Have you ever tried to set goals? It’s really hard to get started isn’t it?
Have you every had so many tasks in your head that you feel paralyzed because you’re so fearful of forgetting something?
Have you ever wanted to start a to-do list with all the things floating around in your head on the list, but you don’t know where to start?
Have you even had a big project looming before you where you know the concept, you know where you want to end up, but you just can’t seem to figure out how to start putting your thoughts on paper in a way that made sense to other people?
Have you ever wanted to tackle a big home improvement project with many pieces that need to happen along the way, but you just couldn’t seem to figure out the order the steps go in?
My Friend, I’ve been there. To all of the above scenarios. Whether you like to admit it or not, my guess is that you’ve been in a place like this, too. A place of knowing there are all these pieces and tasks rolling around in your head, yet not knowing where to begin, not knowing how to get those tasks and pieces out of your head and into some semblance of order without forgetting any of them along the way.
What do you do? Where do you go? How do you make sense of the chaos and start to let go of the stress? Because, let’s face it, when all these things are rolling around in your head and you can’t make sense of them, it causes stress!
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Anchoring Your Thoughts
It’s hard to make sense of things when there’s no rhyme or reason. Think about it for a moment: If you go to the grocery store and you need milk, marshmallows, creamed corn, and pretzels, it can be a challenge to remember that random list. On the other hand, if you go to the grocery store and need the ingredients for French Toast (bread, milk, eggs, cinnamon, and powdered sugar), it’s a LOT easier to remember this list because there’s something to anchor it, some theme that ties it together.
So many times, this is what can really intimidate and paralyze you when it comes to making sense of these big projects. There’s no rhyme or reason to your thoughts and you start worrying that you’re going to forget something.
How do you get over this? How do you anchor your thoughts to get past that place of stressing out about forgetting things?
Believe it or not, my Friend, the answer is incredibly simple: Write It Down!
Brainstorming. Such an intimidating word, isn’t it? Can I let you in on a secret? It doesn’t have to be! Brainstorming, at its basic level, is simply allowing your thoughts to wander and writing down all the possibilities that come to your mind. This could be all the tasks you have to do in a day, all the steps of a home improvement project, what you want to say and the illustrations you want to use in a project or presentation, and more.
The biggest concept of brainstorming is to take all those thoughts rolling around in your head without an anchor and write them down so you can start to make sense of them.
But where do you write them down? Well, you can grab a pen and paper and just start writing. I’ll be honest, this is the method I used for years. But recently, I was listening to a podcast and the host was giving this strategy for how to use post-it notes to create a rough first outline for a big project. Now, I wasn’t trying to create the type of project they were talking about, but it got me thinking…
I love post-it notes. I love sharpies. What if I took this idea of using post-it notes and applied it to figuring out my to-do list? What if I applied it to figuring out my goals? What if I applied it to figuring out my projects?
I decided to try it. And you know what? I fell in LOVE with this method! Now, don’t let the word ‘method’ scare you! This is so crazy simple that the genius of it is in its simplicity.
Here’s what you do: Grab some post-it notes, a sharpie, and a timer (the one on your phone will work perfect). Next, pick a spot in your house where you can stick post-it notes and they can remain fairly undisturbed. This could be a big mirror, a door, a wall, a kitchen counter, or some other place. Personally, I found the doors in my room work great because they were big enough to hold all my post-its and I could shut my bedroom door so my children couldn’t rearrange my post-its before I was ready!
Now, set your timer for 30 minutes. When you press ‘start’ on you timer, start writing down all those thoughts that are rolling around in your head. But here’s the deal: Only write one thought on each post-it! Make it short and sweet and something you’ll understand. Once you write one thought down, pull the post-it off the pad and stick it on your wall or door or whatever place you’ve chosen. Keep repeating this process until your timer goes off.
The object here is not to make things super pretty. The object of this step is simply to get all of those jumbled-up, unanchored thoughts out of your head and onto a place where you can look at them and physically see them. Don’t worry about the order the thoughts come out. Don’t worry about how they land on your wall. Just get those thoughts out of your head and onto paper!
Oh, and one more thing: When your timer goes off, stop! Only give yourself 30 minutes for this phase!
One of the coolest features of post-it notes is the colors! Gone are the days of all post-it notes being pale yellow! Now you can find them in almost any color of the rainbow: from bold to pastel from primary colors to classic colors.
Now, be cautious with this one, but if you’re a color-coding type of person (I know I am!), you can use the post-it note colors to your advantage as you brainstorm. If you think of something you know is a task that belongs on your to-do list like taking down the holiday decorations, you could write it on a green post-it. If you think of something you need to go shopping for, say a birthday present for your mom, you could write that on an orange post-it. If you think of something that’s a long-term goal, you could write it on a pink post-it. If you think of something and you don’t immediately know where it belongs, you could write it on a yellow post-it.
