I’ve been on a huge productivity kick recently…

I think 132 straight days of daily meditation are catching up to me and finally starting to put my brain in overdrive.  My thoughts are so much clearer.  I’m more focused.  And I’m continuing to refine my structures and process for achievement on a level that I don’t remember ever having been the case.

In the middle of all of this, I stumbled on a concept that I think will be incredibly valuable to you…

…  If you ever feel like you have more great ideas than you ever implement…

…  If you ever forget important things…

…  If you sometimes feel like it’s hard to focus because you have too much going on in your head…

…  If you are juggling a lot of things having to do with work, life, family, other commitments, and so on…

…  If you have big ideas about where you want to go with your life, but you’re not getting there nearly as fast as you’d like…

…  If you feel like you’re a 2 on a 1-to-10 scale on time management and productivity…

…  Or, if you just want more mental space and clarity to focus on the important things in life (even or maybe especially if those are NOT business)…

If any of this sounds like you, you need an “external brain!”

I’ve heard this term twice in the last few days.

First, from Ari Meisel, one of the founders of Leverage.  (Tell them Roy Furr sent you for $50 off your first month.)

Then, on the Getting Things Done podcast, as part of the Getting Things Done system.  (The book is the #1 best seller in Personal Time Management on Amazon.)

The idea of an external brain is not new.  If you’ve ever taken notes or made a to-do list, you’ve used an external brain.

You probably just didn’t organize it very well.  But if you organize it, it can become an incredible tool.

Modern life is incredibly complex and complicated.  Especially if you’re entrepreneurial and ambitious.  Especially if you’re trying to do big things in the world.

You’re probably juggling dozens of things — many that you don’t even realize, until you’re hit with a sudden twinge of anxiety about what’s not done yet.

The idea of an external brain is to get all of that out of your head.  To free up the mental bandwidth you’re wasting on trying to manage all of that internally, so you can focus on what’s important, when you can actually do something about it.

The first step to growing your external brain…

The first thing you need to do, no matter whether you’re hoping to do this on paper or using your computer, is to get as many thoughts out of your head as possible.

I recommend Dean Jackson’s 50-Minute Focus Finder process.

Basically, set a timer for 50 minutes, and commit to writing down anything that comes to mind.

Think about all your responsibilities.  Work.  Family.  Home.  Personal projects.  And so on.

Maybe you have a bunch of client projects.  Or a bunch of things for your business.  They can be big things, like big projects you’re working on.  Or little things, like the fact that you need to take out the trash tomorrow.

Whatever they are, write them down.  You’re not filtering or sorting here.  You’re just getting it out of your head.

After the 50 minutes is up, you’ll need to clarify and organize these thoughts (and additional ones as they come to you).

Then start to prioritize and determine next steps that are needed.

For that, you’ll need an organizational system that keeps the important things in front of you, and lets you tackle things one at a time.

(Did you know multi-tasking is a big, fat lie?!  You can only ever do one thing at a time.  And the more consistently you can focus on the one thing in front of you, the more productive and successful you’ll be.)

As you continue to make progress, make sure you note any new ideas or next steps that need to be taken as they come to you, using the systems you have in place.

Then regularly review and reflect on all that you’ve put into your external brain, to make sure you stay on track.

This is just scratching the surface, but it should start to give you an idea of what’s possible.  The key is to make that first commitment to start getting things out of your head, so you don’t have to worry about remembering them.  Then organize what you get out, to make it useful.

Some ideas and tools for turning your computer into an external brain…

Even before I heard the concept, I was doing things to turn my computer into an external brain.  And here are some of the tools that are working for me…

I write Breakthrough Marketing Secrets in Scrivener, and keep an idea file for future issues.  Whenever I have an idea while at my computer, I put it straight into Scrivener.  If I’m not at my computer, I email myself, and when I’m at my computer next I move it into Scrivener.

I’ve also used Evernote for research, and clipping links and pages and articles from the web, so I have them to refer back to later.

I’ve written before about WorkFlowy, which I use for note-taking and list-making.  (I used to use mind maps for this, but WorkFlowy works better for me, because the simplicity and cloud-syncing makes it really good for working across devices.)

And now I’m doubling down on Trello for project management.  In part, because the Leverage team uses it.  But I was already really starting to like it before.

I’m creating a system based somewhat on Getting Things Done for daily management of tasks and projects, inside Trello, and it’s working really well.  (That’s a topic for another day.)

Now I’m looking at how to move even more of my processes and task management inside Trello, to support my daily productivity.

I’m not perfect, by any means.  But I’m continuing to improve, to get better at this.  What I’ve realized as I’ve started to study people who have done this for a lot longer than I have is that I need a better organizational structure for my external brain.  I’m going to keep building on that process, and share with you some findings in the future!


Here’s what I do know.  The better my external brain gets, the more peaceful my internal brain gets.

My focus and clarity is multiplying as I find tools that work for me, for managing all the thoughts and ideas and focus points that float around in my head.  By committing to get those out of my head, the clarity I’m getting is a HUGE breakthrough.

Try it — I think it will be for you, too.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr