Our brains have almost limitless capacity to retain information, but the challenge comes when we want to retrieve that information during the chaos of the day. Even if we believe we can, none of us can focus on more than one thing at a time. If we have several things on our minds, our brain is rapidly switching from item to item, event to event, or brush fire to brush fire. So when we have a busy schedule at work followed by a frenetic schedule at home, we have the perfect recipe for absent-minded mistakes. In the rush of the day, it’s easy to forget something important.
Oddly, we can have similar experiences when we aren’t busy enough. Have you ever had a time when your workload was light and you started to drift mentally? Our brains are never at rest—they love stimuli. So if we aren’t busy in reality, our minds become busy with fantasy. Our minds seek entertainment. Sometimes these episodes of mental drift can get the better of us and we’ll forget something truly important. Just consider the last time you checked your email or Facebook page and found that you were still online an hour later.
So how do we make the most of our amazing brains? Like any other organ in our body, our minds require maintenance and conscious effort to make them strong. One of the best ways to improve memory is to write, and if your memory is important to you, the best place to write is in your planner.
Your planner’s basic functions are to Capture and Retrieve, which means your planner can track anything you choose to keep in it. It may sound fanciful, but you really can capture your dreams, you can act on your aspirations, you can set higher standards for your life, and achieve greater goals.
On a smaller scale, your planner ensures that you won’t forget to take your daughter to dance class—you’ll remember to pick up cheese on your way home from work—and you’ll remember to make dinner reservations, even after a crazy day at the office.
The truth is, our brains function better with help.
Like any other filing system, physical or digital, an orderly capture system is vital. Where and how you store your information is critical to how easy it is to use later. Plans are easier to reach if you start with a long-term outlook and then work back to the present, breaking your plans into small pieces that you accomplish a day at a time. Capturing your plans is no different. Start with a long-term vision, and capture your plans, ideas, notes, and goals with retrieval in mind.
We’ve heard the argument that writing something down is pointless if you can’t find what you wrote when you need it. In order for the retrieval process to work fluidly, you’ll want to ask three basic questions: What do I need? When do I need it? And, Where can I find it? Your planner is designed to make retrieval easy if you begin planning with this in mind.
Any time you write something in your planner that you know you will need to refer to later, simply place a number next to your note in your Notes section. Then turn to your Monthly Index Page and write a quick reference to that note, such as: Company party caterer—April 23, Note 3. Now a simple glance at your monthly index page will lead you directly to all the information you need to know about your caterer. The concept works perfectly for any number of things. And that’s just the beginning.
You can also keep a progressive task list in your pagefinder listing the everyday items that easily slip through the cracks, a Weekly Compass Card to ensure you are focusing on your most important items first each day, goal planning forms that enable you to set big goals and break them into small, manageable segments, and so much more.
If you haven’t lately, take another look through your planner and see how many helpful tools you can discover to ensure you capture your goals, accomplish your tasks, and retrieve your dreams.