Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Keeping It Together When You're a Scatterbrain

Hi.  My name is Therese and I'm a scatterbrain.  Are you a scatterbrain too? Welcome!

Scatterbrain Times Three

Times three you ask?  Yup.  I am scatterbrained times three.

One: I have a touch of ADHD - the hyperactive part of that is not physical, but mental.  My brain jumps all over the place like a mexican jumping bean.  Just look at the number of tabs I have open in my browser... it's very telling! And I do it all the time. I finally gave up trying to control it!

Two: I have some cognitive and memory issues from Lyme Disease.  I forget a lot of things, get confused, misplace things, forget what I was doing or why I was doing it... constantly!!  OK, yes.  Truth be told, I kind of always had this tendency (see ADHD above) but it became exponentially worse thanks to some lovely little Lyme-infested tick.
Three: I have waaaaayyyyyyy too many projects going on at once.  Have you ever been to my house?  You will see a small pile of needle-work projects by my chair in the living room, a pile of magazines on the dining room table, a pile of books on my nightstand, a bunch of containers of half-finished craft projects in my craft room, and about 3,000 papers, pens, and notebooks on my desk. I have a lot more ideas than I have energy to carry them out!

So, How Do I Keep It All Together?  

Ha ha ha ha!!!  I don't!  LOL.  OK, well, I sort of manage but it has taken me a long time and a lot of trial and error.  It has also taken the ability to forgive myself and start over at least 8 zillion times...maybe more.
I have spent hours upon hours looking for solutions.  There are tons of ideas out there! (Don't believe me? Check Pinterest!)  Not all of them are going to work, but usually there are several that will. The trick is finding the right fit for you and the way you think, work, and play. And, something that you can keep up.
I'm an extremely visual person.  If I don't see it, I'm likely to forget about it. This is a challenge when you have a lot of stuff.  Not everything can be visible or you will be overwhelmed - Note: If you are visually sensitive, please enter my craft room at your own risk.
After much trial and error, I have found a few things that work for me.  Perhaps some of them will work for you too.

Project Baskets/Bags

This one discovery was probably one of the biggest savers of my sanity.  I love to craft and usually have lots of different things going on at the same time. That generally equals a big giant mess.  

Being the visual person that I am, once it's put away, I will forget about it and it will forever languish in the land of un-finished projects.  I get bored, distracted, interrupted, sick... whatever.  

Projects often get stopped in the middle.  I fear never finding them again or not knowing where I left off if I put the project away.  For years I had covered nearly every horizontal surface in my home with projects.  

Enter dollar store baskets turned project baskets!  And, of course, the ever handy zip-up plastic bag.  I finally learned from my years of teaching preschool! All related materials go in the same basket (or bag)! 

When it's time to do that activity, voila!  And, yes, this does mean I have about 10 pairs of scissors and many other duplicates.  To me, it's worth it to have the extra "clutter."


Project Clipboards and Binders

This was another life saver.  I'm a piler.  Always will be.  But sometimes my piles threatened me.  They definitely competed for space with the unfinished craft projects!  And I could never find anything.  

I have the same problem with paperwork as I do with the craft projects - often half done and abandoned in the middle.  When it was time to go back to them, it would take me so long to find the papers and figure out where I left off, that I was too tired to actually do any work with them!
Project Clipboards are my favorite thing this year!  I have about 5 of them.  One has the stuff for my writing group and the current manuscript(s) I'm working on.  One has all the notes I used for creating my health journal.  One has a bunch of photography paperwork so I can finally submit some of my photographs to stock agencies.  
There is also a clipboard with notes and ideas for my blog and one for a project I'm working on with a friend.  


I even have a tiny one I keep next to my computer with scrap paper to record the random note or idea. I think I may soon need to buy stock in clip boards and baskets!

The binders hold reference-type material I need to keep together like medical records and tax records.

To-Do List

Oh, this one took some time!  I am definitely a lister.  I list things I have to do and want to do and wish I could do and they all end up in one big jumbled mess of papers and scraps.  I have a tendency to grab whatever paper seems to be closest at hand.  This has sometimes resulted in bills containing a grocery list when I wasn't thinking about which paper I happened to grab.  

This is where I fall in love with my phone and with Google Drive! (OK, it was just one more reason.)

I can add to my to-do list whether I am on my computer, waiting at a doctor's office, or resting in bed. And I can refer to it wherever I am - which is a frequent need since I often don't remember what I need to do or all my brilliant ideas (humor me)!

What I like about using a spreadsheet is that I can have separate tabs for each category. I also added columns where I could mark the priority of the task and the amount of energy it takes.  

If I have a day where I'm not really feeling well, I still might be able to get a couple of low energy tasks done. I can also plan my tasks according to my own energy pattern through the day. This has been a great help to me.

One other important tab I have - the "DONE!!" tab. Often I feel like I get nothing done as a sick person. My productivity pales in comparison to others (hint: don't compare!!) Having a list of things that I have completed helps me to remember that I can still be a semi-productive member of society.

Resisting "Shoulds"

I tend to have a pretty "should-y" attitude with myself.  To avoid this, I have to consciously reword and re-frame my "should" so I keep the big WHY at the fore-front.  

Instead of saying to myself, "I should exercise," I try to say, "I want to exercise because the movement helps me to feel better."  

"I should drink more water" becomes "I want to drink lots of water so that I stay hydrated."  

It's not easy to do this, but when I catch myself with a case of the "shoulds" I try to make it a case of the why's.  This helps a little bit with motivation and guilt.


Did I just say guilt?  I often feel guilty if I didn't do what I "should", if I forget things, if I end up with piles and half-done projects.  I feel guilty the days that I'm feeling too unwell to get anything done or get so little done that I feel like it's laughable...  Yeah, guilt and I go way back. Now do you understand why I have a "DONE!!" tab on my to-do list?!?
Consistency is but a dream for me.  And so it is that grace, self-forgiveness, is extremely important.  We all mess up, right?  But there's no need to stay there. Just try again. 

Trust me when I say that every few weeks I need to clean up my desk, my projects, my clipboards, my to-do lists... but I do get it back under control and I do manage to keep it that way for a while.
These may not be perfect solutions and they may not work for you, but they sure helped me out quite a bit!

What about You?

Please, take a moment to share what works for you in the comments!  We can all learn from each other!

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