One of our superpowers as women is our ability to think of ALL the things.
Mentally keep track of multiple projects. Brain tabs open on what family members and colleagues are up to. Constant scheduling Tetris.
Our brains, our mental capacity for organisation is phenomenal.
The challenge with this is its noisy!
It’s the lying awake at night, brain whirring with things to do.
It’s being in the shower and remembering something you’d forgotten.
It’s waking up and mentally rearranging your day before you’ve even gotten out of bed.
All the chores and errands and events you mentally keep track of.
And that’s just managing your stuff.
Hands up if you also mentally carry the load for organising other people? Knowing what a team member should be working on. Remembering someone’s lunch. Reminding your partner to book that appointment.
It’s a lot.
And it’s distracting.
It clouds your judgement. Makes it harder to focus. More task switching.
Not to mention stressful. And impacting your sleep.
It’s so natural for us as women to keep taking it all. To have all the mental tabs open. So we don’t even really notice the noise anymore. It’s been there for so long that we’ve normalised it.
But just because it’s normal, doesn’t mean we need to live with the effort and the disruption. So here are some ideas on what you can do to reduce your mental load.
Make Decisions and Stick to Them
The inspiration for this post was me mentally juggling whether I would go for my weekly celebration coffee date.
Do I do it later in the day? Maybe move it to another day? Could I just do it at home? All of that chatter stops if I commit to my celebration coffee date happening on Friday, at lunchtime. Full stop.
Making decisions stops the negotiation. The back and forth.
Sometimes the decisions need to be ‘No, I’m not doing that’ and moving on. Don’t keep rehashing it. (Read more about decision making here.)
This also goes for excuses.
Notice when the mind chatter is excuses. Stories. Making up reasons to not do things the way you wanted to or the way you decided.
This comes up alllllllll the time with working out. You book the class, the gym session, feel amped about it. Then the time approaches and your brain goes bananas. My go to with this? You never regret a workout.
Be clear in your decisions. When you notice excuses or renegotiation, remind yourself, ‘I’ve already decided x is happening, moving on.’
Treat People As Adults
You’re not actually responsible for a lot of the things you take on mentally.
As women we’re nurturers. Looking out for others is instinctive. But it pays to remind ourselves that other people are capable humans and CAN look after themselves. We don’t HAVE to take it all on.
I can hear the objections now.
‘But they won’t do it like I do.’ ‘They’ll forget.’ ‘If I don’t remind them, it won’t get done.’
Is it that the task won’t get done, or it is that it won’t happen on YOUR timeline?
Is it that the task won’t get done, or is it that it won’t get done YOUR way?
More importantly, how are you benefiting from being the organiser?
It is a sense of control. Do you feel loved and important from having such a central role? Is this a big source of self esteem for you?
I get it, this is a challenge to our identities for a lot of us.
So I’m not asking you to change everything overnight.
The easiest place to start is the stuff that doesn’t affect you. If your man doesn’t book the massage he’s been mentioning, who cares. If your sister keeps talking about having you over for dinner and doesn’t plan it, that’s on her. Let adults organise themselves.
The last thing to mention here is watch out for taking responsibility for how people feel.
Worrying that someone is bored/unhappy/frustrated in a situation. Unless they tell you, you don’t know. If you suspect, you can ask. But if they say they are fine, believe them. Take their word at face value. Allow the other person to be responsible for themselves, for articulating their feelings and their needs. Otherwise you’re going to second guess yourself in oblivion and that is a whole lot of mental chatter.
Make Work Visible
At work, if you find yourself being a linchpin for the team, mentally keeping track of who’s working on what, where various tasks are up to, then you need to find a way to get that project management out of your brain.
Get it somewhere visible so the team can know where they’re up to without asking you. Everytime they ask you a question, that is another interruption. More task switching is more noise.Whether you use a whiteboard or an online tool, it doesn’t matter as long as everyone has access.
When the team does ask you, ask them if they’ve checked the project board first. The path of least resistance will be to keep asking you so you need to coach them to look for the information for themselves. Set that boundary!
Couple of things to think about when developing a team project space:
- Do it as a team. Involve everyone in the process so they buy into it. So they can contribute their ideas and get their own painpoints addressed.
- Be clear on how the space will be maintained. Who will update it. When will it be updated.
- Set a regular time to review it as a whole team. Then you talk through the latest changes and make sure everyone is on the same page. This cuts down on a lot of conversations.
You can also do this for your own work.
Reduce the Number of Projects
Take stock of how many balls you have in the air.
How many projects are on the go? How many little jobs around the house? Every single one of those things is taking up mental space. Adding to your mental load.
List them alllllllll out.
Where are the easy wins? Things you can get ticked off and it’s out of your head.
Pick three things that you’re going to actively work on. Do those and forget the rest.
Keep the list of everything else handy. Add to it when you think of something else (because we all know you will).
When you finish one of your three priorities, you pick the next thing from that last.
Focus creates progress. Trying to do everything all at once is overwhelming. Which can paralyse you, not knowing where to start.
And when you spread your energy across lots of things, you only make incremental progress across them. That’s not very satisfying so not particularly motivating.
When you focus on a few things, you actually get stuff finished. Which is satisfying, motivating and makes you want to do the next thing. It feels counter intuitive but actually stopping something can end up getting it done faster.
Also ask yourself, are you wrapping things up?
Feeling scattered and like you’ve got a million things on the go can be because you’re not finishing things completely before moving on.
I’m guilty of this, getting excited about the new shiny thing and starting that before I’ve fully completed the previous project. Then that project lingers. A really great way to avoid this (so you don’t need the clean up process described above) is to work with your cycle.
Use the four phases of your cycle for the inspiration, initiation, execution and wrap up of your projects.
Notice the Space Created
Often when I talk to clients about how they want to feel words like ease, peace, calm, vibrant, free come up.
Lot’s of mental noise is the opposite of all of those things.
Actively working to reduce your noise creates space.
Space for inspiration.
Space for creativity.
Space for play.
Space for rest.
It’s from here that you can tune into yourself. Hear your intuition. Be more connected.
And that can feel scary, even when it’s what you say you want.
My life coaching is a safe place to explore all of those conflicting feelings. To acknowledge and own what you WANT (maybe for the first time) and equally express the fear, worry and concerns that come up.
Three months of unwavering support and guidance through all the highs and lows of making lasting, transformative change.
To help you find a way forward even when it feels like the detracting feelings are stronger than what you want.
So if you REALLY want to reduce the mental chatter in your life so you can connect with yourself more and sleep better at night, complete the self-reflection questionnaire and take the first step!