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Staying organised

Have you ever noticed that when things are really busy suddenly you start forgetting things you wouldn’t normally? It’s very easy once you get to capacity to start forgetting things regularly because the average brain can only remember 7 things.

Notably this is also one of the reasons people are told to count to ten when they’re stressed or upset. By the time you get to ten you should have temporarily forgotten why you were upset and given your body a chance to calm down…

I noticed on the lead up to my wedding a year ago that whereas usually I’m quite organised and don’t need a written to do list, there was so much to cope with I was forgetting things regularly and feeling overwhelmed. And as you get closer to full capacity there becomes no rhyme or reason to what you forget, it’s like a sink overflowing.

A good mental way to cope is to group things together into projects, preferably only 5 or 6 to keep you below that crucial ‘seven’, but should all else fail, it might be time to bring out the big guns and use some highly recommended organisational tools:

1. PDA or Smartphone

Personally I have used a PDA (personal digital assistant – not a public display of affection!) for fifteen years and find they are key to having information at my fingertips at the drop of a hat. When smartphones originally came out I resisted because they were big and clumpy (anyone remember the Nokia ‘Brick’ 9110) and I didn’t want to have to carry something that large around.

These days smartphones come in all shapes and sizes and are an essential tool in our busy lifestyles. Being able to have an electronic calendar, to do list and your contact list with you at all times allows you to be organised even when out and about. However, it’s important to use it well. Make sure you learn how to synchronise your gadget with your computer and step away from the paper diary!

2. Group calendar

Do you need a calendar for the whole office or the family? There is the wall planner option, or you can go for an online version. Google and Microsoft Hotmail (as well as several others) offer a free calendar that can email reminders to everyone involved when an event is due.

Obviously you can buy software as well, but start off simple and work out what works for you.

3. Remember the Milk

This is one of my most recent finds and I think it’s brilliant! Much easier to use than Microsoft Outlook’s Task list and writing things on bits of paper, www.rememberthemilk.com allows you to create multiple lists that can be accessed from your PC, your mobile internet and synchronised with your calendar software. Apart from your standard to-do list, you can store a reusable shopping list, a list of goals, a list of projects and much more.

4. Organised Mum Products

If you’re looking for something paper based that really is aimed at keep a family organised, take a look at the Organised Mum range at http://www.dynagirl.co.uk. There are lots of tools available, specifically for the modern busy family including address books, budget books, wall planners, party planners and much more.

5. Mental Checklist

Remember how your Gran’s handbag was always full of the essentials like a massive purse, sweets, tissues, pens and lots and lots of shopping lists? Well, work out what your ‘life essentials’ are and learn it so you can keep them with you at all times. When going out for a meeting my mental checklist involves my wallet, phone, keys, a selection of pens (because one always konks out at the wrong moment), business cards and notebook.

6. Notice board / whiteboard

Never underestimate the power of a notice board! Though I’m a big fan of technology, there’s no replacement for something that has worked for eons. A white board is great for displaying targets, goals and showing improvement as you go along. A notice board (or fridge magnets for that matter) are great for keeping those little bits of paper safe and visible.

7. Business card reader software

Gone are the days of having to type in everyone’s details. The original business card readers were either massively expensive or just plain rubbish – now you can take a picture with your new smartphone and it will automatically store the information into your address book! Save yourself huge amounts of time and hassle and Google “Business card reader app” for your preferred phone…

8. RSS Readers

Want to keep up to date with news but don’t have the time to sit and read a newspaper? If you haven’t yet discovered RSS readers (jokingly dubbed Really Simple Syndication) you might find this is the ticket! RSS allows you to receive a multitude of updates from various websites – it doesn’t have to just be news sites. You can get RSS feeds of specific twitter accounts, blogs, videos… all sorts.

We like www.netvibe.com and Google Reader which allow you to just receive the headline. Net Vibe shows you an entire screen of your feeds allowing you to just pick the ones you want to read. A great way of keeping up to date with specific areas that are relevant to you without wading through all the gossip… unless that’s what you want of course!

If you’re really feeling over busy and overwhelmed, try getting out of the office to a coffee shop on your own. Sit, have a cuppa and do a little planning and brainstorming with a pen and paper. You’ll be amazed at how clearer things can seem when you’re well away from any distractions and have the space to think properly.