Write it Down – Seriously!

Anyone who knows me personally and reads this is sure to call me out as a hypocrite (and I certainly seem like I’m contradicting myself if you read my last post), but I am bringing this up because I genuinely desire the best for those of you reading this right now!

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Disclaimer: Even though I love baths as much as the next guy, this isn’t my goals list. HOWEVER, this is a great example of something you can make part of your daily routine to maintain focus and track progression towards your goals.

In short, writing down goals, ideas, or even facts about oneself or a situation helps your brain form new connections between those ideas from a neurological standpoint (physical connections between neurons, etc.), but it also helps organize the information from a psychological perspective as well. Logically, this idea of separation between ideas in order to clarify makes sense,  because our brains are only capable of processing so much information at one time via conscious attention to stimuli.

This means that even if you’re thinking about one goal, but there is more than a few factors contributing to your decision making, your brain isn’t capable of taking them all into account at once and you are likely to miss details, and missed details means missing out on successful grades, successful planning at work, or (if you’re a parent) possibly forgetting to bring your kids with you on the way to THEIR school event.

Speaking of details, allow me to elaborate on a few:

Some researchers say that your brain can only process two conversations simultaneously at once. Other researchers say this might not even be true, and that we can only consciously process one ‘thing’ at a time. The group that proposes singular-processing feels that the colloquially accepted phrase of “multi-tasking” is more accurately described as “rapid task-switching.”

Think back to the times you were having a conversation with two people at once; it was definitely manageable, and you at least understood the important parts of what each person was saying, but if you throw just one more conversation into the mix you get overloaded and don’t know what anyone is talking about. The same is true for performing multiple tasks, managing your time for different activities, and organizing ideas in your head.

So what’s the secret to multi-tasking? Or as the researchers put it, rapid task-switching?

Despite popular belief, the answer is not being a woman. However, one thing many women do that allows them to facilitate rapid task-switching so efficiently is- you guessed it- writing it down! This does not mean every task has to be explicitly written via pen and paper, but illustrating a web of ideas or a schedule for a day so you can process it both visually and cognitively allows your brain to process overlapping details it otherwise wouldn’t.

And don’t hate me for citing the overly-referenced statistic… but YOU’RE 42% MORE LIKELY TO ACHIVE A GOAL IF YOU WRITE IT DOWN (according to a study done by a professor from Dominican University in California)!

One statistic many of you might not know, however, is one procured from a study of graduate students in an MBA program at Harvard. Of the students involved in the study, 3% wrote down their goals and aspirations regularly, 13% had goals but had never written them down anywhere, and 84% didn’t have any established goals at all.

The results were shocking: the 13% who had goals but didn’t write them down made 2x as much money as the 84% without goals, but the 3% of students who regularly wrote down goals and worked towards them made, on average, 10x as much money as the other 97% altogether. There was no confirmation or criteria regarding what percentage of students ended up achieving their goals, but obviously it worked out monetarily for the few who regularly wrote these goals down.

I know that I discouraged planning everything down to the minute in a planner, and I stand by the notion that this causes more stress than it dissolves, but when it comes to goal setting, pursuing dreams, organizing ideas, or just simplifying concepts, writing them down and keeping your mind from wandering at all times is as good a way as any to make sure those dreams come true.






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