Your brain is a factory, not a storage facility

Posted by in Productivity

Do you find yourself constantly thinking about work at home – or vice versa? If you experience this sort of situational overlap, it most likely stems from an attempt to utilize your brain as a storage facility – which it most certainly is not.

Your brain, the world’s most amazing factory

As capable as our brains may be, they simply weren’t built to handle the amounts of information presented to us by a culture in which it has become a source of abundance and omnipresence. Certainly, we are capable of storing a staggering amount of information (and some people seem to have a special knack for it) if one considers our heritage as tree-dwelling primates, but the true purpose of the brain is to serve as a factory.

And not just any factory.

Arguably the most complicated machinery on the planet, our brain excels at gathering and combining information in an attempt to wrest meaning; to solve problems; and to reason; comprehend abstract problems; communicate; and so much more. This is what we are good at. Memorizing a phone book; not so much.

Still, without a simple, readily accessible and trustworthy system for storing and recalling information when required, our brains will attempt to retain information it considers valuable. As a person who possesses absolutely no credentials in the field of biology, I nonetheless venture that this seemingly innate reflex arose at a time where survival depended on the ability to recall crucial information – from a very scarce selection of it.

The simple solution

Processing information consumes attention; storing it consumes energy and focus. Borrowing from David Allen’s analogy of open loops, anything which hasn’t been resolved will occupy part of what is often perceived as unlimited storage space – although the truth is far from it. The amount of information you attempt to store internally correlates not only directly to your stress levels, but also the frequency with which you will experience situational overlaps.

If you’re having trouble sleeping at night due to not being able to stop thinking about certain pressing matters, this is a highly likely culprit.

But if something is amiss in such a highly delicate machinery as the brain, how can you possibly fix it? The answer is easy: write things down. This is one of the main reasons as to why David Allen‘s well-known concept of Getting Things Done has such a broad appeal; it places a great emphasis on allowing the placement of information of all sorts in a trusted, categorized system which preferably also should be easily accessible to its owner.

Lastly; a dirty little secret

Guess what? You don’t need to purchase an advanced productivity system to improve upon your status quo. A simple notebook and a pen will suffice, as switching information from internal to external storage will automatically engage the brain’s wondrous capability of creating order out of chaos. This, subsequently, will cause a system to emerge in the proper time and fashion – at which point you will be ready to make the switch from reactive to proactive information management.