Why I Write Everything Down, and How I Do It

posted by Andrea | 06/4/2012

So I know I’ve mentioned {several times already} that I write everything down… and I honestly do.

I write down my to-do’s, my grocery lists, house projects I want to tackle, blog posts I want to write, thank-you cards I need to write, goals I want to reach, gifts I need to purchase, dates I need to remember, etc. etc.

I have my planner and a pad of paper with me whereever I go… and am constantly adding things to my lists {even in the middle of the night}.

WHY I write things down…

It’s not that I’m forgetful — I actually have a pretty good memory — it’s just that I have so many things to remember on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis that if I didn’t write them down, my brain would waste so much time and energy remembering everything.

However, if I write everything down, my brain is instantly free to stop thinking about it all… which means I can move on to bigger and better things.

 

HOW I write things down…

This may sound obvious — I use a pen to write things down on paper… duh.  But that’s just PART of my process :)

I also take the time to write down different “stages or action steps” I might need to take prior to the actual event or item on my to-do list.

For example, if there’s a special occasion coming up, I’ll FIRST make sure to mark that date in my planner… but I don’t just mark the date. I also put the time, the location, a phone number, and any other applicable information. That way, I won’t have to search for an address at the last minute or wonder what time the event started and if I’m supposed to bring something.

THEN, if the event requires me to do something in advance (like RSVP, purchase a gift, make food, buy a new dress, etc.), I will also mark that information down on separate dates in advance.

So let’s look at a wedding I’m attending on July 13 (my youngest sister’s!)

  • First I marked off the entire day of July 13 because I’m sure we’ll be busy all day with pictures, getting ready, etc.
  • Then I marked off the night before for rehearsal and rehearsal dinner (and the time/location of both).
  • Next I marked off all the dates for her different shower’s along with their times/locations and any food I had to bring. (I didn’t really have to RSVP for these events because it was assumed that I would be there)
  • Finally, I made a note in my planner (about a 6 weeks before her wedding) to go out and buy the gifts for her different showers and her wedding. That way, I only have to make one trip to the store and I can wrap them all at the same time too.

However, I don’t just do this with big events like my sister’s wedding. I also take this multi-step approach to writing other things down as well.

Bills/Paperwork: 

If you get a bunch of bills in the mail all month long, you should mark one or two dates on your calendar to remind you to pay those bills on time

Blog Posts:

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I have a multi-step process for organizing and writing my blog posts each week. Part of that involves planning ahead and scheduling certain days to make (and photograph) specific recipes or craft projects.

Parties/BBQ’s/Family Gatherings:

It seems like there is some type of get-together every week in our summer schedule, so I’m always writing down dates of events, gifts I need to buy, and any food I need to make in advance.

If I know I have several parties or events in one month, I might schedule a baking day and make all the food in one day and throw it in my freezer until the night before.

Then of course, I write myself a note to remember to take it out of the freezer :)

Appointments/Meetings:

I hate getting to a meeting or appointment late,  and I also hate forgetting to bring something with me or not being prepared. So I’ve gotten into the habit of writing all that information down a day or so BEFORE the meeting so I have a couple days to “get my act together” if I did happen to forget something.

I know this might sound like a lot of extra work and useless extra steps, but it honestly takes me 10 seconds to jot everything down in my planner (of course you could use electronic reminders if that works better for you).

And those 10 seconds are definitely worth the peace of mind I have that I (most likely) won’t forget to do something important. Of course it’s not  a fool-proof plan, but it sure works great for me… and I’m thrilled that my brain has less stuff to remember!

Oh yeah… and I REALLY love crossing everything off my list :)

What’s your method for writing things down?

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35 comments

  1. Laurel

    06/04/2012

    Pretty much the same as yours. I write down next to appointments the questions I want to ask etc. my biggest problem is coordinating all of my lists and not having some in one notebook, some in another, etc. what kind of planner/list making notebooks do you use? I tried for about a year to go electronic. I didn’t like it.

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  2. Tina

    06/04/2012

    I really needed this article. I have adhd and get sidetracked and forget things alll the time. I also have Laurel’s problem of how to coordinate everything into one spot that doesn’t look like a memo pad factory blew up. I look forward to reading the suggestions on this subject. Thank you for writing about it.

