It is a common belief that our short-term memory can hold up to 7 pieces of information at any given time. That is why they originally made telephone numbers 7 digits long.
But in recent years scientists have realized the real number is actually closer to 4.
FOUR. 4 ideas, to-dos, reminders, etc. That’s it. That’s all our prefrontal cortex can hold. And if you try to exceed this (as each of us do everyday) you rapidly deplete the amount of energy you have to think clearly and make decisions easily. Which are the exact skills you need to prioritize effectively.
Interestingly, when we throw into the mix the ebb and flow of our emotional states our brains have to work even harder to stay focused.
And as it turns out, prioritizing is one of the most energy taxing processes for our brain. Is it starting to make sense why it can feel easier to avoid doing it at all?
With all of these elements at play in the background, it is easy to understand why falling into a state of overwhelm, indecisiveness, and chaotic thinking isn’t so hard to do.
That is why I’ve outlined a process for quickly organizing your thoughts into priorities when you are in, coming close to, or knee deep in that state of overwhelm.
Here you go:
P Pause to breathe deeply, meditate, or briskly exercise
E Extract ALL of your to-dos from your brain and onto a list
A Assess the next 3 days in your calendar. Add any to-dos to your list that are jogged from this review
C Corral onto a separate list ONLY those items that have to be done today
E Estimate how much time each task will take
O Outline the amount of interruption-free project time you have available today
F Figure out which tasks you can or need to delegate
M Move tasks to another day or delegate any tasks that won’t fit in your day
I Itemize the remaining tasks in order of priority
N Now is the time to breathe deeply, meditate or take a brisk walk again.
D Do the work with the peace of mind and clarity of an organized thinker
And what does this process give you? You got it – PEACE OF MIND.
Try it out and see for yourself.
Did I forget anything? I’d love to hear how you prioritize your thinking in the comments below!