Caring for Your Mental Real Estate

Real estate is a valuable commodity. But did you know that you have mental real estate, too? It’s finite and needs to be well-taken care of also.

Ever walk into a room and find yourself wondering, “Why in the world did I come in here?”

Is your purse, desk or pockets cluttered up with bits of paper with scribbled notes on them?

Have you gone to the store only to completely forget what it was you needed to buy?

If you said “yes” to any of those questions, then thank you! It’s just proof positive that I’m in good company.

Honestly, there’s been times when I frantically reached for paper and couldn’t write things down fast enough—all out of desperation. My brain literally felt like it was overflowing and this left me in a state of sheer panic. But it turns out that this feeling is actually grounded in something factual: cognitive overload. And this happens when we try to tackle too much at any one time.

Think of it this way. Have you ever had too many windows or apps open on your computer or phone at one time? Did you notice a lag in speed or performance? That happens when the system simply becomes overwhelmed. The same thing happens to us. Multitasking may be great in theory. But truth be told, we’re far better able to concentrate and complete a task successfully when we work on one thing at a time.

So, how exactly can we manage things better in order to protect our mental real estate? I’ve given this question some serious—and single-tasked!—thought, and here’s what I’ve come up with…

  • Try to time tasks well. Some of us are natural night owls. Others do best at the crack of dawn. Some tasks require very little thought. Yet others require a great deal of concentration. Get to know how—and when—you work best and consider the difficulty of the tasks, too. Then, prioritize and time doing them accordingly. This is just one way to work smarter, not harder.
  • Know your limits and create ways to work well within them. No one person is good at everything. But the most effective and successful people not only know this, they embrace it. You can, too. Instead of trying to rewire the way you think or approach a task, consider alternative ways to make the task work around you. Are you a visual person and need to see things mapped out before they make sense? Consider opting for unlined paper and lots of colors for journalling and jotting down notes. Don’t do well under pressure? Accept this and build in extra time accordingly whenever possible. Something completely out of your wheelhouse? Accept this and find help. Better done with assistance than not tackled at all.
  • Work hard. Play hard. (And not necessarily in that order.) Sometimes we work harder and better when have the reward of something fun to look forward to. But other times, our brains are—quite literally—taxed to the max and need a bit of respite before we can operate at our maximum capacity and capability. Know the difference between these two and accept—and act—on the difference they can make. In other words, know when to stop and take a breather in order to get better work out of yourself later!
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