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    margarita Reply:

    I also have that problem. I have a planner, notebook in purse, mini size of course….and then a budget notebook and I use my htc resound task list. I don’t want to be digital and I would really prefer all in one place with some type of organization. So like your post abilove, I can block out time or buy presents or gifts in advance. Any suggestions? Oh, and I am addicted to.reading your blog and the way you have it set up is very user friendly. I am not a blogger but a blog reader. Lol …thank you.

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  3. Kaui @ Thrifty Military Mommy

    06/04/2012

    I’m not quite as thorough as you are (ehem, maybe I should be ;)) and I hate using up so much paper, plus you have all that paper and such you have to carry around with you…not my cup of tea. So I use my iphone where I keep my calendar, notes, blog post ideas, grocery list, and to do list. It’s very very nice to have in one spot that way I don’t have to go digging through my beg for anything else but my phone.

    I do, however keep a small notepad on my desk since I spend so much time there during the day and write my to-do’s for that day on it. The to-do list I have in my phone is mainly for when I’m out and about and I suddenly remember something I need to do when i don’t have my notepad with me. When i get home the first thing I do is wrote those things down into the notepad I keep on my desk.

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  4. Stace @ SavingStace.com

    06/04/2012

    It’s good to see that someone else shares my “write down EVERYTHING” habit. ;) I love having all of the details in one little spot in my planner and not having to search my house for an invitation or piece of mail, to get all of the info I need for an event.

    Great post – thanks for sharing! :)

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  5. Patti Trevino

    06/04/2012

    I agree…. It is much more ‘freeing’ when everything is in a place that I can count on other than floating around in my head. Otherwise, I am worried about remembering my to do’s or appointments and of course, the worry keeps me from a good nights rest. I used to use a written planner and lists too, but recently switched to electronic, utilizing my calendar in Gmail and an app called Evernote. It took some getting used to (maybe 10 days or so) but I like the convenience of less to carry and I also like that they are web based tools so even if misplaced my smartphone (which actually happened a couple of weeks ago) I could access from any computer or instantly from any smartphone. The physical act of actually crossing a completed task off the list with a pen to paper is different with this method, but I have really come to be ok with that.

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    Angie Reply:

    Patti I would totally agree about switching to electronic! I am also a complusive listmaker and crosser-offer (is anything else so satisfying?!) but I also found Evernote recently and I am a convert! I can just jot things down whenever I’m thinking about it…my phone is much easier to carry with me at all times than a pen and paper. And it’s structured to be easily categorized, which I love.

    Great post also!

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    Amy Reply:

    I also use Evernote (with my google calendar and remember the milk). I can “write” stuff down on my phone or at my computer. I can find things so much more quickly now!

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  6. Starla

    06/04/2012

    Of course I use my planner, The Time Keeper! =) (You can take a look here: http://www.wellkeptlife.com/index.html)

    I would be so lost without a planner: it is my BRAIN!

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    Mama Murrey Reply:

    Starla, you’ll be pleased to know my Time Keeper is sitting open here beside the computer as I read emails and blog posts (at Jeanene N’s house, by the way. : ) My friends gave it good reviews and I was skeptical, but finally tried it.

    I absolutely love it. Best organizer I’ve ever used. We do foster care for three little boys, and oh the appointments, etc! I could never remember it all without my Time Keeper.

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  7. Thrifty Mom in Boise

    06/04/2012

    I am a huge list maker and I have to admit it is very cathartic to cross items off my lists. I feel like I am making progress and moving forward. I have a dayplanner as well and I map out my life in that thing, keep my grocery planner and coupons in it, a few new recipes I want to try, Christmas planning, travel plans, etc. I would surely hate to lose it! I’d be completely lost.

    I know there is a lot of technology available and I do use some of it but it just doesn’t compare to sitting down with a nice sheet of paper and a mechanical pencil. :)

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  8. Jessica

    06/04/2012

    I love this, I do the same thing. I’m constantly jotting things down on post it notes, etc., and at the end of the day…before bed, I add it all to my planner and look over my agenda for the next day. And also, I do like the convenience of electronic lists and calendars…but nothing beats good old fashioned pen and paper, on my opinion. And a checked off to-do list? Omg yes. It makes me so happy.

