A few days ago, I went on a run. It was about 6pm, and I still had a bit of work to get done for the day. I laced up, turned on my music, and I was off to the races.

Only, my tasks were rattling around in my mind still. I had a weird gut feeling that something just wasn’t finished. I couldn’t ignore it. I was right… My work wasn’t finished! I still had to do it when I got back from my run.

I didn’t end up going that far. I turned around early, and headed back. When I got home, I hadn’t ran that far, I felt drained, but I got my work done.

Today, I went on a run. It was about 7pm, and I still had a bit of work to get done for the day. This time, I decided to forget about my work. In that moment, I wasn’t working–I was running. I had consciously decided to direct my focus to what was happening in my present.

While I was running, thoughts about my work came up. Each time it happened, however, I reminded myself: You’ll get it done. Just not now. You’re running right now.

It happened a few times, but after I kept pushing away thoughts of my work, I forgot about it altogether. I ended up running 2x as far as I ran the last time, and felt more energized when I got back.

I sat down and got my work done easily. I felt great. There was no reason for me to worry.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot do both at the same time. I’m either going to be running or I’m going to be working.

Buying into this takes a good amount of trust. You need to trust yourself and the systems you’ve set up. By worrying constantly about what I had to do later, I was expressing to myself that I’m expecting myself to forget about it.

Imagine if someone else did that to me. It would be annoying and I’d feel offended that they didn’t think I could take care of my work. Instead of my own thoughts coming up reminding myself of my work during my run, imagine if somebody kept calling me and interrupting my music and my run.

“Hey, Simon, remember? Remember that thing you have to get done? Don’t forget! You need to get that done when you get back.”

Why is it OK for me to do that to myself, but it wouldn’t be OK for someone else to do that to me? I’m giving myself preferential treatment. That’s not right.

Forgetting is an art. It’s a constant struggle to focus on what you’re doing that moment while ignoring things you have to do that aren’t a part of the current moment. If you are unable to dive into the task at hand, you’ll feel like you’re constantly working on something, but you won’t get anything done. Talk about a waste of energy.

Forgetting only comes after you’ve made a conscious decision on what to think about and what to forget. You should not forget things just so you won’t have to worry about them. Pushing away your thoughts is only half the battle.

You can only push your work away if you’ve set up systems that you can trust.

Otherwise your efforts are futile. Your annoying, pestering self will be right about you. If you haven’t set up a system for yourself, you will forget to do that thing later, and so your other self has every right to pester you.

Write it down. Organize your thoughts and your tasks. Use spreadsheets. Use notebooks. Find something that works for you. Create systems to track your actions so your brain doesn’t have to.

Successful people don’t achieve so much because they’re constantly doing things–they achieve so much because they can effectively chunk things out and complete them (FULLY complete them) one at a time. They track everything, and they trust their systems. Once they finish something, they know they don’t have any reason to worry about it anymore. At that point, it becomes second-nature to ignore the pestering self and focus on the moment at hand.