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Sync Your Brain And Your System Using a Mind Dump

Sync Your Brain And Your System Using a Mind Dump

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    One of the keys to any productivity system is to actually put things into the system. Who knew?

    Obvious though it may seem, many of us have trouble taking the time to enter our thoughts into our task-manager, to-do list, or organizational system.

    This can happen for any number of reasons – no paper nearby, no easy way to record your ideas – but our productivity can be hurt by not inputting everything into our system so we can deal with it properly.

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    What should live on paper lives in our brain, and then proceeds to be forgotten and left alone. That’s a surefire road to getting yourself in trouble- or at least forgetting leaky faucets.

    There’s a simple, quick solution to this problem, though – it’s called a mind dump.

    A mind dump is simply a way for you to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Our brains aren’t made to remember things forever, but paper is; with an empty brain, we’re able to either focus on new things or deal with the task at hand, instead of constantly dwelling on past things taking up valuable bandwidth.

    Executing a mind dump is simple: take out a pen and a paper, or fire up a new document on your computer. Then, write down everything that comes to your mind. There is no step three.

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    Anything and everything is fair game: what you have to do, what you’re thinking about, hopes, dreams, goals, and whatever else comes into your mind. Set a time limit – say, 20 minutes – and everything that enters your brain immediately must exit your brain and go onto your paper.

    Once you’re done, you can begin to take action on the items you’ve written. On what do you need to take action? What do you need to deal with, follow up about, or file somewhere?

    Things that don’t need to be further dealt with? Just get rid of them. Make sure you don’t need to think about them ever again, and be done with them.

    There’s no set way for doing the best mind dump possible. The point is to reset your brain, update your productivity system, and put onto paper all the things that have been taking up the valuable (and limited) space in your brain.

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    Many people use “triggers” to make their mind dumps easier – a set of key words or phrases that set your mind on a particular aspect of your life, in order to let you focus on items related to it. 43 Folders has a long list of these triggers, everything from “Phone calls,” to “Furniture”, to “Weddings.”

    Some people, GTD followers in particular, do a mind dump before their Weekly Review, as part of figuring out what the week ahead has in store. Others, like myself, do it once a week or so – whenever I have 20 minutes to spare. I recommend doing it at least once a week – it has a tendency to get long and unweildly otherwise.

    A mind dump can also be done anywhere – another great thing about it. Open up a note on a cell phone, or write on the back of a newspaper; wherever you are, if you’ve got a free moment, clear your head.

    You’ll be amazed how many things come out of your brain and into your organizational system, when you devote time and space to emptying it.

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    How and when do you get things out of your head and into your system?

    Photo: Tyla ’75

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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