I, and I am sure many of you, have a constant stream of mental lists, reminders on repeat, a revolving door of mental chaos that swirls in our heads daily. Do I need to renew my passport? When is the last time I fed the dogs? Did I RSVP to my cousin’s wedding? I’ve got to sign the boys up for swim lessons and reschedule their dentist appointment. We’ll have lasagna for dinner…or did we just have that Sunday? Can’t forget that it’s Show and Tell on Tuesday…ugh where is that beep coming from, does something need new batteries? I refer to it as my boomerang brain.
Author Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project calls it psychological clutter others have called it mental mom-clutter. Information comes in, it goes out, it comes back, and this cycle happens endlessly until I do something with that piece of information. This clutter is more than our to-do list; it is the hyperconscious state of our mind multi-tasking. It is an ongoing list of items that rarely make it to our to-do list but instead are on auto rewind in our minds day after day.
There are plenty of different ways to create a unique and personal organizational and information tracking system. Here are a few things my family has tried that have helped me to keep a mindful approach to parenting while my brain is in the throes of chaos.
One Task Tuesday
In my house, Tuesday evenings are evenings I let my husband put the boys down for bed. With teeth brushing, pottying, reading books, and singing a few songs, I have, at the minimum, an additional 45 minutes built into my nightly routine to tackle another task. Each week, I try to pick one thing to accomplish beyond my nightly routine of straightening up the house and prepping for the next day. Some of my recent one task Tuesday’s include writing thank you notes to friends, organizing the annoying kitchen cabinet that has bowls spilling out of it every time I open the door, and replacing the batteries in our smoke detectors.
OHIO Method (Only Handle It Once)
Clutter exists because someone couldn’t decide what to do with it. The OHIO method is an easy way to be incredibly productive in less time. My husband is the champion of the OHIO method, and his actions alone have taught me a ton. This method encourages us to immediately place an item in its proper place. For example, the empty cereal box goes straight to recycling in the garage and not in a holding location. This can also work in the electronic world. When I read my email, it is up to me to decide at that moment to respond, delete, forward, etc. Do it once, and do it right then and there. Less of a chance for boomerang brain!
Each year I take a day off from work in August and schedule my annual physical, dentist appointment, haircut and color, and oil change. I find it easier to power through a day full of tasks while the kids are in daycare rather than trying to fit these nagging things into my regular routine. It is incredibly satisfying when I get done with my power day and can see the outcome. In fact, I am thinking about doing quarterly power days. Can you imagine what I could get done in those four days a year?
Could Do List
If you are not a scheduler, a “could do list” might be the best way to capture and categorize a list of things that do not have a pressing timeline but are taking up valuable mental space. It is therapeutic to do a brain dump once in a while. If you can think of it, write it down, and then prioritize. I have a note in my phone that I share with my husband that has our “could do list.” So if or when we have a few unexpected minutes, we take a peek at the list and try to move the task from the “could do list” to a completed list.
Orderliness, no doubt, creates clarity. One of the trendiest conversations happening around me is the idea of simplifying our lives. Popular culture (myself included) is obsessed with decluttering. Think about the trends in capsule wardrobes, KonMari method, or the minimalist movements. Whether it is decluttering your home or your mind, the results make you feel lighter, less overwhelmed, and generally more productive.
What are some ways that you deal with boomerang brain?