Getting Things Done When Your Mind Won't Shut Up

If somebody told you that they have a busy mind that's difficult to switch off you might presume that means that they're really good at getting stuff done. And I'd like to sit here and tell you, yes it does but I actually find it to have the complete opposite effect. I really struggle when it comes to getting to-do list ticked off when my mind just won't shut up. I've talked about having a busy mind before and it was actually Carrie's post a few months ago that made me really think about it. Lately, my mind has been a lot busier than even my standard busy state and I know I've found work even more difficult to get through but here is a few things that have helped me so if you're a fellow non-stop thinker then keep on reading. 


One of my worst habits is thinking about work as soon as I open my eyes. Which is typically at around 5.30 so that's an awful lot of time to be thinking about work before my day has even properly begun. I know I have a unique situation as I work for myself so it's a little different but even if you have a traditional job I'm sure that we can all relate to thinking about what needs doing before you've had the chance to open your eyes properly. I find taking even 10 minutes to make sure I'm properly awake even if it is sat scrolling through social media endlessly to take my mind elsewhere works wonders [scrolling isn't the greatest morning habit I admit]. It's very rare that we really need to think about work that much but it's all too easy to let yourself fall into the habit of doing so.


If you've ever read any of my posts before about productivity or just generally getting shit done you will know that I'm a huge planner. There isn't a day goes by that I've not got some sort of to-do list on the go but there is an art to a good to-do list. Planning out things properly and in a little more detail is something I find helps an incredible amount for a busy brain. Yes, it can make your to-do list look a little overwhelming but ultimately if it helps you make smarter work decisions then it's ok. When I plan my tasks I tend to write the main goal and then little subheadings to make sure I've got every single thing done so then I'm more aware of what's going on and my mind can't skip over something. 


As a classic worrier and over thinker my mind already likes to make mountains out of molehills [I hope this is a universal saying as otherwise, it will not make any sense to people outside the UK]. And an area where I find it particularly troublesome is with my workload, even when I write a to-do list my brain likes to make me think that things are too overwhelming and going to take 100 times longer than they ever do. It doesn't matter how hard I try to get out of this habit I can't and sometimes it makes me feel so overwhelmed that I end up doing nothing. Isn't it funny how our brains do this to us? But it's never until I get going that I realise that everything is ok and actually things don't take as long as we might first believe.


When your mind is already going at what feels like a thousand miles a minute you'd think it might be easy to stop getting distracted but I find it to be even worse. Even though I have something that I know needs doing I still find myself skipping from task to task and then I'll check my phone and see what's happening online and it's a never ending cycle. Putting your phone away and blocking any internet sites that could be a drain on your productivity [I'm looking at you Twitter] might seem a little drastic. Because shouldn't we all have some self-control? But the allure of the internet is all too tempting sometimes. 


I've been a big fan of the single task rule for what feels like forever now. Even though I do still skip from task to task sometimes in general when I'm doing one thing I'm stuck on that thing till it's done and have to be incredibly strict on myself that I'm only allowed to work on that one thing until it's done to a high standard. It does mean that I probably get less done in a day than someone who might be really good at multitasking but we all work differently and that's ok. Something else I do is if I think of something and it takes less than 3 minutes then I make sure I do it before I have to write it on my to-do list and then come back to it. It sounds like it goes completely against my single task rule but I actually find it to be very effective.


The number of conversations I have with myself on a daily basis would probably seem a little crazy to some but it's the only way my overactive mind can handle things. I have to tell myself to slow down and take one step at a time otherwise I try and do about 20 things at once and then nothing ever gets done properly which of course isn't what you want when you're trying to work. Telling yourself to focus and go slow isn't easy at all when the world is telling us to go go go. And for some people, it might work for them but personally, I've never found it to be very effective. I'm sure whether we like to admit it or not that we all have little conversations with ourselves from time to time. 


When we get to adulthood it's presumed that we can just work, work and work some more without any rewards or praise. And not every single thing that we do needs a treat at the end of but something I find particularly effective is if I get everything ticked off my to do list then I can do something that I enjoy. Of course, these aren't treats that cost money but it's just small little things like reading or watching Netflix for 20 minutes. As well as having a little reward system in place something else I love doing is time blocks. I like to plan out my day by the hour so for me that looks like writing and proofreading in the morning, e-mails mid day and then in the afternoon I tend to photograph and edit. Having somewhat of a schedule works beautifully for my messy mind as one of the greatest things about being your own boss is that you can work your day however you want but that can also be a curse too as it gives you too much freedom.

Do you have any tips for managing a messy mind?