Prioritize, then jettison all of your brain clutter


POSTED: Monday, October 12, 2009

If you're a serious time management student, you realize the importance of prioritizing tasks in order to get the most important things done. Now, research shows that we also need to prioritize the information we take into our brains!

Just as we can handle only so many tasks in a day, our brains can handle only so much information before it impedes our ability to remember important things that determine how well we function.

I've been fascinated by the book “;Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School,”; by molecular biologist John Medina. According to Medina, incoming information goes through four processing steps in our brains:

1. Encoding: The entering of information into our brain through our senses.

2. Storage.

3. Retrieval.

4. Forgetting.

Medina believes “;forgetting”; is the most important. This controlled forgetting of what's unnecessary enables our brain to focus on what's left (and important).

“;Forgetting allows us to prioritize events. Those events that are irrelevant to our survival will take up wasteful cognitive space if we assign them the same priority as events critical to our survival. So we don't ... we forget them.”;

I think it's key that we tend to what we put into our brains and how long we keep the information there.

Time management expert David Allen was a keynote speaker at a national conference I attended, and in his presentation on eliminating brain clutter, Allen advised us to forget the conference as soon as possible.

For me that meant reviewing the conference notes promptly on my plane ride home, noting anything I wanted to take action on and dumping anything extraneous. That helped bring a sense of closure to the conference. Of course, I had the notes for reference, but I no longer needed to keep them in my brain.



THERE TRULY is “;TMI”; (too much information) in the world today, and all that information is available at the click of the computer mouse or remote control. And all that information is not a priority for us. Is it really necessary for us to get caught up in the latest celebrity scandal? Do we really need to know the details of Jon and Kate's relationship problems? It might satisfy our curiosity, but does it really have relevance to our lives? If it's not a priority, let's not burden our brains with it.

I heard that the most popular program on the HGTV cable channel is “;House Hunters,”; and I admit I am a fan. It's a good way to relax, but there have been times I had important things I needed to do around the house and found it hard to turn off the program. I finally asked myself, “;Do I really need to know which of the three houses the buyer decided to buy? Does it have any relevance to my life?”; The answer to both was no, so now I just turn it off if needed. By doing so, I can attend to important matters.

Trivia can be heard in inane cell phone conversations or talk shows in which little of value is being discussed. I used to see such trivia as merely wasted time and energy, but now I realize it can also affect our ability to function and remember more important things.

Prioritizing is needed in all areas of life — spending money, deciding who to spend time with and even what we keep in our brains. Knowing what's important, focusing on that and letting the rest slide by will not leave us lacking, but create more space for what's important.

I encourage you to consciously prioritize and be selective in what you allow into your home, business, brain and life! See you in two weeks!



“;It's About Time,”; by professional organizer Ruth Wong, owner of Organization Plus, runs on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.