In 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.