The Method to the New Madness

When I was a very small child my mother would depend on me to be an elephant. “You can remember anything, Brock,” she would say, “so remember this.” And then she’d tell me the grocery list or the time of her next doctor appointment or to remind her to brush her teeth. (Maybe not that last one, but she depended on me A LOT.)

So it was quite a shock when I grew up to be a forgetful adult. I think my problem is partly a result of a fast-moving culture that demands we carve multiple inputs into our brains in order to process the onslaught of information we’re hit with on a daily basis, and also just that I have my own mad ideas constantly spinning in my head. Even if we’re just talking one-on-one, you still have some stiff competition for my attention. My wife will verify that all of this true.

Of course, a professional adult cannot operate like this. Things need to remembered and tasks need to be completed in a timely fashion. There are tons of day planners and apps and calendar interfaces that can help with this. You can makes lists and set alarms and program reminders and do all sorts of things to help you remember even the simplest of tasks. I reject all such methods. Because Post-its.

There’s nothing quicker or more efficient for my purposes. And my purposes have changed in recent months as work responsibilities have increased and changed. I have much to do, and that means remembering. When a new task comes in, it gets one line on a large Post-it. To make the tasks easier to differentiate and to read, I alternate lines with pencil and pen. When a task is completed, it gets crossed off. When all the tasks on a Post-it get crossed off, it gets tossed into a drawer.

There’s no real reason to keep the notes except I derive great satisfaction from looking in the drawer and seeing that, yes, I’m getting stuff done. It can sometimes feel like I’m never getting ahead on anything. The drawer proves otherwise. It’s a messy method to organize my new madness (mostly because of my obnoxious handwriting), but I love that drawer. It’s probably the most low tech part of my job, but it works for me.

What works for you?



  1. I can’t do Post-Its. I have tried them and I still have a hard time seeing how people can stand them. The sticky part is always harder to write on than the non-sticky part, and having a bunch of things sticking to other things just gets annoying and feels messy. So, I am in what you might call the 0.005% of people who use note cubes. They don’t stick, they feel more incredible in your hands because they are flat and don’t curve up (because they don’t ever stick to anything), and they can look neat even if you have a ton of them lying around.

    Maybe this is another Ben & Jerry’s / Häagen-Dazs thing? I like simplicity and neatness as opposed to what’s fun or popular. And yes, a lot of people think Post-Its are fun.


  2. Being one whose attention is normally divided at least sixteen ways, I can sympathize with the attempt to organize… in my case, however, the attempts remain just that… attempts.
    I can see how this would work for you… it probably wouldn’t work for me, though.


  3. I use post-its too. My problem is that I can never read my own writing and end up throwing them out. I figure they’ll call back if it was that important.

    Yours look scarily neat Brock.


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