Creating Brain Space to Get Things Done


As a teacher and parent, the beginning of the school year can feel chaotic, the to-do list daunting. So many things to do, not enough time, everything converging at once. My autoimmune disease flares, my body betrays me begging me to stop. I give lip service to the calm and rest my body desires knowing I've pushed through this predictable storm before. When done right, I know this push lays a full year's foundation of competence and calm versus chaos and confusion. Often the opportunity for painstaking fastidiousness is an unattainable luxury. Regardless, the promise of a new year and a new season inspires the push through the pain, the push through the storm, the goal to give my students and children my best foot forward.

Although driven to get underway, my disorganized thoughts whirl. They bite, devouring my productivity. I become the proverbial deer in headlights.


For this reason, I externalize. I grasp and wrestle every whirling thought and ram them through my pen onto the paper before at least one escapes to that place. That place just below your consciousness. The ethereal thought is there and some of your energy goes on the quest to retrieve it. You don't know if you will find it, you can’t remember if it is important or should be left to evaporate. You couldn't wrestle it fast enough, and it keeps poking and nudging, an energy-consuming distraction to your cause.


The list is long, seemingly endless. But the tornado of unwritten bullets was even more debilitating and exhausting.


It is time to dawn the blinders limiting my vision to one task, breaking it down to its nuts and bolts.

One task is completed. The feeling of crossing off that first goal creates an audible sigh.


Effort is made to look at only the next line. I cross off the second task.


The third task is completed. Once momentum takes hold, the audible sigh transforms despair into confidence. You can do this. You've got this.


As much as there is so often a detour or dead end amidst the process, one should not underestimate the power of externalization. By getting the swirling and whirling to exit, knowing all those ideas are accounted for on paper or the computer, your brain no longer needs to spend energy shielding itself from the internal storm. The brain space can now be used to get things done.