Mind Sweep

coffee13.jpgIn front of me is a yellow legal pad.  The first page is full and I am now about halfway through the second page.  I am working on a "Mind Sweep."  I was first introduced to the value of a Mind Sweep through David Allen’s fine book, Getting Things Done.  The idea is that you sit down with paper, pen, (or you could do this electronically) and write down EVERYTHING that is on your mind. 

The first time that I did this was at a seminar.  The presenter said that we were going to take five minutes to write down everything that was on our minds.  I thought, "Well this won’t take long."  I immediately wrote down about seven or eight different items that I knew I had been thinking about.  (i.e. change the oil, prepare message, prepare for meeting, pick up air conditioning filters at Wal-Mart, etc.)  Then as I sat staring at the legal pad, I began to think of other things.  Things that were on my mind.  People who I needed to call or e-mail.  Something I needed to tell Charlotte.  The title of a book I was trying to remember.  By the end of the exercise, I had written about twenty- five different items that had been in my head.  It was amazing to see all that I was either trying to remember or was thinking about in some way.

Now I did this to help with my own personal organization, productivity, etc.  (These things have a way of creating stress by just remaining in our heads.  Far better to get them out on paper and deal with them in some way.)

I have also found a value for doing this that goes beyond the "Getting Things Done" approach.  I have found that very often, I just don’t realize what has been preoccupying my mental and emotional energy until I see it on paper.  Oh I could have told you a few things that I had been thinking about but not all of them.

In this exercise, I begin to realize a few things that have been on my mind for which I need to pray instead of worry.  Sometimes in doing this, I realize that I have been giving a disproportionate amount of time to some things which are really not that important while avoiding (procrastinating) some other matters which are much more important.

At times when doing this exercise, I realize that my mind has been preoccupied with far too many negative thoughts.  Sometimes I realize as I write down these thoughts that some of these preoccupations are sinful and fly against the character of God.  Again, there is something about writing down what I REALLY am thinking about that can help realize is actually on my mind.  (Most of us are probably thinking about much more than we realize.)

There is nothing magical about this exercise.  Rather, it is simply a help in getting a handle on the reality of what really is taking place in our minds.  Taking the time to be real and describe what really is may in fact be the first step to addressing some of these issues.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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14 thoughts on “Mind Sweep

  1. Jim, thanks for mentioning this.  I think sometimes making lists has a similar effect.  But I can see how that practice is different from a mind sweep.  Making lists is all about tasks and usually nothing more. 
    I have a practical question.  You mentioned the legal pad.  Do you think it’s better for you to actually write out the stuff longhand?  Or is that just your preference?

  2. Frank,I honestly don’t know whether I think it is better or not.  Probably, I prefer to write this by hand because I want to avoid the temptation to get distracted by the computer (at least that is a temptation for me.)  In terms of the process, it probably doesn’t matter. 

  3. I have, in some of my reading, run across the concept of the "monkey mind", which, I think, describes very well how the brain tends to flit from one thing to another and seems to have difficulty settling down long enough to pray or meditate.  Perhaps this "mind sweep" would help settle the "monkey mind."  🙂

  4. Oh, this reminds me of what I was saying the other day in the comments. So there’s a name for it. I like it. Mind sweep. (Technically, I guess, it’s not so much a sweep as a rearrangement from right brain to left, where things can begin to be handled. On that note, I wonder which side of the brain prayer issues from! : )

  5. L.L.–I will have to go back through you comments and read what you said.  I missed that.You are right.  It is very much a rearrangement. 

  6. what a great idea…
    i liken my brain to that of the computer…if i give my brain too many tasks to do all at once it struggles, it bogs down, it spends lots of time on the stupic programs that dont mean much when i need the big important ones to open.
    by doing this exercise, on a regular basis, i can see the efficiency of keeping the brain occupied with what matters and not get tied up in emotional weardown of stuff i really just need to put on a list, hand it to God and let HIM handle it instead of giving it a nice warm fuzzy nest to brood in.
    gonna spend some MIND CLEARING time today…on the swing, in the sun.

  7. I have a friend who gave me a less delicate phrase—sit down with the empty paper and ‘barf out’ all that’s in your mind. I like mind sweep better 🙂  Yet, it acheives the same goal: get the thoughts and feelings out there so you can do something constructive with them. Great post.

  8. maryann,You express this so well.   I really like what you say about the brain being like a computer.  It is very easy to get bogged down.  Thanks for what you said.