Get Organized Stop Relying on Working Memory

Appears in the Adulting Planner on:

Lists! (Stop relying on your working memory!)

Working memory is the part of your brain focused on immediate tasks, steps, to-dos, and conversations (ie: choosing your words carefully). But when you use your working memory for too many tasks and challenges, it causes cognitive fatigue. If you struggle with paying attention, remaining focused, and task completion -- you need to learn to use external tricks instead of relying on your brain to hold a million details. 

This is where lists come in handy; when you are trying to get a lot of things done, lists can feel like a waste of time or the best idea ever. Understanding what they are good for will help you decide when to use them. A good list has these details:

  • A general idea of what makes these items similar (see examples below)
  • A short phrase or word about the task
  • Some extra space to add to the list when you remember more tasks 

A list does not need to look pretty; it does not need organization; it does not need nice handwriting; it does not need checkboxes. But it does need small details that help you remember the big picture. 

Here are some examples of lists you might make throughout the year:

  • A lot of chores around your home when you are prepping for visitors
  • A large project that has lots of details, deadlines, or parts
  • Doing many activities in one day that each require different items and belongings 
  • Daily to-do list so you can keep track of what is done and what is left to do (think chores, work, assignments to prep, meal planning, or a person you need to check in with)

If your planner came with stickers, look for the long sticker strip with boxes - this sticker matches up with the bullets that are lightly printed on all of the weekly pages. These can help you maintain order, draw your attention back to specific tasks, and help you complete a project or goals as you check them off.

How to use a list — Keep it handy and near you, look at it often (it keeps you focused and on task), and cross things off! People love completing a list - it makes the rewards centers in your brain happy. Humans get the "good feels" from something as basic as checking items off of a list. Because it releases happy chemicals in your body, it helps you build good habits over time. 


ADHD Life Anecdote (by Krissie):

A list is a list is a list. I made this list on a box, because I knew if I spent too much time looking for scrap paper I would get distracted and forget it all. Share any tips or tricks you have for lists in the comments below.

To-do list written on a box

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