Do you ever find yourself coming up with analogies to help describe the way you are currently feeling? Perhaps it's just me but I currently feel like a pinball machine - I just can’t seem to switch my brain off! It’s something that I find particularly noticeable in times of slower activity which, with a vast reduction in my ability to undertake photoshoots and weddings over the last few months, pretty much sums up my current situation.
When I have client work to focus on, there is a clear path - I can easily schedule my time around the important tasks that need to be completed such as photoshoots, editing and admin. But during this time of slower activity, my brain still wants to be just as active. With less client work to concentrate on my brain is suddenly filled with an infinite amount of potential tasks - old tasks that were discarded before they were complete, half-baked tasks that needed a dose of inspiration and new ideas ready and waiting to be explored. With so many potential paths to follow I find my brain pinging back and forth like a ball in a pinball machine.
An idea will pop into my head which I’ll flip around, only for it to bounce back and forth and be lost a short time later. Over time (maybe after a week or two, maybe after only an hour) the idea will be back, flipped around and lost all over again. In the meantime, other ideas will come and go, bounce around and be lost the same way. It’s too frenetic - the ideas move too quickly and I just can’t seem to slow them down. I desperately want to remove the never-ending supply of ideas and settle on just 2 or 3. That way, I can exchange my pinball-machine brain for a game of snooker instead. I can stand back, view the ideas from all angles and then, only when I’m ready, make my move in a steady and measured way.
Sound familiar? If so then perhaps the following strategies will help:
Put pen to paper - it’s as simple as that! Grab a notebook and a pen and just start writing. Brain dump all of the thoughts that you have swirling around, either in the form of a list or, as is my preference, a stream of consciousness detailing any little thing that pops into your head. You can set a timer or aim for a certain number of pages. I normally find that around 15 minutes is a good amount of time for me to start feeling more focussed - I’ll grab a cup of coffee and by the time I’ve finished drinking, my thoughts will be much more coherent.
It’s amazing how stepping away from your desk can clear your thoughts. If I find myself in a never-ending loop or find that my brain just can’t settle on one task, I’ll force myself to step away for a period of time. I find that this isn’t normally cured by stepping away just to make a hot drink. Instead, I’ll try and get out for a short walk or, if I’m at home, take a shower. I find that by tricking my brain into thinking about something completely different, I can cut through the noise and focus on what is important - a bit like rebooting a computer by turning it off and on again!
Often, actually talking about all of the ideas that you have swirling around in your head can help you put things into perspective. Make some time to chat to a business buddy who understands what it is like to be running a small business. You’ll soon work out which ideas are worth spending extra time on and which ideas you can put aside for another day (or are worth forgetting about completely).
I'm intending on starting this new quarter by taking a step back and practicing all of these strategies in the hopes that I can transform my pinball-machine brain into the aforementioned snooker match! Do you have any other strategies that you find helpful when your mind is racing?