Ever tried to fall asleep but can’t stop thinking of tomorrow’s tasks, or found it hard to focus on a meeting when you have a multitude of things to do?
The reason you can’t get a moment’s peace is down to of a part of your brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
This part of your brain (shown by the yellow arrow in the image above) is responsible for your working memory – that is, the part of your memory that stores information for about 10 – 15 minutes and holds your mental to-do list and your immediate plans (e.g. “dress, breakfast, brush teeth, find the keys, pick up briefcase”).
You can make it stop, though! The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex works similar to a blackboard – when you have completed or dismissed a task, the task is wiped from your mind. In other words, your mind only holds what it thinks it needs to (Zeigarnik, 1927; Goldman-Rakic, 1992).
How does this help you to find space/peace? Write a to-do list.
Writing a to-do list or leaving a memo on your phone is akin to wiping your blackboard clear: when we write down a task, or an errant thought we want to remember later, we tell the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that it’s okay to forget about it. And so, you silence the nagging voice in your mind.
Keeping a to-do list near your person (even on your bedside table) will help to empty the mind and allow you space and energy to think clearly and find peace.
Let us know what’s on your to-do list here, and have a peaceful weekend from all at Dialogue.