5 Steps to Sharpen Performance

June 6, 2013

Have you ever had a nagging feeling that there's something you're supposed to be doing, but aren't quite sure what it is? Do you find yourself constantly checking email, "just in case" something has changed or something new has dropped on your plate?

What if you could dispel this feeling of nagging stress once and for all and instead of effortless productivity? You can. Here's how.

Step #1: Do a Brain Dump
If you have a lot of tasks stored in your head and not in a task organization system, do a brain dump. Sit for an hour and literally write down everything you're "supposed" to do. It can be anything from picking up batteries at the grocery store to filing the new quarterly reports.

Keep asking yourself "is there more?" until you can't think of anything else that you need to do. You should have a list with dozens, if not hundreds of tasks.
Now file this list of tasks into some sort of system. Asana is a great tool to use for task management. Use whatever tool works for you, even if it's just pen and paper.

Step 2: Capture New Tasks in Real Time
Whenever a new task lands on your lap, capture it in real time. This becomes super easy if you have a smartphone.

Just whip out your phone and just type in your new task. For instance, let's say you organize your tasks in Evernote. Just pull out your Evernote app and add it right there.

If you don't use a digital storage system, just send yourself an email. When you check your email later, move the task to whatever task storage system works for you.

Stop storing tasks in your memory. It causes a lot of stress, because your mind will always need to be on the lookout. You'll always be wondering if you're forgetting something, because you don't have a consistent system for capturing new tasks as they land on your lap.

Step 3: Meditate on the Clutter or Stress
Whenever you feel that nagging stress, meditate. It could just be a 3 minute meditation. Sit, breathe and notice.

What physical sensations arise in your body as you notice the stress? What emotions are you feeling? Does the stress go through different stages? Shine the light of awareness on the stress, without seeking to change it.

Just awareness alone can be incredibly powerful. Meditating on the stress a few times will give you invaluable insights on where the stress is coming from and how to ease it out of your life.

Step 4: Practice Saying "Yes" to Tasks Fully
When you start a task, practice saying "yes!" to that task. For instance, let's say you decide to spend 15 minutes researching a potential hire's background. Instead of feeling the "draw" of other tasks while you're doing your research, practice being a full "yes!" to the current task.

Step 5: Treat the Task as Meditation
In meditation, you're regularly bringing your attention back to one focus. Usually, it's the breath. The mind might wander or get caught up in other emotions, in which case you just bring it back.

Do the same with your work. Practice noticing when your mind or attention has wandered. Then, gently bring it back to your current task, without any self-judgment. It's a practice, not a perfect.

These five steps can help you quickly clear up background stress and sharpen your mental performance. Start by getting your tasks out of your head and into an organizational system. Then, use mindfulness and meditation to navigate any remaining stress.