I've LOST my keys. —You
How many times do you say this a month? Week? Day?
Take a second to reflect on the patterns associated with the times you have lost your keys. Do friends and family comment on your forgetfulness? Are you noticing your memory slacking lately?
If you're nodding your head with me, I can almost guarantee you are over stimulated, or (barely) functioning with "cognitive overload". You probably have a hundred thoughts spinning through your head, tripping over kids or pets, or both, at your feet, trying to keep track of your bills this month, hitting your year end goals, making notes to schedule appointments to utilize benefits before the new year, and don't get me started with how many notifications are waiting on your smartphone.
I’m raising my hand here with ya. I found myself so overloaded I was distracted and circling the drain. So recently I have been looking into how cognitive science fits into STRESS and PRODUCTIVITY. Who doesn’t want to be more productive. I think we ALL do. Work smarter not harder, right?
There are countless tools and resources to help with being more organized and less forgetful, but from a holistic view, I highly recommend self-awareness and discipline to keep your flow momentum progressing forward. Simple enough, right? I keep my keys in two places, in my purse or on a hook in the kitchen. Having this repetition keeps me on track. If that’s not helping me, it’s time for me to work through what stimuli I have coming at me.
So what do we do? Where do we start? Afterall, we are in this together, right?
Have you thought about you attention as a resource? I hadn’t until I read this article on cognitive science. Mel DeStefano thoroughly describes this incredible study in relation to design. I highly recommend it for it’s rich references. The gist of it is: you have short term and long term memory, but the part where you remember where you put your keys is SHORT term. Research shows we have a limited capacity, duration, and encoding to allow us to function without frying into zombie mush. When you have too much stimuli, your brain starts misfiring and drops random, lesser-important tasks, thoughts, ideas, etc, like where you left your keys.
To prevent this from happening so often, we start by dividing and conquering. Let’s not take everything on at once. First, make a list, preferably written down on a whiteboard, post-it, or note in your phone. Sort your tasks into priority. Time block your tasks through the day and actually schedule time to take a break. It is fundamentally the way your body was created to operate, so take it seriously! Self care doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Here are some quick ideas for you to start trying out, but feel free to get creative.
I also recommend reflecting through your surroundings. Cut some of the noises, or if it’s too quiet, add some white noise in to help create a cocktail party effect (Side note: this is why coffee shops work so well for me to focus on a task). Is the trash stinking up the kitchen, an overbearing candle or flower arrangement pulling at your senses?
Finally, my favorite: BRAIN DUMP. Mentally, check in with yourself. Are you frustrated or lacking confidence? Just get rid of the thoughts burning through your mind. You don’t have to work through these thoughts right now, but write them down so you’re identifying something you do need to address. Make a strategy to address these things and free up the energy that is weighing you down in the moment. Sometimes this means going back and adjusting your task list, or your entire calendar! BUT getting all of this off your shoulders will make your load feel so much lighter.
If that doesn’t help, I sure hope there is a bottle of a decent white chilled in your fridge. OR book a mental health day and take some YOU time for once.
So this is me, HEY FRIEND, checking in on you. How are you? Are you over stimulated? How can we help you get you back on track and out of that burn-out mode?