This may surprise people who have only known me since I moved to New Zealand, but there was a time when I was very organised. I was a busy political activist at the time and needed to keep everything organised so I wouldn’t become overwhelmed.
Among other things, I designed my own “To Do” list sheets, schedule, calendar, and more. I used them heavily 1992-93, when I was at the height of my activism, travelling around several States in the Midwest for meetings and events to try and advance LGBT rights.
It was an exciting time, and also much simpler: There was no Internet back then, so no email or Facebook or Twitter or any way other than phone calls, faxes, and mailed letters to get information out to supporters and colleagues. I used them all, and tracked them.
The sheets record notes of phone conversations with people whose names I no longer recognise, but mainly people I lost contact with years ago. In recent years, I’ve re-connected with some of them on Facebook, which has been great. It’s not surprising, I suppose, but reading through notes form that time in my life was a little poignant for me.
I remember those days, and how busy I was, but, as my notes indicate, I also got a lot done. And that’s why I was looking at those old records.
I’m at a point in my life that I need to become better organised, not because I’m as busy as I was more than two decades ago (I’m not), nor because I think being organised is some sort of virtue in itself (I’m undecided about that…). Instead, it’s because my memory has become bad enough that if I don’t write things down, I don’t have any hope of staying on target for various projects, even relatively small ones.
So I was looking at the forms I designed for myself all those years ago to see if they might be useful to me now, even if only as inspiration. My reasoning was that if I made the perfect system for myself back then, I can do it again.
However, much of what I did on paper back then I now handle electronically. My calendar includes both dates to remember as well as specific times and locations of meetings. That calendar is on my desktop Mac, my iPhone, and my iPad, meaning wherever I am, I have access to my schedule, and to my contacts (or address book, if you prefer), which is similarly shared among my devices.
I know that there are good “to do” list apps I could use, some free, some not, but they all have the same problem for me: I have to remember to check them, and so far, that hasn’t worked out very well.
So, I thought I’d return to making handwritten “to do” lists on paper, and it was this part of my old system I was interested in. I know from years of experience that there’s something about the physical act of writing something down by hand that seems to help me remember (when I was a teenager, all I had to do was write a note to myself and I’d remember—I didn’t even have to look at it; those days are long gone).
What I may do instead, though, is try writing the list by hand using my iPad and a stylus so that I can easily share the list with all my devices. But until I get that all set up, I’ll stick with the paper version.
Taking a stroll down my own memory lane was a little unexpected, but it was helpful—and also interesting to me. All of that’s true because there was a time I was very organised. My goal is to get near to that again.
Update: There's an update to this post (second item).