These past 3 days I’ve played Admin Assistant to my trainer Aunt on an away trip. We’ve enjoyed ourselves immensely, and while I’ve done a little running around, I’ve thought of sharing my lists and systems that form my external memory drive and help me function at work and home.
I’m sure many others do this and call it something else. I like the term ‘external memory’ because, like most adults, I’ve got a lot happening at any given moment and making some of the extraneous flotsam and jetsam external is really helpful.
This week, a ‘To Go’ box, would be helpful. If we were to travel like this often, I’d make it a permanent thing so we knew what we needed was ready to go. This week’s ‘To Go’ box would include:
- Whiteboard markers (training rooms don’t always provide them, weirdly).
- Name labels
- Your own name tag – big letters!
- A runner’s bag – you’ll find that your assistant is running around and needs to carry keys, phone, cards, notes etc. So making sure they have their hands free is important.
At home, we have bags and places to store things so that there’s no chasing around madly at 8.25am on a school morning. (That’s the plan, anyway!)
- Theo’s bag and shoes go in the cupboard directly inside the front door.
- My shoes and bag go in the same cupboard so we can grab everything as we dash out the door. (And stuff it in as we come in.)
- I have baskets in most cupboards – pantry, bathroom etc. that hold groups of items so I only need to grab one basket to do a task, rather than a number of items. Eg. Sponge, scrubber, spray and squeegee to clean bathroom; flour, baking soda etc etc for baking; herbs and spices; measuring cups, spoons, sifter, spatula all in the mixing bowl in the cupboard. The list goes on. It just makes it easier to do that task.
- I have travelled quite a bit in the past few years, so I have prepacked a toiletries bag with everything I’ll need. Because I’m a cheapskate, I usually only have carry-on luggage, so I have a snap lock bag next to this in the cupboard that contains scissors and tweezers etc that can’t always be taken. This way you don’t have to throw them out at security checks at the airport. 😕
Digital technology is also an excellent way of sharing the load and externalising the lists and tasks we deal with. In our family, everyone except the 4 year old, much to his dismay, has an iPad or phone, has a shared Google calendar. All family outings, appointments, work hours, individual coffee dates, school activities and daycare hours are entered there and colour-coded. As things are uploaded and synced to each person’s device, everybody knows what everyone else is up to. This saves one person (often mum) having to update a paper calendar or diary and being the go-to person for every question. For me, it’s freeing being able to say, “What does the calendar say?” in answer to all “Can I…?” questions. The kids can take responsibility for scheduling for the family.
My husband and I share a Google Keep/Note account which we each have accessible on our phones. We share shopping lists, budget items and a “when we can afford this” list. This helps us to know what money is available at any one time and to know what the household needs. This, for me, means I don’t waste time and headspace remembering and perhaps reciting or forgetting milk, bread, soap and ear cleaners. Now, ostensibly, I can use my free brain power for all manner of other things!
I also keep a variety of lists on Google Keep to free up yet more space in my head. I have a list of websites that I’d like to explore – when I’m waiting for an appointment, I can flick to one of those. I have a list of movies or TV shows I’d like to get to. A wishlist of purchases and the links to buy them (whenever I have the money 😊); appointments to make; projects to continue; books to read; packing lists for camps etc; long term commitments etc. I can free my headspace to do the day to day stuff.
At school, (I am a secondary school teacher) I have purchased a different coloured basket, a little bigger than A4 sheet and 10-15cm deep, for each subject and set them on my desk. I have a matching coloured folder for those paper based subjects that need them that stand up alongside the baskets. In each basket I have the term outline for the subject, the text books, assessment sheets – basically anything that I’ve pre-prepared for the term. As I photocopy or grab another book or have a USB with new documents during the week, I can throw it in the basket and know it will be there at the lesson time.
I’m currently working on a way to remember all the ‘need this for everything’ items that I take out and use when back at my desk. I always need my keys, pencil case, ipad and sometimes the laptop. If you have any suggestions on how to accomplish this, or other ways you organise yourself, please comment below.
I’d love to hear more ways to free up brainspace!