Your brain can only store so much information.
And, if your brain is anything like mine, it can only access a small portion of that information on demand. What was the name of that book I wanted to check out? I don’t know, but my hair dresser’s son’s name is Martin. When too much is going on in your head, it’s very difficult to keep track of the important things. I suggest you empty your brain to save your life.
This is your brain.
Here is your brain overflowing with information you can’t keep track of.
Eventually, your brain will explode.
Before this happens, dump your brain out into a bucket. My favorite buckets are a notebook I keep in my purse, my digital calendar, and Microsoft OneNote that keeps all my thoughts organized and syncs automatically between my PC, iPad and cell phone.
The buckets hold your thoughts, information, and ideas until you need them again. In the meantime, your brain can stay happy, calm, and clear. Your brain can be at peace.
Write everything down.
What do I mean by everything? Ev-er-y-thing. If you suspect you’ll ever need the information again, write it down. Below is a list of a few things you might want to keep track of. Add to this list anything you regularly find yourself trying to remember. “What was the name of that restaurant we liked in Leavenworth?”
“Let me check. I wrote it down.”
1. Phone numbers
You’ll only need this number once, right? Not necessarily. Don’t write numbers on sticky notes. Keep them in your contacts. Whenever you get a call or text from someone who’s not already in your contacts, save the number with a name attached if there’s a chance you might ever need to connect again.
Never say yes to something until you put it on the calendar.
3. Gift ideas
When you see something in a magazine that would make a great Mother’s Day gift, for the love of all that’s holy, write it down. How many times have you sat agonizing over what to get Grandma for Mother’s Day, knowing you’d had and lost ten decent ideas but you couldn’t think of a single one now.
4. Gifts Given
I got this one from Kathy Peel. Keep a list of gifts you’ve given to friends and family members. Don’t be the person who gives her sister a candle every year for Christmas. It’s easy to get stuck in gift-giving ruts and not even realize it. This list can help you avoid that.
Do you ever have a great idea for a blog post, a home improvement, a card inscription, or a joke to tell your spouse? Do you ever have trouble remembering it? I do! So, I have tabs in my OneNote binder for ideas. You have to capture your brilliance before it disappears. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a blog post to write and gone back to mine my “ideas” tab. I’m periodically surprised by my own awesomeness and sometimes I have no recollection of every having the idea or typing it out.
This is worth a blog post of its own. Start a list of every project you want to get done, large or small, for home, work, or play. And, on this list write everything from, “hem dress pants,” to “learn Chinese,” to, “research graduate school programs.” Include things you must get done, things you might like to get done, and things you dream of getting done. Write everything. Nothing is too small. Don’t spend your life with that nagging feeling that there’s something you’re forgetting to do. Know what you want to do and choose from that list every day.
7. Restaurants and activities
Keep a list of restaurants you’ve visited and activities you’ve enjoyed. That way, if you want to relive them or give a recommendation to a friend, you have the information easily available. Also, keep a list of restaurants and activities you want to try. This makes family outings and date nights a snap.
I keep notes on important conversations I’ve had and conversations (even non-critical conversations) I want to have. For example, if I’m on the phone with a client, talking about a project, I take notes in a tab in OneNote about the conversation. I frequently go back to these notes when I’m working.
I also keep notes about conversations I need to have with members of my family and friends I am not able to talk with immediately. That way, I cut down on the times I say, “I wanted to tell you something. I just can’t remember what it was.”
Write Everything Down.
But, maybe you’re really good at remembering things. Maybe you know you’ll be able to recall any information the moment you need it. Great! But, if you write it down, you reduce your stress.
Keeping a bunch of information at the ready, in the front of your mind, can be stressful.
Give it a home outside of you. I find that writing things down reduces my level of anxiety and allows me to be more present in my life. As a bonus, the process of writing it down will further embed the information into your gray matter.
Try it. You’ll never want to go back to the old way. But, you will remember what the old way was like. You will have written it down.
Looing for even more inspiration? Check out some of these tips for keeping organized: