Why you should get stuff out of your head

Get stuff out of your headOne of the key tenants of GTD is getting stuff out of your head.

Many people do not understand why this is so important.

The reason is our minds are not built to remember all of the little “commitments” we make every day. Our subconscious knows we have some kind of commitment and it “worries” in the background or subconsciously that we will forget something important. This leads to stress.

So, the way out of this is to put the “stuff” (appointments, numbers, tasks, ideas, notes, worries, promises, deadlines, reminders, projects, maybes, etc.) in a Trusted System.

Think about life before electronic “contacts” applications.

You had to memorize things like people’s address and phone numbers. How well did that work out?  Sure, some people could memorize lots of phone numbers and were very proud of this fact. But, most people had no way of memorizing lots of phone numbers and needed a way to “get them out of their head” and into a Trusted System.

Initially, people used pencil and paper to store people’s addresses and phone numbers. Then the trusted system was a physical “Rolodex” or some kind of a journal with all your contact info. Then, as technology advanced, for most people it was “Contacts” in Outlook that served as our trusted system. Finally, the concept of contacts became universal and today our mobile devices make our contacts available to us anytime, anywhere on earth.  What a great trusted system! Calendars followed a similar path.

When we trust a system to store our “stuff” our brain let’s go of that little background task that is worried you will forget about the commitment.  If there is one thing that technology is great at, it’s remembering things. The biggest instant benefit of capturing your “stuff” is that once you capture it, you feel relief instantly. The is because once you have captured your “stuff” you can forget about it. You know where to find it if/when you need it.  And this reduces stress.

Don’t store things in your head. Put them in a trusted system. You will be rewarded with relief and increased mental capacity. You will almost immediately feel better.  By capturing your “stuff”, you will increase your mental capacity. It’s like an upgrade for your brain.

Once you start doing this, you might be shocked how clearly you can think and how efficiently you can function. It’s almost like magic.

Tell me about your trusted system.

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About Michael Keithley
Digital Transformation CIO and Public Speaker. Previously, CIO at Creative Artists Agency

2 Responses to Why you should get stuff out of your head

  1. WOW! What a great comment. It sounds like Evernote was the missing element to Victoria’s trusted system. Once you have that level of trust you can truly let go.

    One of the reasons the GTD approach can be so empowering comes down to a simple, primal dynamic: When something is named, it is known; and when it is known, its hold on us is released. When things we have allowed into our inner or outer world are appropriately and accurately identified, we feel curiously freed from them.

    It’s all about clarifying what things mean to us and sorting them in our world appropriately.

  2. Victoria O'Seni says:

    Letting it go!

    Sleepless nights, headaches, fatigue, stress; these are indicative of the things you experience when you try to store everything in your head instead of a trusted system. School schedules, sports activities and work are just a subset of things that I had to keep tabs on every single day.

    The worst feeling ever is trying to remember something that you were supposed to, and not being able to recall what the next action was supposed to be; the fallout from this is one constant headache, because you then spend the majority of your day trying to remember who, what, where, when and how; clogging up your head from processing or storing more information thus, becoming less productive.

    Along came Evernote!

    Letting it go is so simple. I used to scramble for a pen or piece of paper in my car when something came to mind that I wanted to take note of; I happen to be a very neat person, so half of the time I could never find paper in my car to jot anything down. Now, with my phone attached to me to all times, and the Evernote application installed, letting go of that information from my head is so simple because I am transposing it into a system that I know will store it for me and make it available to me anywhere. What’s great about this is I can build on that one thought on a daily basis, or create additional To-do’s without creating headaches.

    It took me a while to relinquish my thoughts, tasks, and ideas to Evernote, I needed to make sure I could trust it, synonymous with any relationship; you need to build trust. I wake up in the middle of the night with a thought, I reach for my phone on my night stand and tell my phone to “Launch Evernote”. I dictate my thoughts and go back to sleep, sound sleep; because I know I will remember it in the morning. I trust Evernote that much.

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