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writing

Sometimes I find that my head is just too full. Accumulated minor worries and under-developed ideas have a cost to my attention on the present moment, reducing my basic mental agility and awareness. Fortunately, there is a solution - empty your head!

I first started to notice the value of writing down passing thoughts while in university at Southampton. The university environment is a place of extensive note-taking, and when that had become a large part of my life, I developed the habit of noting down just about any random thought passing through my head. This freed my mind to focus on the task at hand and allowed me to revisit any ideas worth developing further.

My student blog had a similar value in that it allowed me to express myself in a more free-form format about my general experiences on the course. Eventually I decided to try keeping a personal diary to see if summarising my experiences on a daily basis would help me to better express myself or at least clear my head of some of the myriad thoughts constantly floating around.

I was surprised at how effective the diary was for clearing out stale thoughts, organising my immediate concerns and allowing me to revisit potentially good ideas. I kept it for about a year and took the opportunity to improve my handwriting, learn about fountain pens and generally improve my written communication. After some time, I stopped using paper and started putting it all in the cloud. Now some of the more useful ideas end up on my blog.

Too much to think about?

People express themselves in different ways, but the important thing is just to express your ideas, thoughts and worries somewhere. Personally, I find that simply writing stuff down is highly effective. I note down anything I think may be significant and come back to it later if the idea continues to resonate, or just let it go if not.

Writing stuff down clears space in your head so you can focus on other things. If you have accumulated too many stray thoughts it can be difficult to put them aside and focus on what you need to do. Recording them somewhere is like garbage collection for the brain. It gives you space to think in. It forces you to give shape to your ideas and worries, developing them to the point where you can simply discard them or have something better to work on next time it comes up.

As a side-effect, you will become a better writer. Better at self-expression. This can be a huge benefit to all areas of life, both personally and professionally.