I confess: I’m a terrible scatterbrain. It takes a lot for me to force my thoughts into a nice, orderly line and to keep them there — particularly in those busy times when I have a lot of competing priorities. In those times, I’ll often find myself working on one project while ideas for other tasks pop into my head at random.
Those thoughts can be as simple as “don’t forget to email Pete about that invoice” or as intricate as a new angle on an idea I’d been working on before. They’re basically the random things my brain spews out while I’m trying to focus on something else. I know I’m not alone — a lot of people experience the same thing.
Through a long process of trial and error, I’ve found that the best way to deal with these random thoughts — thoughts that are important and valuable, but unrelated to the task I’m working on — is to note them down. This way, I can be sure I won’t forget them, but I also reduce their interruption into my focus on other tasks.
For this reason, the handiest tool in my home office is a pen and paper. I’ve tried using online tools to note down my ideas, but I find that going online to add a task to my to-do list is like opening a door to the world: The temptation to check the news, weather, or my email is often too great to resist.
The problem with noting these random — but important — tasks in something as simple as my text editor is that, as a result of my scattered approach to work, I usually end up with so many apps open, and so many things going on, that I can forget I have my list hidden behind five other panes. Sometimes, I have trouble finding it at all.
My pen and paper are always at my elbow, so I don’t have any difficulty finding them. I like the fact that they’re physically separate from my computer: the place where I do my work. That physical separation helps me mentally divorce these thoughts from what I’m doing, which prevents them from distracting me from the task at hand.
My notepad is my “random thoughts” area, so I treat it as such; my tasks lists are online, well-planned and carefully formulated. But my notepad is a space that’s dedicated to shards of thoughts, germs of ideas that I know need more work and attention before I can do something with them.
And I do give them that attention — sooner or later. Usually, I try to take a look at my list when I get to a break point in what I’m doing. I can take the easy-to-do stuff, prioritize it, and add it to my task list immediately. And I can check my schedule to see when I can set aside half an hour for thinking more about the new angle for that previously concepted idea. Perhaps I’ll also take the opportunity to find my brainstorming notes for that idea and add the new thought to them, ensuring that I keep all the thoughts about that project together.
Once I’ve sorted through the items on my page, I turn it over and start a new page: a clean slate for new random thoughts that may occur in the next work period. So, my pen and notepad are the handiest tools in my home office.
What about you? What remote working tool do you value most?
Photo credit: stock.xchng user RAWKU5.