Closed September 2017

My Brain Needs a Defrag

Memory2 When your computer hard drive slows down, you can run a defragmentation utility on it, rearranging the pieces of its memory to make it work better again. Sure wish you could do that for your brain! I've been traveling a lot recently and have had several projects going at once, along with everything that I normally do with my family, and it definitely is harder to remember things when you have so much stuffed in there.

Memory is inherently faulty and unreliable, so that makes it even more important to rely on organizing techniques and systems. Here are some thoughts I have on organizing and memory– I wanted to write them down here and share them before I forget.  🙂

  • Make sure you have multiple, solid "capturing tools" that work well for you. For me, I have a paper notebook nearby along with my smartphone's calendar and other apps like Evernote. I also use my camera and ReQall as capturing tools. ReQall is a free service that lets you leave a voice mail message for yourself that gets transcribed and emailed to you within a few minutes. I use this often in the car as random thoughts occur to me. (Read this previous post all about your capturing toolbox.)
  • Set up foolproof reminder systems. Capturing information is half the battle, but if that information is time-sensitive, you also need to have good CUES. (Read this previous post all about setting up good cues, including the 5 factors that make cues work.) You might use alarms on your calendar and phone, sticky notes, or even good old fashioned wake up calls to remind you of things at the right time. does reminder phone calls, as well as Members of our online program get a customized email reminder system they can set to remind them of anything recurring, like changing water filters, giving your dog his medication, or whatever you like! (Along with getting unlimited support from our expert organizers!) Read more about our program here.
  • Put objects away in established places that make the most sense. When you are deciding where something belongs, stop and think– don't stash– and consider where the BEST home is for that item. A logical place may be where other like items already reside, such as putting crayons with other school supplies or incoming bills with the other bills in your office. You can also store something at its "point of use," like putting pot-holders near the oven. Being as logical as possible means you probably can figure it out if you forget later.

Your organizing systems should be as trusted as a bookmark– what I call "The Bookmark Principle." If you were reading a book, you surely wouldn't run around thinking, "I'm on page 78, I'm on page 78, I'm on page 78…" all day long. Of course not– you'd have a trusted system called a BOOKMARK that remembers that for you. Put systems in place that you trust as much as a bookmark so you can let go of the information and feel free and confident that it will be there when you need it.

Does your brain need a defrag? Join the club.  🙂 Thankfully things don't fall apart thanks to good systems!

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Craig Jarrow

Great post! My favorite is “Put objects away in established places.”
This is one of the most powerful habits for staying organized and being able to find things again.
If you only have “one place” that you put a specific item… then you always know where to find it. 🙂


I too LOVE how you said “established!” I love finding and sharing Established Ways of doing and organizing things!
I love for keeping, sharing, and updating lists! There is a mobile version, and I love the simplicity of it!
I am a Kindle reader, and am currently reading your book on my Kindle!
Love what you do!


Is there a timer that I can have that not downloaded to my computer that will keep track of multiple times? Think like a stop watch with 3 different races to track.


Hi Heather, I don’t have a specific timer that keeps track of multiple times. So, I went on a quest and found the following (I could not find a multi timer that was not a download or countdown timer):
1. You have to download this timer to your computer, but it keeps track of 10 times –
2. This is an online application that will allow you to set 5 alarms –
If you find a timer that you like, let us know!

Ann Landau

I couldn’t function as happily without Evernote and ReQall. They suit me very well. In addition, I took some colored index cards and wrote some things on them, keep them in the drawer of the small table I see just before I go out the door. The cards have on them notes written in that thick black marker: TAKE PHONE, TAKE GYM CLOTHES, PUT OUT TRASH, ETC. The night before I think of my activities the next day, and before bed I put on that little table the necessary card reminders. It helps a lot.


I use a Pyrex kitchen timer for multiple dishes as I move through the house/my day (I think it can time up to four dishes at once). I find that I’m not on the computer enough to make a computer application practical. I found it on the Amazon website.


I’m with Caro on the computer apps– I’m on A computer a lot, but whether or not I’m on the SAME computer from day to day is a different story. I know professional organizers would for the most part put a price on my head for saying so, but the system I’ve found that works best for me, time and again, are little scraps of paper with notes and lists. The trick to keeping these organized rather than frustrating and cluttery is to keep them all together in a bag or folder, review them consistently, and toss them once you’ve completed them. I often refine the stack by compiling them onto new lists on new paper scraps, which helps my recall because rewriting it keeps it in my head, and it prevents me from procrastinating, because even the most unpleasant tasks will become even more annoying to write and rewrite, so I’ll just do it so I don’t have to transfer it again. I can’t imagine this is a great system for too many people, but after trying in vain for over a decade to keep date books and other more traditional organizers, I’ve found I’m just happier and feel better with this. I do love Ann’s idea about the index cards with regular tasks printed on them to lay out on the days those tasks are needed, and I may just have to borrow that and incorporate it into my daily shuffle.


JBO, I promise I won’t put a price on your head! It’s great that you have found a system that works for you. That is a really important step in maintaining organization – a system that works for YOU. Thank you for sharing your system with us!


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