Write Everything Down • Cat Morley

Welcome to FiloCat, my new podcast, video & handbook for getting organized, on top of your work and making time for your real passions in life!


For years I use to lay awake at night unable to sleep - partly from a bad sleeping pattern or eating cheese just before bed, but mainly because my brain just wouldn't shut up. I had all kinds of ideas bouncing around in my mind and they'd keep me up until the early hours when my body would eventually give in to exhaustion. The next day I'd wake up feeling drained, unable to remember any of the wonderful things I'd thought up before falling sleep. It's not just at night when ideas can eat away at you though. Whether it's an important email you need to send at work, an amazing idea that’s too good to forget or something you need to remember to pick up when you’re in town next time - all these little ideas spin around and around in your head, even at times when there’s nothing you can do about them and unless you find a way to shut them up, they will distract you, stress you out and ruin your effectiveness at doing whatever you’re trying to do.

To combat my sleeping problems, I started keeping a notepad in my bedside drawer so that I could write down ideas that came to me during the night. I’d write down everything - from things I was worried about and things I had to do the next day to lyrics for songs and dreams I wanted to achieve someday. Though I wasn’t doing anything about my tasks, worries or ideas at the time, the simply act of writing them down was enough to clear my head and calm myself down enough to sleep. It was so relaxing when I didn't have to worry about forgetting ideas and I soon started carrying a notebook with me wherever I went, so I could capture all my thoughts on the go too. If you’re feeling stressed about your life and all the things you have to do, this episode is designed to empty your head of all the things that are stressing you out, jog your memory and start a useful new habit. Let’s get started…


Step 1. Empty your head

Turn to the Thought List in your handbook or grab the closest pad of paper and a pen and start writing down everything that's on your mind - from the big to small, no matter how silly or unimportant the thoughts may seem - from needing to buy milk or wanting to read a certain book to lifetime ambitions or scary problems you have to tackle. Anything that's eating away at you, bothering you, inspiring you and exciting you. Make a list and don't worry about how long it gets. The longer it is the better you’re doing at the task.

Things that are currently on my mind include Mother's Day which is this weekend, our upcoming trip to Japan, the ring pillow I've promised to make for my friend Jenny's wedding and the tartan dress I'd like to sew to wear to the wedding. The Figaro car I'm dreaming about owning one day, Crafterella's third comic, the parcel paper I want to remember to buy on my way home, a new cafe called Milk that's just opened in the city, my blog, the roomba I'd like to own and my sore knee I hurt while jogging.

Once you remember one thing such as needing to buy parcel paper, a bunch of other things you need to buy might pop in to your mind - or all the things you want to make with the parcel paper - or completely unrelated things that rhyme like make a mummy costume out of toilet paper - just write write write!


Step 2. Add an emotion

As your writing each thought down, take in to account how you’re feeling about the particular thought and note down the emotion, such as want , need, worried, stressed or excited about.

I want to plan something for Mother's Day and I'm a little stressed about our upcoming trip to Japan. I need to make a ring pillow for my friend's wedding and I'd like to sew a dress to wear to it. I'd also like to pick up some parcel paper on my way home and I’d like try out the new restaurant which has opened. I wish I owned a Figaro car and I wish I had a Roomba to do my hoovering. I'm excited about working on my blog and I’m excited about starting Crafterella's third comic. I'm also worried about my knee which I hurt while jogging.

Your list is likely to have a big mix of emotions, both positive and negative and in no particular order. The feeling adds context to the thoughts while providing a sense of urgency which is helpful when deciding what to prioritise.


Step 3. Jog your memory

Now ask yourself, what else are you...

Unhappy about?
Excited about?
Sad about?
Worried about?
Stressed about?
Anxious about?
Nervous about?
Needing to do?
Hoping to do?
Wanting to do?
Wishing to have, own or do?

Add all of these to your Thought List along with the associated feeling.

Look back at the things you've listed, do they remind you of anything else? List them down too. Are there any projects you're currently working on or want to start? List those too. Any upcoming trips or birthdays or events? List them down!

