An interesting exercise to say the least but the reality is, there is no instant backup button or ability to burn our memories onto a DVD or BluRay. As I get older I am finding it harder to recall the common things that were once easy recollections. Now before any of you start to say it may be early onset Alzheimer’s or a symptom of my addiction to the Information Age and the easy use of Google as my personal research assistant I would say that neither is the root cause.
I have lately become a student of the David Allen Methodology called GTD or Get Things Done. His has made me very critical of the things that waste my time and suck away my productivity but it also has brought some great exercises in recall and memory into my regular routine. Thanks to one of my work colleague’s and Social Media / Productivity Application Guru for the pointer on the GTD series.
One of the greatest balance exercises that the GTD Method brings out is taking the time to stop and review what has happened. The taking stock period is something that has become part of my daily and weekly routine now…I find myself not only looking backwards and evaluating what my performance has been but also looking to the upcoming week and planning for the future at the same time.
The Brain Dump though is something that has me more than just a bit scared. I have taken so much information and crammed it into my skull cap that I am more than just a bit afraid of what will come out when I open the tap. This Blog is in many ways my way of conducting a Brain Dump of sorts as it is not only a creative outlet and a way for me to put my “Morning Constitutional” into something that my friends, colleagues and clients would want to see (and trust me…this is a much more pleasant option to the alternative).
The Brain Dump is a self cleanse that gets everything out of your head and onto paper or some other output (Word, Excel or other Desktop Publishing option). This not only serves as a backup (much like we all do with our Data …right?) but it also frees up space and serves as a cleansing process that puts our thoughts into something tangible.
Most options for the Brain Dump include 4 Steps:
- Get a Pen and Paper – or other Output medium. This is going to allow you to place all your thoughts, projects and tasks into a visual medium that can be sorted, focused upon and prioritized. If the thought of sitting down and placing your inner most thoughts on paper scares you (as it does me) I can only say…get over it. The Cathartic benefits far outweigh any fears you may have.
- Build your Lists – The GTD Methodology is all about Lists, not your usual To Do crap but real lists that need to be acted upon. It encourages the creation of real functional lists that can actually be tracked back into your Personal and Professional Goals and Intentions. Build your Musts, Wants and Perhaps. This will be great when you later start to build on the prioritization of your time.
- Look at your lists with a Critical Eye – I do many things in a given day that are general productivity killers, during the process of my personal brain dump I started to see how I was spinning my wheels doing things that just did not need to be done or at the very least could be postponed and not acted upon in the moment. One of my favourite sites www.lifehack.org has compiled a great Starter List of these Critical Steps to take a step back and begin to look at your day critically.
- Rinse and Repeat – Since my first Brain Dump between Christmas and New Years of 2011 (yes a whole 3 months ago) I have had to take a step back and rebuild the purge 2 or 3 times…not because I missed something but because it is a great exercise for when you start to feel like life is spinning out of control. There is no limit to how many times you do the work and if getting better at the things you need to do is on your “Goal List” then not investing the time and resources into something like GTD then you will continue to either not live up to your potential, or remain mired in mediocrity.
Since doing my first Brain Dump I started to see some really dramatic productivity gains. The reason that I waited 3 months to report on my doing this exercise is that at the time the gains I was experiencing were just gut feelings. I was noticing making more connections, fitting more work into the precious 480 minutes that we each have to work with. I have been criticized for being far to analytical in the past (well not so much in the past as recently as my last performance review) but I must say that knowing exactly what I am doing at any give moment has really made a difference…for me.
To place things into perspective, I have been looking at my productivity as a direct measure of my Time Utilization with regards to direct interaction with my clients and prospective clients. I am a Stats Guy, and driven to be better than average so knowing both what I am doing and what others are doing is important to me. When I look at my performance from August to December 2011 I see that I was above average but nothing dramatic. When I returned to work after our 2 week Christmas break, I came back with a new sense of focus and started immediately to start putting some of the productivity insights into practice.
Most would say that a 15-20% increase in daily productivity would be a solid improvement but without really doing anything different (at least in how I interact with my customers) I was able to see a 115% increase in Time Utilization. As an Inside Sales Specialist this is determined by looking at my time on the phones talking to clients divided into the 480 minutes that I have available in an 8 hour day.
The Brain Dump works. But it does take work and overcoming the fear of change that we all share. My words to you…embrace the change and dive in head first…it is worth the change.
Chris J Powell