Our brains are wonderful, but they’re still somewhat limited in their abilities, sadly. We can’t expect them to remember every single little thing we need to do or to remind us of it at a precise moment in time. They are better used to learn and play and enjoy life! Let our brains do what they’re good at, and use tools to do the heavy lifting and organize your life.
There are plenty of tools that you can use. Some are in use since paper was invented (like paper notebooks), others are digital versions of paper tools (like electronic calendars), and some tools are only possible because of advances in technology, like reminders on our smartphones. Digital tools might bring some advantages (sharing, reminders, backup or integration with other tools come to mind first), but paper still works well enough – it’s almost always available and infinitely customizable.
Paper or digital? If you like paper, use paper. If you prefer electronics, use those. Remember, the point is to find something that works for you.
If you want to get the most out of any tool you use, make sure you use it regularly. If all your appointments and dates you need to remember are in your calendar, you won’t be stressed about possibly forgetting an appointment – just look at your calendar. Problems begin when you only use it for some appointments, so you’re never sure if everything is in your calendar or if you’re forgetting something.
Follow the basic principle of organizing: one place for everything and everything in its place. If you’re using a calendar, enter every appointment and reminder into your calendar. If you’re using a to-do list, add all tasks to your to-do list. If you’re using a notebook, write down all your notes in your notebook – if you find yourself scribbling on post-it notes and pieces of paper, add those to your notebook too. It will take some getting used to, but you’ll soon reap the benefits.
To help you use it regularly, keep your chosen tool (notebook, smartphone app, calendar…) somewhere where you can always see it or access it. If you leave your notebook at home, you won’t be able to use it at work or on the bus when you get a great new idea.
On the other hand, fancy tools can be a distraction. Start with something cheap and easy and build the habit. First get it going, then you can start tweaking and experimenting, if necessary – and it’s usually not really necessary. Don’t let yourself get distracted by “productivity porn” and test all kinds of tools just because they’re shiny and new.
After all, there’s no progress unless you’re actually doing something, no matter which tools you use.