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Do you regularly write things down?
Or do you keep all the things in your head? The shopping list, what you plan to make for dinner, to-do lists, ideas for your next vacation?
Maybe you think, “I don’t need to write things down, my memory’s great”. Or perhaps, “who’s got time for that? I’m too busy to write things down!”
Maybe keeping things in your head is working just fine for you? If you feel calm, relaxed and confident most days that you’ve got everything covered, then that’s great!
But…if you ever feel worried or anxious that you’re forgetting things, if you’re wondering if the right things are getting done, or you feel bewildered as to where the week (or month!) went, then it’s time to start writing things down.
Because it’s hard to feel relaxed or enjoy living in the moment when you’re distracted by “must remember” thoughts or constantly worried you’ve forgotten something.
When you write things down you’ll begin to feel calmer, more in control and more accomplished.
Writing things down helps you to:
- think more clearly
- focus your mind
- retain information
- process information
- clarify your intentions and priorities
- track progress and boost motivation
Writing things down helps you to both preserve memories, and think more clearly.
When all of your “must remembers” are out of your head, you can use your energy for thinking and processing, rather than storing and remembering.
You’ll free up space for creativity and you can be more analytical.
You can focus, see what needs to be done, and prioritize what’s important. Rather than work on the first thing that comes into your head.
Here’s when it makes sense to write things down:
1. When it’s important to remember something
Our brains are amazing, but for most of us, our short term or working memory is only capable of holding onto a handful of things at once. Some studies suggest it’s as little as 3 or 4 things.
The act of writing things down (whether it’s meeting notes or the name of that book you’ve been recommended) activates different parts of the brain which helps you both process and recall information.
So if it’s something you need to do, or somewhere you need to be, writing it down will help you to remember it.
When you write all your appointments, meetings and dates and tasks into a calendar or planner that you can reference later, you can feel confident that it won’t get forgotten.
You then free up your brain to focus distraction-free on what’s important right now. Whether that’s enjoying dinner with family, or completing that report for your boss.
2. When you need to get something done
Do you really need to get something done? Write it down.
Not only will the act of physically writing it down help your brain to remember it, having a visual reminder or prompt in your notebook or calendar makes it much more likely it will happen.
When you see it, you’ll be much more likely to do it.
3. When you want to feel accomplished
Whether you use a tick, a cross, or a big line through a task, there’s nothing quite like the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that you get when you can mark something as completed!
Particularly if it’s something that you been procrastinating on for ages.
Writing things down also creates a record. You can look back on what you’ve done, review your progress and celebrate what you’ve achieved.
4. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or stressed
Have you ever felt that there so much on your mind that you just can’t think straight?
You’re thinking about that report that’s due at work, when your child’s passport needs to be renewed, whether the laundry is dry yet, and wondering why the dishwasher making that strange noise. Not to mention the countless other to-dos whirling around in your head.
You’re worried that your mind is so full of stuff that things will start slipping through the cracks if they haven’t already.
When you get to this stage – where you start to feel overwhelmed and anxious about everything you need to do, or that you don’t know where or how to start tackling your tasks, then it’s time to do a brain dump.
What’s a brain dump?
A brain dump is essentially a way of getting everything that’s in your head out and onto paper so that you can start taking some action.
It helps you move from feelings of anxiety to feelings of confidence and control that come from taking action and moving forward.
In this clip Mary Heather Browne explains more about what a brain dump is, how to do it, and then, importantly, what to do next.
One way to stay of top-of-things, to avoid getting to the point of feeling overwhelmed, is to make it a habit to regularly write down what’s on your mind.
Writing helps calm the mind and reorganize your thoughts. It declutters your mind, which helps it to make decisions.
So regularly set time aside to list all the things on your mind and make an action plan to deal with them.
5. When you want to boost your happiness
When you’re feeling disconnected, discontented or low, a sure-fire scientifically proven way to boost your mood and your happiness is to write down what you are grateful for.
Whether it’s a short note in your planner, a log in your bullet journal, or in a dedicated gratitude journal, taking the time to write down something that you are grateful for will give you a boost.
Do this regularly, and you’ll not only feel happier, but you’ll also be healthier too!
You can find out more about how you can boost your wellbeing by practising gratitude in:
Classic journalling, where you write in more depth about your thoughts, experiences and observations, is another way to improve your wellbeing.
Journalling in this way allows you to slow down and be present. It helps you to engage with, and generate solutions to issues or problems in your life, rather than ignore them.
6. When you want to achieve a goal
So many studies have shown how just how effective it is to write down goals if you want to achieve them.
And we all want to achieve our goals, right?
Writing down your goals will:
- help you remember them
- help you identify and clarify what you really want
- prompt you into action (remember, a goal without action is just a wish)
- help you to track your progress
You can find out more about how writing down goals will help you achieve them in:
Where to Write Things Down
It doesn’t really matter where you choose to write things down, whether is a notebook, writing pad, journal, calendar, planner or a combination of a few. The important thing is to get stuff out of your head and onto paper.
I use a bullet journal, along with a writing pad, post-it notes, and a calendar to write things down.
I love the flexibility of using a bullet journal. I can make it my own and adapt it to suit me, and my requirements.
However, you might prefer something more structured. Experiment and see what works best for you.
If one thing doesn’t work for you try something different. Keep trying till you find what’s right for you.
So, are you ready to think more clearly, be more focussed, feel calmer, more accomplished and happier?
Grab a pen or pencil and some paper, and start writing!
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