My oldest daughter looked sad, exhausted, and overwhelmed, so I asked: Baby, what’s on your mind?
She listed a ton of tasks and obligations that were stressing her out.
Oh? This would be a perfect time to flex my daddy mentoring muscles and share one of my favorite exercises.
The brain dump.
This was my remix of a technique that David Allen teaches in his book, Get Things Done.
I handed her a stack of index cards and said, “Dump everything that is bouncing around in your head right now.”
It could be as simple as taking the trash out, washing her clothes, or calling a friend back. Or it could be as complicated as planning a trip that would involve other people and deadlines. Jot down everything.
Each item is an open loop that is causing stress and anxiety because you have not identified what to do with it.
Once she got her stack of about only 12 items (oh, to be young), I asked her to go through them and identify any that she can accomplish within 2-3 minutes.
“Do those now!”
No need to wait. Just get those items done and rip the card afterward.
Next, find the cards that require more planning. What’s the next action needed to move this project along? Put that on your calendar and set it to send you reminders.
“Leverage that damn computer in the palm of your hands.”
Finally, identify those things that you know are ideas that are just wishful at the moment. Put them in their own stack and review them monthly.
“How do you feel now?” I inquired.
“I feel better.”
“Good. Now do this exercise every time you feel overwhelmed. This is just the beginning of the rest of your life. Close those loops.”