How to Reduce Stress by Forgetting Things

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The idea of reducing stress through forgetting things seems to be an oxymoron, right? You would think the majority of stress is caused by things you have forgotten to take care of, so forgetting them intentionally would just be asking for trouble. The key is strategically forgetting things through a method where you can "remember" them later.

Ways to reduce stress

Productivity solutions such as David Allen's Getting Things Done espouse techniques such as "mind like water" where you don't try to remember everything that has to be done or managed.  By capturing information into a trusted system you can free those mental cycles while still having confidence nothing will slip through the cracks. Identifying a trusted system is the linchpin of the strategy, because it must be one easily accessed, readily available, reliable, and consistent.

Many people gravitate to digital solutions (I myself use Todoist multiple times a day) while others leverage analog solutions such as Bullet Journaling to get their actions captured in a trusted system.  There is no one solution better than the others, though there are worksheets and methods to help you determine which might work better for you, so understanding what you need to capture and how you capture most effectively becomes the guiding part of the solution.

How to reduce stress by forgetting

In order to reduce your stress by forgetting things begin with these five steps:

  1. Find a tool to use to capture the things you are trying to remember
  2. Write everything down, no matter how trivial it seems to be
  3. Refer back to your system frequently.  We check our phones all the time (probably too often) so if you're checking what the latest Twitter update is you should also check what's next on your list
  4. Update your system frequently. As things are finished, mark them as such. Reorganize, sort, and categorize information as you need to match how you think
  5. Make it a habit. This process will not mature in a day or a week. University College London reports it takes 66 days (not 21) to form an effective habit, so this is a commitment to making the process work

Taking the moment or two to capture a thought or task.  Don't procrastinate by saying "I'll write it down when I get to my destination." The quick capture will make the difference between success and failure. It will also reduce your stress when you finally get comfortable with the idea your system is there to help you every day.

Pro tip for capturing productively

If you're like me an you're a bit of a pen and paper geek you may find the split between wanting to capture things digitally but also enjoying the analog experience a challenge.  Here's a couple of quick suggestions:

  1. Write things down by hand and then take pictures of the content
  2. Hand write ideas and make audio notes into tools like OneNote for retrieval
  3. Use voice dictation systems in tools such as Google Docs to turn your read aloud handwritten notes into digital copy

While none of these tricks are perfect and there will always be some rework, the pleasure you get from using pen and paper will often offset the extra effort in the most pleasant of ways.