When I penned the first words for this post few months back I was struggling with clarity (more than usually, that is). But not necessarily in a way of “what’s the meaning of life?” or “who is Jon Snow’s father?”– kind of level.
No, rather that my mind was just a jumble of ideas, thoughts, goals, action steps and anything and everything in between. I felt as there wasn’t enough time in a day to get shit done.
And it was my own fault. Let me explain.
I love consuming information in form of books, podcasts, videos and blogs. Whether it’s movement, investing, being a better person or just random stuff. I love learning about anything and everything. And usually all at the same time.
Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if I‘d have the gift of a photographic memory. But I don’t, quite the opposite actually. I might have to revisit something ten times before I remember what it is about.
And what I failed to do is let the information sink in and process it to make more space for new thoughts. If my brain is a hard drive it was maxed out and not computing as it should (maybe that tells more about my computing capacity than the size of the hard drive).
Because of all of this I was also slipping back into the habit of checking Facebook and email way too often. I was looking for something to react to instead of taking the time to categorize my thoughts.
It was coming across in my writing as well. You should see some of the jumble I’ve written that’s sitting unpublished on my hard drive. I’ve been all over the place. I’ve been stuck, frustrated and plagued with clouded thinking.
Why the brain fog has affected my creativity has been reinforced by a quote from Jason Zook I read and mentioned a while back (though I doubt he’s the first to say it):
“Creativity and consumption don’t go hand in hand.”
Now, when I say creativity I don’t only mean writing, painting or other typical forms of art. It can just mean creative thinking. You need creative thinking at work, at home and on Saturdays when trying to come up with a solution so you don’t have to go to the neighbor’s kid’s bar mitzvah.
So I decided something has to change. I started to implement few things to remove the clouds sitting above these overworked and under performing brain cells. Here’s what’s helped so far.
As mentioned in my daily rules for freedom – post, I try to sit down often anywhere from 30 minutes or more without consuming anything. All I do is sit and think. Not forcing myself to think anything particular but just churning through whatever comes to me.
This is usually more fun when done outside with a cup of coffee. And a pen and a notepad, just in case the spirit moves me to a certain direction.
Now when I go for a walk I don’t listen to podcasts and rarely even music. I walk for the sake of walking. This is like the scheduled chill-time, but…wait for it… while walking.
In the beginning it’s actually harder than you’d think. Not the walking part but not listening to anything. Because it’s so ingrained in us that doing “nothing” is a waste of time, the mind’s all like “you’re wasting your time, dawg”. When in fact you are just being awesome.
Old-school note taking
I am doing more basic pen and paper journalling to get my thoughts on the paper. It seems that writing by hand works better (for me) than doing the digital note taking. Something about the hand and eye thing that makes the brain go all “yeeeeeaaaaah!”.
How’s that for sciency explanation.
Only study what I need, NOW
I only consume information that is actionable immediately. If it’s not relevant for now, I don’t read or listen to it. Because if I don’t need it now I’ve forgotten about it by the time I do and I have to revisit it anyways.
Just by doing this I’ve cut my podcast subscriptions by 75%. And things are easier when choosing what to read next too.
That being said, I freely consume information that I find interesting but is not necessarily for me to action on. Wait, this makes sense. Topics such as history and biographies fall in here.
Rephrase what I’ve learned
This is sort of what my blog works for but I am doing more of this just for my own sake too.
When I am studying I’ll write a reference of the important points in my own words. Not only does it help me to understand the topic better but it’s also easier for me to explain the topic to other people when using my own words. Especially when it comes to physiological jargon.
And as a bonus, as each book requires more note taking than in the past it forces me to be more selective of what I learn about. Goes back to only study what I need now.
There you have it. Go clear your hard drive.