action diary

More than ever these days, keeping myself organized is a daily process. There’s this. That. The other. Dates. Bills. Receipts. A to-do list. A calendar (or two.) And much as I love a clean desk, truth is there’s well-begun but half-done projects here and there, waiting for more time and opportunity.

So there’s often a desktop shuffle. And we all know — things get lost in the shuffle. Important things.

What I need – have needed – will need – is a system. And oh-the systems I’ve tried. So many systems, I’ve lost count. In all honesty, I reinvent wheels all the time. Or forget about the latest wheel I reconfigured in the time elapsed between its creation and the next time I needed to use it.

Sometimes I’d get all the paper completely organized and feel ever so self-satisfied.

Only to later forget what-all I did with any of it.

Maybe one system just blends into another, each indistinct from the last. Maybe it’s an aspect of aging. Or maybe my brain is more full of big ideas and less focused on small details.

Enter my latest system: an action diary.

Not especially detailed, my action diary is a collection of notes – reminders of what I did, when I did it, who said what, and where I put anything I’m likely to forget about, but will need in the future.

When did I call the cable company? Where did I file those receipts?

Simply put: an action diary is a record of my actions. A log of my to-dos — done.

Going forward, it’s the first place I’ll look whenever I’ve lost hope of finding that piece of paper, reset password, or whatever else I’ve forgotten between then and now.

I’m hopeful it works.


Pen on notebook. Notebook under keys. Medication next to the sink, next to the soap I use to wash my face every night. (If I remember. Which I do. Now that my medication is alongside.) Moisturizer at home atop the dresser from which I pull my clothes every morning. A list of daily important-to-mes tucked nearby as I ready my face to greet the day. Just this morning, I dropped a single tissue on the stair landing so I’d remember to add tissues to the grocery list.

Whatever it takes. However to manage in this life full of never-ending and persistent distractions.

More than ever before, our home is organized, room by room, item by item, so each possession has a home, a place where I’ll know exactly where to find it time and again without a hunt and seek. Take it out. Put it back in the same place, over and over and over. And I’ve weeded our things. Fewer possessions to manage. If it doesn’t meet a purpose – function, beauty, meaning, memory – and won’t in the future, out it goes. I store like with like. I’ll find what’s needed where it’s most often used. Clear surfaces calm me, freeing my thought paths to help me remember whatever it is I almost forgot.

These days, I find hope – and comfort too – in the familiar, the known, and routine.

So, I set reminders. Reminders to do what’s good for me: a water glass next to the fridge. Reminders to meet responsibilities: a timecard left on my computer. Reminders for function: glasses on my book, lunchbox in front of the door, masks in the car. I own many too many notebooks – an organizational problem I’m helpless to overcome. Still, I love to list. And list. And list. There’s remembering in the writing.

I’ve even texted myself on occasions when I absolutely must remember to do something and don’t entirely trust myself to remember to do it. What about you? String on your finger? List on the fridge? Timer on the stove? My husband used an elastic band on his wrist. What’s sensible for me, might not be at all practical for someone else. I think I feel most successful when I find my own solutions.

If I’m to have any hope of managing all that’s on my mind and in my heart, strategies are necessary. If I’m ever to keep myself whole in an increasingly fractured world, I’ll need to remember – somewhere way down deep inside me – just what being whole feels like.