McGill neuroscientist Daniel Levitin studies the impact of multi-tasking and information overload on our minds. Recently, on CBC’s Q, he gave listeners a few quick tips on how to organize time and preserve mental real estate.
- Use the external cues to save brain storage space. So for example, if you know you’re going out after work tomorrow and the weather forecast calls for evening rain, put your umbrella by the door rather than wasting mental space trying to remember to bring it in the morning.
- When you get up in the morning, consider your priorities for the day and write them down. This practice prevents you from getting pulled into the first unimportant task that arrives in your inbox. Revisit and re-order your priorities a few times over the course of your day.
- Once or twice per day, engage in a mind-clearing exercise by writing down every single thing that’s clouding your mind or bothering you. Seeing your concerns written out will help you decide when and how to take care of each item, and will clear up mental space.
- Enforce productivity by disconnecting from your email periodically. For example, take a 90-minute period to work solidly on one task; let people know that you won’t be available by email during that period.