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  9. Laundry Lady

    06/04/2012

    I use a combination of google calender and some hand written lists in my kitchen. Meal ideas for the week and grocery lists are done in the kitchen by hand. I use the wall calender for appointments and other events but I also put them in google calender. I use google calender to send me reminders of activities I’ve planned for that day such as laundry, house cleaning, writing or blogging. That way I don’t get side tracked with the babies and lose track of time. It’s an ever evolving system, but so far it seems to be working.

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  10. Suzanne

    06/04/2012

    I have tried to go electronic without success also. I can’t see everything at a glance and that is rough for me. I also like my to-do lists as part of my daily calendar as much as possible.
    One thing I’ve noticed, is that as a visual learner, there is something about writing something down that actually helps me to remember it better as well. Sometimes just in writing it down, I can access it mentally/visually again without having the piece of paper. Or, I’ll remember “There are two things on my list I need to do tonight” and just that will help me “see it” in my mind. I’m so glad I’m not alone in my need to write things out!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I’m with you Suzanne… I really would prefer to go electronic, but I just can’t do it. I love my paper lists and my paper planner.

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  11. Chelsea

    06/04/2012

    I didn’t buy a calendar like yours this year, and I’m regretting it. I do use my Blackberry, but I’m like Suzanne, it doesn’t really help when I can’t see everything at a glance. But – making lists on my calendar on the BB and trying to coordinate between that and a monthly wall calendar, I feel I’m constantly trying to make sure if I add something new to one, that its also on the other, because I don’t always look at both. It’s pretty frustrating. I hope to be better organized… one step at a time. I should find some 2012 calendars on clearance by now!

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  12. Sher

    06/04/2012

    I have been using the same “family planner/calendar” for about 14 years and it really works well for me!
    It shows one week at a time in a spiral bound paper format and has places for meal planning, appointments, home, things to do, messages and inspirational weekly quotes :)
    In the back it has tear off grocery shopping lists too.
    Its from Polestar in Canada and even when I moved from BC to the States 11 years ago I continued to mail order this organizer because it was just right for my needs.

    In my job I also have to be very organized (Activity Director at an Assisted Living) and I always have a big yellow legal pad going for my list of “things to do”.

    Recently, in the past 2 years, I have taken to keeping lists electronically on my smart phone. These lists include my thoughts and ideas on everything from “groceries”, “shortbread flavor ideas”, “books to read”, and “my bucket list” :)

    I totally agree with your statement about how once you write it down your brain is free to think of other things!!!

    And I also LOVE to cross things OFF my list when they are done!

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  13. Amanda

    06/04/2012

    I love this type of planner, but what do you do with papers that you need to keep with your calendar?
    I love the Zipper planners because you can keep all of your papers that you need, but they are so bulky. What ideas do you have?? Also do you know of a zipper binder that is not so bulky but yet not too small???

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  14. Rebecca

    06/04/2012

    Now this is a great idea! I make lists like a champ…but I never thought to write down all the related info. Good idea. I keep a spiral notebook in my living room and use it to write down lists, to-do’s, blog ideas, and keep track of things I’m currently researching (like what cloth diapers to buy, etc.) I used to keep a giant planner in college when I was running all over the place doing things. Now that I stay home I find that reminders in my phone are easier to keep track of.

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  15. Kelly

    06/04/2012

    I THRIVE on lists. If I don’t have them, I literally go crazy. I never was able to get the planner idea to work for me though. I keep 4 different small spiral bound notebooks. One for groceries, one for other things to buy, one for to-do/places to go (errands) and one for my husband’s to do list.

    I have a whiteboard calendar in our kitchen that I keep our activities on, but I don’t use it very often because we hardly ever do anything outside the home, so I can keep it all in my head. I do use Google calendar on my phone though, just in case I were to forget.

    I also keep a weekly meal list on our fridge. It’s a white board so I can change it every week. I spend Saturday evenings going through my Pinterest recipes and any cookbooks I feel like and write out that week’s meals. When we have children, I’ll probably do a monthly meal plan so I can shop more efficiently, but with just two of us, it works for us.

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    Kelly Reply:

    Oh, and I have a ‘chore chart’ on the fridge that I made up in powerpoint. I laminated it and use expo markers to cross the things off the list. It’s 4 weeks long, and includes daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. :)

    I’d have more lists if I could think of any more that I needed!! lol!! I just love them. And I totally agree with the satisfaction of crossing them off. It completes my day. :)

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  16. Evie

    06/05/2012

    Andrea, thanks for this great post. I love planning and love making lists and crossing things off. Once in a great while………I have even written something on my to do list that I’ve ALREADY DONE, just so I can see it crossed off and feel gooooood. Hahah. Am I the only one ever to do that? Hahahahah. Andrea, could you maybe give a link to that planner you show in the photos? It looks great, and I need a better one than I have this year, for sure. Thanks!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Evie — I also write things down that I’ve already done, so you are not alone :)
    Here is the link to my planner… and yes, I love it!

