Taming the Monkey

Hanuman / Sun Wukong

What thoughts pull at your mind like crazed Capuchin monkeys interrupting your focus?  Are they to dos? Should dos? Want to dos? Have to dos? 

Finding a way to keep you life together is challenging for those of us that deal with attention issues, flights of ideas and the intense urge to be busy doing something.  Even if you don’t have organic distraction issues, information overload, and multiple demands can distract and overwhelm the most even-keeled person.  

 In order to calm my mind, so that I can focus and write, without the thought-monkeys pulling at my sleeve, I use a three part system. It may work for your thought-monkeys too.

1.  I use Todoist (http://todoist.com) This is a free to do list app that will sync across your devices. I use this to keep track of all the little tasks that can distract me knowing that they have to be done.  I enter my daily, weekly, and monthly, semi-annual, and annual tasks.  I set the application for sounds and visual reminders.   

2.  I use a vertical weekly paper planner. I know it sounds archaic to those of you who are in love with your electronic calendars. After trying to use several different electronic planners, I understand that my brain can not visualize and process electronic calendars.  I also use my planner as a work log and diary of my time.  When I feel as if I have not accomplished anything flipping back through my planner reminds me of what I have accomplished and what is possible.  For those of you that have a business, planners can be used to as supportive documentation if you ever face a tax audit.

3.  I keep up with entries! Yes, I stop when I get when a reminder notice, email invitation, or think of something that I want, or need to do, and make an entry in the system. That postcard reminding me that the dog needs a check up?  I set a date to make the appointment. If the office is open,  I call right then and make the appointment. 

 Do I fall off the keeping up with things wagon. Yes, more often than I would like to admit. So what do I do?  A brain dump.  I grab my spiral notebook and make a list of everything that needs to be done, scheduled, etc. I don’t try and assign the items any kind of priority, I just get them out of my head. When I can’t think of anything else, I go back through the list with my planner and Todist open I enter dates in my calendar and set reminders in Todoist.  

Is this redundant? Is it really that hard to keep track of my life? Yes. Distraction issues, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity are a wicked combination.   Using this system helps me focus. I don’t worry that I am going to forget to pick up the kids, or the milk or put out the trash.   When I sit down to write I am not worried that I should/need to be doing anything else but writing. What system do you use? Do you have a system?

My desk monkey reminds me that I the only thing I should be doing is writing.