abundance.

p.s. – For those who consider the above “the basics” and are interested in taking things to the next level, you are encouraged to read, or listen to “Getting Things Done” which is available at Amazon.com by clicking here.

3 thoughts on “Empty The Mind

  1. […] Bottom-line: Who decides how we manage our time? Yes, there are countless outside influences that drive our activities (e.g., our boss, customers, co-workers, spouse and children). However, we can EASILY get control of our time so that we are sure to focus on the MOST IMPORTANT things (ONLY) and let the numerous, mind-boggling, useless distractions just fall by the wayside. I’m not going to share how to do that here, as I’ve already written about that. Simply click here to read more. […]

  2. […] and NOT let our time be ruled by others. And, as detailed in a prior post, we must consistently EMPTY OUR MIND. Because, like it or not, if we don’t, we will increasingly become ineffective, overwhelmed, […]

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