5 steps to writing things down

By Filip Salomonsson; published on October 19, 2006.

Hello. My name is Filip, and I'm a complete scatterbrain. If I don't act on or write down things within, literally, 0.7 seconds of their popping up in my head, they may be lost, never to be heard from again. Not even a postcard.

That can become really stressful, since there is always that nagging feeling that I'm forgetting something important. I'm sick of it, and have taken on a new habit to fight it.

The thing is, simply, writing things down. Not when I get home, not in just a minute, but right away. Now. 0.7 seconds, remember?

When it's written down and put it in a safe place for later processing, it's suddenly okay to forget it. It's not lost; it's in a better place. And I can be more relaxed.

Here are five things that make it work for me:

  1. Always carry a nice pen. I have a rocket-- uh, no, a Pilot G-Tec-C4 Microtip Gel Rollerball pen in my pocket. I can't recommend it enough. If I lose it, I'll cry. Then I'll buy a new one.

  2. Always keep paper less than a second away. I keep A7-size ruled index cards on my desk and on my night stand. I also have a stack held with a binder clip (making it a Hipster PDA, I suppose) in my bag, a slimmer stack usually in my back pocket, and one also currently sits in a plastic pocket taped to the inside of my door. Just in case.

  3. One card, one item. Paper is cheap. Write one item on each card, and nothing more. It doesn't matter if it's just one single word. Then drop it in your inbox at first chance.

  4. Put a date on everything. I've said this before. The top right corner of every card gets todays date. No exceptions. Any note without a date is defective. If the note is related to a specific project, that goes directly below the date.

  5. Tear it up before you throw it away. I'm not kidding. When you've processed a note, it's used, and is never to be looked at again. Tear it in half and toss it in the bin. Ripping it feels good, and clearly separates it from unprocessed stuff. If it's still in one piece, you're not done with it.