Again, if color-coding as you go makes sense, by all means, do it! But on the other hand, if trying to color-code as you go doesn’t make sense or if it stresses you out, forget the extra colors! Just focus on getting those thoughts out of your head and onto a spot where you can physically see them.
Design Your Plan
When your timer goes off, take a step back and look at your wall or your mirror or your door. Look at all those thoughts that were just rolling around in your head. It can be impressive, intimidating, and overwhelming all at the same time, can’t it?
Now, before you start to freak out thinking about how your to-do list has grown and you just can’t do this, pause. Take a deep breath. Remember, this isn’t just your to-do list. These are all those random thoughts rolling around in your head. This is why you couldn’t find that rhyme or reason before. And remember, you’re not done yet!
So, here’s the fun part: You get to design your plan now that you can literally see (and move!) your thoughts. Look at your post-it notes and start to rearrange them by category. Here are a few suggestions to get your started:
- Tasks :: Simple things that just need to get placed on a to-do list and completed.
- Home Improvement Projects :: Things to build, items to purchase, areas to organize, etc.
- Goals :: These can be either short term or long term.
- Project Thoughts :: Ideas that will help you complete a project or presentation. If you have thoughts for multiple projects, make sure to give each project it’s own space.
- Errands/Shopping Lists
You may have more categories or different categories than the ones listed here, but these are a few to get you started.
Once you have your post-it notes grouped into categories, it’s time to begin taking them off the wall and putting them into a form you can easily reference. For the to-do list category, this is nice and easy – simply write down the tasks on a piece of paper. Try using one of my favorite simple to-do lists or even a to-do list split out by category. You can grab both of them here:
Your Goals might look a little different. Some people prefer writing a list of goals with bullet points underneath them while others prefer to make a flow chart. These charts typically start with the goal itself at the top, then branch out into the different steps to accomplish the goal, with the tasks underneath each step.
No matter what form your thoughts take, make sure to write them down in a way that makes sense to you. If flow charts freak you out, don’t put your post-it thoughts into a flow chart! Put them in a simple list or a categorized list instead. On the other hand, if you are more visual and the linear lists make you twitch, grab a piece of paper and some colors and create a visual diagram or flow chart that will allow you to understand and utilize these thoughts best!
Designing your plan is just this: Your Plan! You are the one who’s going to use it. You are the one who’s going to be referencing it. You are the one who’s going to need to be able to read it. So, put it in the form that will work best for you.
You may think this method only works for certain things. Maybe those big things like setting goals or creating an outline for a big paper. I can tell you from personal experience, this method can work for anything and everything! Since I started using this post-it note method to organize my thoughts, I have used it to set goals, to plan out blog posts, to untangle my to-do list from other thoughts, to figure out what home improvement projects to tackle, the steps for each project, and more.
One of the greatest assets of this method is the way you can move things around and untangle the things that belong on your to-do list from your next major project. Or separate those entwined home improvement project thoughts from your goals.
No matter where your thoughts take you. No matter what tasks are rolling around in your head. This post it note method can help reduce your stress and clarify and organize your thoughts.
Remember when we said keeping all these thoughts and tasks in your head causes stress because you’re worried about forgetting them? Writing them down reduces that stress. Writing them on post it notes allows you to clarify and organize your thoughts by physically moving them into the correct category.
I will warn you: this method of sorting your thoughts can be addicting! Especially if you love office supplies! (Guilty!). But on the other hand, this method is so incredibly helpful when it comes to making sense of your thoughts in a way that eliminates stress as opposed to creating more stress. And that’s a concept that I can fully get behind!
There is one major downside to using the post-it note method. And yet, this downside can also be considered one of its greatest assets. Post-It notes are moveable! This means the vacuum cleaner can blow them off of the wall, children can rearrange them uninvited, they can lose their stickiness and fall off the place where you put them. This is why the post-it method is fabulous to use in the planning stages, but you want to take the information you put on the post-it notes and transfer it to paper so you don’t lose the structure you just worked so hard to create. Plus, you get your wall, kitchen counter, or mirror back in the process!
Making sense of your thoughts doesn’t have to be this impossible project to master. Organizing your tasks doesn’t have to be a cloudy concept you can’t seem to grasp. It really can be as simple as A-B-C…and the help of a pad of Post-It notes makes things more fun, more simple, and less stressful!
- How to Set Goals that Work for You
- Finding Your Perfect To-Do List
- Choosing the Perfect Calendar for You
- 5 Simple Steps to Take You from Scattered to Organized
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.