One of the most common stresses we experience is related to time management and overwhelm. There are never enough hours in the day to check off all the “to-dos” on our list. The more “to-do’s” that are stored in our overloaded brains, the more overwhelmed we can become and the more we are unable to focus and get anything done.

Several years ago, I learned a technique from one of my mentors that has been helping me when I get too overwhelmed. I now incorporate this exercise into my life on a weekly basis and more if needed.

Try a brain dump.

Grab your timer, some paper and your favorite writing instrument.  WHile you could do this on your notes app, it’s best to use pen (or pencil) and paper for this exercise. For the timer, you can use this website timer ; you can Google “timer” and one will pop up, or you could use an app on your smartphone.

Set your timer for 10 minutes and write down everything that you need to do, whether it is business-related, family-related, health-related, etc. Whatever pops into your head – write it down.  It may take a minute or two to get into a rhythm but once you do, you’ll be surprised how much you’ll write down. When the timer rings, stop! This exercise helps to get your brain clear and may allow some creativity to flow in.

Now that you have completed your brain dump, you’re going to incorporate a modified version of a method that was introduced by Ivy Lee about a hundred years ago. Ivy Lee was a PR consultant and met with Charles Schwab, who was CEO of Bethlehem Steel at the time. Lee promised to increase the productivity of Bethlehem Steel’s executives by 20%. When asked about his fee, Lee asked for whatever Schwab felt it was worth at the end of 30 days. It turns out that productivity jumped and Lee was given $25,000.00 for his service, which would be somewhere between $500,000.00 and 2 million dollars in today’s money (depending upon what year this actually happened).

Now……. Go back to your list and choose 6 (ONLY 6) items that you need to accomplish. List them in order of importance. Ivy Lee would have you go home from work and forget about it until the next day. But we’re going to begin immediately (that’s the only modification). Start with your first item – complete that item. When it’s done, move on to the second item. Then move on to the third task and so on. Interruptions will happen. Just return to your list as soon as possible. At the end of the day, choose 6 items from your list to be accomplished on the following day.

Once you’ve accomplished your 6 items from the day and written down the 6 to do on the next day, I encourage you to stop thinking about them. Writing down the next day’s 6 items each day will help you to gain some perspective about what you can accomplish in a given day. Choosing only 6 will help you to feel less overwhelmed. Letting go of the list until the next day will help you to get some balance and be able to relax and spend some quality time with your loved ones.

I hope you’ll try a brain dump and let me know how it works for you.


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