As your head begins to clear, jog your memory - look around the room where you're sitting to see if that makes you think of anything. If you're at home or in your office there's probably a million things to jog your memory - from a clock that's ran out of batteries or an empty picture frame needing filled to a pile of papers needing shredded to a letter from a friend you have to reply to. There are lots of triggers in the outside world too, even if you're not at home right now. The person opposite you in a cafe might have a nice coat, and oh, that reminds you that you need to buy a new coat or repair the lining fabric in your pocket that has a hole in it. I'm sure you've got the idea by now but write it all down…


Step 4. Make a trigger sheet

Turn to Trigger Cheat Sheet Page of your handbook or take a fresh sheet of paper and divide it into four by drawing a cross through the middle. Label the four different quadrants as Work, Home, Personal and Social. This is going to be a trigger cheat sheet which will help us clear our mind and remember all the things we have to do.

In the Work section, write words like Office, Phone, Intray, Email, Messages, Paperwork and any other generic work-related objects, places or things that might stir up thoughts and ideas. List specific things like your job, blog, shop or school. Also, list any projects you’re working on or hope to start someday soon.

Moving on, list all the rooms in your house under the Home section and write words like Errands, Shopping, Mail, Repairs, Decorating, Cooking, Cleaning, Pets and any generic home-relating things you can think of. You might want to add Bag or Pocket too if you’re prone to picking things up while you’re out and forgetting to empty them when you get home.

In the Social section, write the words Social Media, Events, Birthdays, Travel, Adventures and Restaurants and list the names of all the important people in your life.

As for the Personal section, write words like Goals, Habits, Wishlist, Travel, Ambitions and list all of your hobbies, interests and passions.

I bet you wrote down a few thoughts while you were putting together your trigger list but take a look at each trigger and see if anything else comes to mind. Use the sheet every time you want to empty your mind and feel free to add new triggers as you think of them.


Step 5. Highlight important thoughts

If you noticed a particular thought popping up several times while you were clearing your head, star or highlight it as it's clearly quite important. Highlight any thoughts that have a really strong emotion attached to it too, such as things you're really stressed or excited about, and highlight anything which is really time sensitive too.

I'm highlighting Japan because it's something I'm stressed about that came to mind several times, Mother's Day and the ring pillow I need to sew because they're time sensitive and Crafterella 3 because I'm excited about it!

These thoughts will become our top priorities as we move on, so keep your list safe and in the next episode of FiloCat, I'll show you how to process your thoughts and turn them in the projects you can work on.

By now your head should be feeling nice and clear and even though you've not tackled anything yet, you should be feeling a lot more relaxed about the things you have to do. It's amazing the difference that simply writing things down can make. I'm often surprised at how few things I have to do in real life compared to how much I thought I had to do.

As new thoughts come to mind, add them to your list and repeat this process of clearing your head anytime you feel stressed or can't sleep. It's also great to make this part of your routine and something you do each night before you go to bed or whenever you get some downtime during your day.



Homework:

Because it's important to be able to write down ideas anywhere at anytime, for this week's homework I want you to pop down to your local stationery store and treat yourself to a slim notepad, such as a Moleskin or a Field Note, and a nice pen in your favourite colour. You could even make your own notebook following instructions at Cut Out + Keep. Keep these in your bag so you can write down thoughts while out-and-about and then store them in your bedside drawer at night so you can clear your head before bed.

For the second part of your homework, I'd like you to clear out your head every night at bedtime for the next 30 days and if you're able to do that, it should become a habit keeping your mind stress and care free ongoing. You can use the habit sheet included in your handbook or mark it in your regular calendar and to get you motivated, pick a nice reward you'd like to give yourself once you've achieved your goal - whether it's a nice meal somewhere fancy, a box of your favourite chocolates or something you've wanted for ages on your wishlist. Even though writing down my thoughts is something I've done for a while, I'm going to make sure to do it for 30 days straight too and then reward myself with a handy little Filofax hole punch which will make punching these inserts in to my planner a lot faster.



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