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17 Nov

How an increasingly white whiteboard relieves stress

Datum: 2022-11-17 11:00
Three white board markers (one red, one blue, one black) and an eraser sponge, all on a white surface.

There are times when thoughts of work just keep spin­ning through our mind. We have so many things going on now, and so many things to keep track of.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

Your head feels full to the brim with infor­ma­tion and things you must­n’t for­get, we are think­ing of this, that and the oth­er… And OH!…, and there comes a thought regard­ing some­thing you sim­ply can­not for­get. The inten­si­ty of our cur­rent sit­u­a­tion adds to the stress, and at least speak­ing for myself, makes me feel exhaust­ed and weight­ed down.

Ten min­utes with a colleague

Ylva wrote to me and shared her method for clear­ing her mind when there are sim­ply too many thoughts spin­ning and she needs to get an overview of every­thing. I par­tic­u­lar­ly liked one detail in her method, so allow me to share it with you.

She describes how she in sit­u­a­tions like these ask a col­league for a brief meet­ing, say 5 – 10 min­utes. She empha­sizes that she wants to widen her per­spec­tives and hence ask her col­league for spe­cif­ic tips on tan­gents to all the things that are on her mind which could get her to think dif­fer­ent­ly about her prob­lems and con­cerns. This is sim­i­lar to part of the Whim­bey TAPPS-method (Think­ing Aloud Pair Prob­lem Solv­ing).

Emp­ty­ing one’s mind

They meet in front of a white­board and Ylva writes up all the thoughts and issues that are clut­ter­ing her mind. She draws cir­cles and arrows to show how the issues are inter­re­lat­ed and influ­ence each oth­er. The col­league thinks out loud and reflects on what she has writ­ten on the board. They make adjust­ments and com­ple­ment the board’s con­tent togeth­er. As soon as they con­clude on a next step that should be tak­en regard­ing some­thing, Ylva adds it to her to-do-list and as they resolve some aspect, thought or issue she com­plete­ly eras­es it from the whiteboard.

… and the board

And as they go through every­thing that has been on her mind, and less and less items are left on the white­board, it becomes increas­ing­ly white again and the to-do-list gets filled with con­crete tasks to make her progress. Final­ly the white­board is emp­ty and Ylva describes how the things that pre­vi­ous­ly dis­tract­ed and both­ered her now feel much lighter. This visu­al and sym­bol­ic aspect of how the white­board regains its white­ness as she becomes increas­ing­ly clear on what needs to be done, real­ly appeals to me.

Do you feel like try­ing this method?

If so, do this

  1. If you have time to do so imme­di­ate­ly, get your­self to a white­board. If you are busy and want to try this lat­er, check you cal­en­dar and reserve a win­dow of 15 min­utes some­time in the next few days. If you do not have a col­league avail­able, then do this on your own. If you do not have a white­board, do this dig­i­tal­ly on your iPad or Android-tablet. If you do not have any dig­i­tal tools at hand — sim­ply grab an emp­ty sheet of paper, a pen­cil and an eraser.
  2. Now emp­ty out your thoughts onto the sur­face of your choice. Even if you are not in a chaot­ic sit­u­a­tion at the moment, this will still ben­e­fit you, so write down all the work relat­ed issues which are on your mind at the moment. How exten­sive or large are the dif­fer­ent things” in rela­tion to each oth­er? Where on the sur­face do you write them down in order to make them cor­re­spond to how they feel to you? How are they related?
  3. As soon as you think of some­thing you can do about some­thing, for­mu­late a to-do-task and add it to your list.
  4. If you should feel that the map of all the things on your mind could be regard­ed as valu­able ref­er­ence infor­ma­tion, take a pic­ture of it before you begin eras­ing anything.
  5. You then erase every item” you find a solu­tion for as soon as you have defined the first step you will take.
  6. Con­tin­ue doing this until the entire sur­face is empty.
  7. Notice how this is mak­ing you feel. Relieved, like Ylva (and myself when I do this)? Eager to get start­ed with the con­crete tasks you have defined? Well, leave the exer­cise and get going then!

Emp­ty and easy

If you make a visu­al depic­tion and sketch out all your ongo­ing things and thoughts, it is eas­i­er to see every thing in a much more bal­anced light and put all your engage­ments in the right pro­por­tion. Instead of hav­ing all these thoughts spin­ning round and round, you qui­et and calm your mind and hence make it pos­si­ble to break the more com­plex and con­cep­tu­al into at least one small­er, con­crete and more man­age­able first step which you can take and then be at least one step clos­er to resolv­ing the whole sit­u­a­tion or com­plet­ing the task. 

Plus, this way you are not con­struct­ing a map or overview that you need to save and keep some­where. The result is rather empti­ness, activ­i­ty and pro­gres­sion. Less doc­u­ments to han­dle and save, and more steps tak­en to progress forward.

Do you have any oth­er ideas?

How do you cre­ate an overview and get clar­i­ty when your head is full of unre­solved mat­ters that keep spin­ning? Write to me and share your method. Per­haps you have an absolute­ly bril­liant method which in an ele­gant man­ner helps you on days when things are as bad as they get. 

(By the way, did you know that help­ing oth­ers might also relieve stress?)

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