I am forgetful. I can't get anything done in one sitting. I am easily side-tracked. I lose my train of thought. I am a scatterbrain.
While all of the joys of being a scatterbrained human can sound like there is no way you can be productive, they are merely obstacles. I have three jobs, I am taking 18 credits, and I am even in a club, yet I am able to manage all of my responsibilities. These are my tips on how to keep your life straight when your thoughts are not.
1. Live by your planner
Whether you have a calendar on your phone or stick to old-fashioned paper, a planner can help you keep all your ducks in a row. I forget things the second they enter my brain, so it is important that keep a planner with all my appointments, deadlines, and important dates. If you take the time to really fill out your planner, fewer things will fall through the cracks.
2. Write EVERYTHING down
We have a tendency to forget things very quickly, but paper doesn't! Writing things down as soon as you identify you need to know this or remember it after will help you remember and it gives you something to reference. I keep a little notepad with me and colored notecards on my desk for scribbling down reminders. I post them on a corkboard, and then I cant ignore them.
3. Find a to-do list style that works for you
For those of us that are easily distracted, traditional check-off to-do lists don't always cut it. Personally, I tend to jump from task to task and chip away at things, instead of completing each task from start to finish. Using a progress bar to-do list helps me see my progress on each task and allows me to see exactly where I need to pick back up to finally be able to cross that item off completely.
4. Incentivize your to-do list
Behavioral psychology says, in order to shape actions, you reward positive behaviors. You know that cheesecake you have in the refrigerator? You can have one bite for every task you complete. Those shoes you have been dying to order? Only order them after you complete everything on your list for that day. By being disciplined with yourself, you can use operant conditioning to check more things off of your to-do list.
5. Tell your friends things you need to do
This can help us in two ways. First, saying something out loud boosts your chances of remembering whatever it is that you need to do. Second, telling a friend or family member can help keep you accountable for that task and they may even remind you that you said you need to do it.
6. Take a second to clear your head
When my mind is racing and I can't seem to stay focused, I take a moment for self-care. Depending on the day, this could mean going to the gym, doing a facemask, meditating, writing in my journal, or anything else that forces me to slow down and focus on me. Taking some time to recenter yourself can help you be more productive and prioritize the things you need to do.