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    Evie Reply:

    Thanks, Andrea. I might have to go with the 1/4 notebook……..I love graph paper, and I can set it up exactly the way I want it! I cut small mailing envelops at various heights to make pockets front and back when I set up a new planner. Just tape them in and it’s good to go!

    Did you see the drop-in organizers for purses and totes on the accessories section of the website? I absolutely need one of those, too. Best of all, they’re washable!

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  17. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    06/05/2012

    I’ve been using a Franklin Covey two pages per day compact planner for the last 20 years. I’ve tried to switch to the bigger size but I can’t do it. The compact fits easily in my purse and isn’t too heavy. I can get pretty much everything in there I need.

    I, too, write everything down! My husband kids me sometimes about all the “useless information” I write down but guess who he comes to if he needs to know something? Yep – me. And the act of writing it down cements it in my memory.

    Sometimes I get tired of using a planner and mention it to my family but they all say: “You have to use a planner.” Bad things happen when I don’t. My life falls apart.

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    AManda Reply:

    Patty, Can you give a link to the planner that you use?

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  18. Stacy

    06/05/2012

    I write everything down and people always tease me, but I really forget things in 2 seconds. I too like crossing things off my list. I have a planner and use it for everything. But it also feels nice to do a brain dump and get it all off my mind. When you have kids it makes more things for you to remember. I also carry a small notepad around to jot things down everywhere. Right now I am dealing with the frustration of forgetting the small things, it drives me crazy.

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  19. Rebecca

    06/05/2012

    I too am a paper organizer. I tried electronic and I guess I’m just an old dog. One thing I do differently – instead of crossing out, I highlight it. We own a small business and a lot of of my list is stuff pertaining to the business and I need to remember that I did something. If I cross it out, I can’t read it. By highlighting it, I will know, for example, that I paid our monthly withholding tax. On my calendar, each color means something different – pink for mileage, green already done, orange extemely important can’t forget, etc.

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  20. Jane

    06/05/2012

    Awesome! I thought I was the only person who makes such detailed lists. My husband says I make lists for my lists – which is true. But rarely has my method failed me or left me in the lurch.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Haha — yeah, sometimes I feel like I need a list to keep track of my lists too :)
    Well, maybe I’m not that bad, but I definitely do like to write everything down — and my lists rarely fail me either!

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  21. Debra Kapellakis

    06/08/2012

    I enjoyed reading how you do it. I am applying some of this to improve my way.

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  22. Maria

    06/09/2012

    Hey, lists and planners make this formerly scatter-brained, messy person look and be organized. They’re a Very Good Thing.

    Andrea, your pictures of crossed-off things made me smile. This obsession was getting out of hand for me so I made a rule that I can use only one line to cross things off. Otherwise it’s two lines then three lines then more so all the letters are evenly covered up . . .

    I use one straight line if the item is completed, and a scribbly line if it’s not done but is no longer relevant or doesn’t need to be done.

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  23. Mar

    03/28/2013

    Love that you shared where you got your planner! Have been looking for the perfect one and I think this one is it! I’m a big list and note taker-really, it consumes me thinking of the best and most efficient way to keep track of all of it bc I love to write things down but don’t lime to meep so much paper around. I meep all my notes in my ipad ( and then worry about losing that info somehow) bit I prefer to write my to do lists and have them in paper. Do I am wondering, what do you do with your planner at the end of the year? what about the extra paper that you make notes on? Would love to hear ehat you do to get inspired, thanks!

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    Andrea Reply:

    When it comes to my planner and my lists — I toss the lists at the end of every day and I toss the planner out at the end of the year. I usually even rip pages out of the planner as I’m finished with those weeks because it makes the planner lighter :)

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  24. Mar

    03/28/2013

    So sorry for all the misspellings, usually happens when i type on my Ipad :( It’s a pet peeve of mine, and I didn’t proof read before posting, should probably get to bed now. Lol

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