Why writing things down can make you super-freaking productive and awesomely laser-focused.
You've been there I'm sure – a gazillion tasks to do before the day starts, and then more flying at you from emails and phonecalls as the day goes on.
It's so easy to slip into overwhelm-dom, get freaked out and just halt altogether; heading straight for Facebook or Instagram to hide and procrastinate instead. When everything feels like it's a top priority and you're trying to manage everything perfectly, I'm going to tell you why the simple act of writing things down can give you the simplest kind of dig-out.
So let's get dug in.
First of all, I started out doing a bit of research. And there's some good evidence from psychologists to support that writing things down genuinely has a positive impact on your physical wellbeing. Like literally, strengthening immune cells and decreasing symptoms of asthma and arthritis. Pretty powerful right? But as much as those are clearly some super-impressive side-effects, as an entrepreneur and general life-juggler, I was more intrigued by the psychological impact rather than physical.
To explain what I mean, the more psychological side-effects can be;
- clearing your mind for higher-level thinking
- helping you process your emotions
- giving you a record of the past
- gaining a sense of progress and achievement
- helping you think big
- making you more committed.
Like, I'm in! where do I sign up?
So to translate these findings into actionable stuff you can do in your life and business, you basically just need to stop relying on the digital so much, and dust off that pen and paper baby. Proper 90s-style.
I personally find that writing down my day-to-day tasks and my bigger-picture goals, helps them kinda work together. Especially as a small business owner, it can sometimes be a drag to keep focused and motivated with no gaffer hassling you to do your job. So the day-to-day is what I'm doing (i.e, design webpage, clean database, update accounts, chase invoice), and the bigger-picture is why I'm doing it (i.e, gain X subscribers to database by January, take £X in revenue in Q1). You get me? It basically gives the mundane, drag-tasks [that I don't particularly like], a driving purpose. And therefore, that gives me an automatic sense of focus and productivity. #score
Sure the above is great for the more manageable, in-control days, but for the cerrrrazy days when there's simply just too much on your plate that you're fretting so much, absolutely nothing's getting done [see above], you really do need a diary/planner/something with time slots. You've just gotta. And you've also gotta commit your tasks to these time slots. Say 8am–8:30am is email time. But at 8:31am it's stopped. And you *tick* it off your list. And you get on to the next task. That task might be say, designing your next email campaign, so from 8:30–9:30am, all your focus is on that. No mobiles, no emails, nada. Then at 9:31am it's stopped. And you *tick* it off your list. You have to be ruthless on those days. With yourself, with your time management and with your clients. K, maybe politely ruthless with clients :) Put on an email auto-response saying what times you'll be accessing your mail, and stick to it. Yes, some folk might get pissed from time to time, but if your task is important and needs to get done, then that's your priority.
The cathartic process of physically ticking completed tasks with a pen fuels your drive for completion and productivity. Then once you've done a couple of tasks on time, you're spurred on to get through the rest. Before you know it, you've transformed a 'meh' day into a MEGA one.
I also think writing in a tone that's from you, for you, is particularly effective, and pretty fun quite frankly! I know this article is discussing journalling specifically, but the principles are the same. The psychologist encourages you to 'write freely and without censor'; pretty much write like nobody's reading...'cause no-one is tbh! Your time with your pen and paper is valuable, and just for you. Give yourself the benefit of your awesome personality for a change, hey and maybe even throw in a lil' cheeky pep talk or two!
So why the physical act of writing this all down as opposed to doing it all digitally via apps or online tools? Basically, because it just really gives you that visible sense of accomplishment and progress, (which is an addictive lil monkey). And I personally love having that visual, tactile record of that progress to reflect back on too y'know? When you're a perfectionist working for yourself and there's no-one above you to pat you on the back or blow your trumpet on your behalf, you kinda need to find your own trumpet to blow whenever you can!
So what do you think? Would you give it a try and see if it makes a difference to your productivity?