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Organize thoughts: 3 simple methods

An app reminds us to drink water, the wristwatch counts calories. Everyday life is optimized, but does that really clear our heads?

You get up, reach for your smartphone. An app knows exactly how many hours you slept and when you had particularly intense dreams. It has calculated exactly when you should wake up in order to start the day fit and rested. You get up, stretch and stretch. On your way to the bathroom you choose a yoga exercise. After brushing your teeth, hit the mat for a 15-minute session. Strengthened your core? Check. Calories burned? Check.

What's missing is the perfect meal. The push notification tells you that you are ovulating today! One look at your smartphone is enough to find out which nutrients you need and how many of them. Finally settled at the kitchen table, you enter how much time your morning routine has taken you. A whole two minutes less than yesterday! Satisfied, you lean back. Today will be a good day.

What sounds like the beginning of a science fiction movie is already reality. In everyday life, we all like to fall back on little tools and helpers that are supposed to make it easier for us to organize our lives, get things done, and not stress ourselves out in the process. So every little ritual suddenly becomes a to-do that has to be completed.

Are we only dealing with gimmicks that at best fool us into thinking we've done more? Actually, there should be more time left over in the end that we can use for organizing our thoughts and ideas. But is that really true or are we just using the wrong methods?

The crux of small steps

Everyone knows how satisfying it is to work through a to-do list. No matter if we have to go to the post office after work or write down our shopping list, as soon as we put a check mark, a feeling of satisfaction sets in. Lists help us to keep track of things, to not forget little things, to capture thoughts and impulses. So far, so helpful. Being on top of things doesn't mean we're automatically more productive, though.

"Is productivity the sum of the items checked off or is productivity the achievement of a larger goal?"

A fair question, which reporter Jan Vollmer answered in a Article for which t3n provides. The problem with mini goals: They break our everyday life down into many small steps. More and more rarely, we have the feeling of being in "flow": a state in which we concentrate on one thing for a longer period of time. In flow, we forget about time and also about drinking enough water, and we don't take a break until we have completed a thought, a task or an idea.

But didn't we read somewhere the other day that it's best to work in intervals, never longer than 25 minutes at a time? Or no, wasn't it about setting blocks of time where you can be as undisturbed as possible and work on large tasks at a time?

We think it's time to take a step back. Because not everything works for everyone and anyway it's almost impossible to define a uniform way of working for the many different types of workthat exist among us.

True to the motto "Keep it simple" we want to get away from the tool madness and towards simple tools that support analogue and classic ways of getting things done. All you need is paper and pen!

1. the bullet journal

The Bullet journal method was largely influenced by Ryder Carroll, and is especially helpful in this regard, Clarity into the chaos of thoughts and to organize different areas of life. With a bullet journal you will succeed, separate different tasks from each other in terms of content.

A bullet journal is characterized by the fact that it is can be completely personalized. You can make any notebook your personal bullet journal and work only with the colors, drawings and shapes that you enjoy and motivate you.

Carroll himself told author Tim Maurer "It's really a mindfulness practice that's disguised as a productivity system," referring mostly to the time you spend with yourself and your own thoughts while you journal. The bullet journal is about going inside yourself, putting your thoughts on paper, engaging with yourself. This is how you find out what is really important to you and what moves youinstead of just bluntly writing down to-do's.

You can start by simply recording a calendar view for yourself. The main symbols for each day are: A dot for a task, a minus for a note, a circle for an appointment. You can also divide a day into morning, noon, and night. How about starting the morning with some questions to yourself and looking inside yourself instead of immediately to roll onto the yoga mat?

For example, ask yourself how you feel, what you would like to achieve today, who you would particularly like to talk to today. In the evening, you can reflect on what you were grateful for, whether you have learned something new or simply write down a sentence that has remained in your memory.

2. the habit wheel

The Habit-Wheel comes from journaling and helps you to keep track of things in the long term - in just a few seconds a day. The big advantage of the Habit-Wheel is that you can keep track of several small things at once - without having to constantly check your smartphone.

Meditate, read, take a walk, clean up, whatever you have done in a day, you can record in the Habit-Wheel. It's not about how much time you spent on a particular activity. Rather, you can remind yourself what does you good and what little routines you would like to follow every day.

At Internet you will find a variety of templates that you can print out. The Habit-Wheel can also be drawn quite easily. Once you have filled out your Habit Wheel for a few months, you will certainly recognize your patterns. There may even be identifiable periods during a month when you find it harder to follow your habits. Remember, it's not so much about optimizing yourself as it is about figuring yourself out.

3. brainwalking

Move gets us going and not only on a physical level. Maybe you've had a brilliant idea in the shower. Or an important appointment occurred to you while you were standing in the kitchen making yourself a coffee.

Brainwalking is a creative method for exactly such flash ideas and ensures that important things and spontaneous ideas do not get lost in everyday life. You can turn your whole apartment, your room or your workplace into a playground for your creativity.

Just get yourself some colorful Post-Its and pens and place them wherever you might get good ideas: on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on your coat rack, next to the coffee maker, on your laptop, or maybe even on the dining room table. That way, you'll always have all the tools at hand when you think of something important.

Many people feel stressed just by the thought that they might forget something. Brainwalking is a great way to stay mentally flexible and capture ideas in the momentwhen they come to you, not when you HAVE to think about them.

Even if you are specifically looking for a flash of inspiration, you can use this method step by step to come up with new thoughts. In summer, brainwalking can even be easily implemented outdoors! With a little preparation, you can set up different stops in your garden, a nearby city park or on your way to work. At each stop, jot down a new thought. This will engage all your senses and at the same time provide your brain with fresh air.

Brainwalking is not necessarily a method to get you organized, yet it helps, work productively and creatively on problems and works especially without WLAN connection!

With fun against stress

You see, analog self-organization is not difficult. It may require a little more motivation and initiative, but in the end it is above all fun and frees you from the eternal productivity compulsion. The methods presented here are less about getting even more done in even less time and thus optimizing all work processes, but rather about creative and playful ways of sorting oneself and one's thoughts.

It is important that you find out what suits you. Maybe it helps you to track your everyday life down to the smallest detail. But maybe it's also more fun for you to implement your tasks with more spontaneity. Your goals are there to be achieved at your pace. Keep it simple!

This article is a guest contribution from


The online editorial team of Germany's most popular meditation app 7Mind shows that mindfulness is more than just a bulky word. The team writes about relevant topics for working people, stressed big and small city dwellers and everyone who is still searching for the good life. Scientifically sound, with backgrounds from psychology and research, always paired with the necessary portion of Berlin serenity.