I regularly suggest writing things down to make sure they aren’t forgotten. No one is perfect and mistakes happen, but many errors can be easily avoided if you simply make a note—a written reminder to yourself. (When I say written, I mean in any of the ways you can make a note—with pen and paper, or electronically.)

I am fanatical about writing down everything. I talk about this a great deal in my book (in the chapter on “Be Organized,” the fourth of my Six Simple Rules for a Better Life), I discuss it at every speaking engagement, and I’ve written about it in my newsletter.

Writing things down helps you in so many ways:

  1. Remembering to do things (your “to do” list).
  2. Knowing where to go each day and when you have to be there (your calendar).
  3. Increasing the likelihood of achieving your goals. (People who write down their goals have a better chance of achieving them.)
  4. Being happier and healthier because of the reduced stress that comes from knowing you will not forget to do something.
  5. Building a reputation as someone who can be relied upon to do what you say you are going to do, personally and professionally.
  6. Allowing yourself the opportunity for greater achievements in all areas of your life by freeing your mind from having to remember too many things.

I heard about the scientific (though simple) reasons for this last point in a podcast interview with McGill University neuroscience professor Daniel Levitin, author of The Organized Mind.

If you have many things you have to do, he explains, when you write them down it clears them out of your head, so your brain doesn’t have to expend its resources remembering them. This is particularly important because most people can only hold about four things in their mind at a time. And if you don’t have to expend your time and energy and brainpower remembering, you will be more productive with the task at hand.

After I shared this information in my newsletter, I received a bunch of feedback. Here are a couple of the replies:

“I, too, write down everything, whether it is shopping, a to-do list, a work list, or a who-to-call list. It’s amazing what we try to remember. Before laying down at night, I clear my head and review what I have to do in the morning rather than rely on memory.  It gives me a great sense of relief; I know I will get everything done.” DK

“I write everything down! And if you happen to have slightly ADHD or ADD tendencies where you can only focus on one or two important issues at a time, it is imperative. The most important part of my To Do list is writing or typing it. Once that is done, what the professor stated is so true; it is cleared out of my mind, so I can think about the next item or task. Even if I forget my list, I will take care of all of the items on my list (at some point). If not, I will write a follow-up list, and include the items not yet done…I am still working on this for myself – it can be very difficult when you are also worrying about other family members and where they need to be.  I will admit I am definitely not perfect!!” SC

How do you manage to keep on top of things? Do you make to-do lists to not drop any of the many balls you are likely juggling? Please join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,

David

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