Welcome to our new series Ask Paloma, where Paloma answers a question submitted by a customer. It's like a transcript of a mini coaching session so we can all nerd out and learn together. This particular question was asked by 11:11 Supplies Store Manager, Mimi Solum, and covers some of the tools we'll cover at our upcoming workshop BRAIN-FRIENDLY PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS (held on June 23rd, 2018). Sign up here to attend this workshop.
Mimi brought her most common frustration to the table: "I am a list addict. I have lists everywhere, in my planner, multiple notebooks, my phone, on scraps of paper in the car and in my kitchen, and some of the lists are the same thoughts in multiple places. Is there a way to wrangle all these lists? I enjoy the act of making lists, but once they are written down I tend to feel overwhelmed and unable to conquer the actual tasks."
To begin to answer Mimi's question let's talk about a few things.
Bluma Zeigarnik, a Russian psychologist found that the act of writing things down, while maybe making the brain feel calmer (as if we accomplished something) somewhat backfires because it also makes us more likely to forget about it. This is problematic because if we wrote it down somewhere we'll lose or have a hard time locating, then the brain is in a double quandary -- it neither can remember the thing (because it wrote it down) and it can't remember where it wrote down the thing, which leads to those overwhelmed, stressed out feelings.
Now, the solution isn't to stop writing things down so your brain will be more likely to remember them. Alas, in our current modern world we juggle too many pieces of information for our brain to remember - it really wasn't built for the amount of things we try to cram into it. So hence the invention of written notes, agendas, address books and to-do pads.
The real solution is to slowly build new habits so we write things down in easy-to-find, brain-friendly places.
Mimi says, "That makes sense why I love writing things down (it's like a release for my brain) and why then I don't remember where I wrote it."
Catch and Transfer Solution, in Four Steps:
Step 1: Identify your Catch locations: For a few days (and up to a week) simply take note of all the places where you store pieces of information to later reference. Mimi already identified five: Planner, multiple notebooks, reminders app on her phone, scraps of paper in her car and a dry erase board in her kitchen. We're going to refer to this as Catch Locations (you're catching phone numbers, ideas, facts, tasks, events, etc).
Step 2: Identify your Easy vs Lost Catch Locations: Mimi needs to next identify two things -- where her Easy Catch Locations are, and where her Lost Locations are. Easy Locations are places that your brain already uses a lot and that are pretty easy to find later. Mimi said for her, it's her planner and Siri -- she uses them regularly and can rely on them to be easy to scan and find things in. She says that a Lost Location (places where it's unlikely she'll be able to find them later) is when she's falling asleep and wants to capture something, she'll write it down on anything near her bed. Definitely a Lost Location.
Step 3: Train your brain to CATCH in your Easy Locations more often. We now need to make it easy to catch notes in fewer places, so that Mimi will always know where to look, so her brain will feel calm knowing there's an organized system in place. Nothing will get lost. That will mean however changing tiny things in her routine so it's hard to use Lost Locations and easy to use an Easy Location. Mimi brainstormed this and decided she would start leaving her planner by her bed every night, and get a little pocket light so she wouldn't even have to turn on the light or reach for her phone. Paloma recommends doing this brainstorm for all of your common Lost Locations (come to the workshop for hands-on help on doing this for yourself).
Step 4: Transfer daily. The last step is to block time on your calendar at the end of each day (usually 15 minutes is enough) to review your one or two Easy Catch Locations and transfer any key notes, invites, contact info, etc onto a final location. For some people, that means moving things to their cloud calendar, or to-do app, or their family's wall calendar. Consider the Transfer step the calibration, reflection and quality assurance step, all in one 15 minute little window. The Transfer step is critical because it's usually when your brain will actually feel calmer, when it will start trusting that there really is a system, and that it can let go of those stressful feelings that came from disorganization. This trust and calm however will take time because your brain will need a few cycles of Catch and Train to really get the hang of both things.