Your brain is not for remembering (Day 1 of 31 Days of Organizing)

your brain is not for rememberingWelcome to Day 1 of 31 Days of Organizing. A little housekeeping: you will be hearing from me every single day (including weekends) between now and December 31st. If you don’t want to play along, feel free to unsubscribe at the bottom of this page! I’m not here to harass you or fill up your inbox with unwanted messages. I am here to share great organizing solutions to help make your life easier, simpler, and less chaotic.

Let’s begin!

I want to start with the very first thing that’s on my Make Some Room Manifesto:

Your Brain is Not for Remembering!

Seriously, it’s not. Even Albert Einstein said, “Never remember something you can look up.”

Your gorgeous noggin’ is for creating, thinking, strategizing, pondering, and wondering.

Your tools and technology are for remembering.

How do you do that? Get one or two tools and USE them.

Want to know the mistake most people make here?



Oh, right. The mistake most people (you?) make…

Imagine you start using a new tool on your computer. Maybe something like Microsoft Outlook. You’ve heard it can be a good tool (and indeed it can be). So, you get all excited about being organized, you input a few tasks, schedule a few work blocks and get on with your day.

Then an email arrives or an issue of Inc. Magazine or Fast Company hits your desk. You read about a new tool to help you be more productive. Maybe it’s a new kind of To Do software or it’s a something that filters and organizes email. Or it’s a new way to categorize your contacts.

You get all excited and download this new tool. You input a few tasks, put in a few work blocks, and you spend some time clicking around to re-organize your contacts for maximum efficiency (as the tool promised).

Tomorrow, you have lunch with a colleague and they mention a new tool to you. “I love it,” this person gushes. “I just started using it yesterday and it’s already saved me, like, four hours!”

Excited, you go back to your office and download this new tool. You input a few tasks, put in a few work blocks, and you spend some time clicking around to re-organize your contacts.

See where I’m going with this?

I call it tool abandonment and it’s a sad state of affairs that happens multiple times a day across the world (especially in Business Land).

The thing is, if your brain isn’t for remembering and you continue to adopt and then abandon tools repeatedly, it’s no wonder you feel like a crazy person (and really are disorganized and unproductive, right?).

Tools and technology should not be complicated.


If your brain isn’t for remembering (and it’s not), then the idea is for you to get things off your mind and into your tools so you can give your noggin a break.

THIS is how you end the crazies and stop tool abandonment.

Does this make sense? Here, I’ll do it step-by-step for you:

  1. Decide what you need to get off your mind (usually it’s contact information, To Do’s, calendar items, and lists of stuff for later)
  2. Choose the appropriate tool or tools to do the job (choose simple tools and as few of them as possible)
  3. Input information from your mind into your tools.
  4. Use the tool(s) every day. Create the habit and you’ll automatically input information regularly and reliably.
  5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  6. Bonus: when a tool is working for you, AVOID the temptation of other tools (Squirrel! Shiny Object! Pretty!). Decide it’s nice to know about them, but you don’t need them since your tools are working great [insert sigh of relief here].

Got it? Good.

If you’re flummoxed, I can help. There are only a few tools I recommend for individuals and teams to help them simplify and streamline their work.

Make Some Room (and for Pete’s sake, quit abandoning tools),


P.S. If this isn’t your thing, I sincerely invite you to unsubscribe. It’s easy – see the unsubscribe button below? My feelings absolutely won’t be hurt. And your inbox will be immediately less cluttered.

Kaizen: get things done (better), one step at time

When I’m out hiking, I often get intimated by the big climbs. I start making up stories about how hard it will be and how long it will take and how my lungs might burst with the effort. I worry about my knees hurting, and running out of water, and bonking (running flat slap out of energy).

(Would you like a little cheese with that whine, Angie?)

The thing is, there’s only one way to climb a mountain.

One step at a time.

And I know that each step is helping my cardio, my muscles, and my mind. And if I stick with it, I’ll get better at it each time.

See, that’s really the only way to get better at anything: stick with it and take it one task (or step) at a time.

In fact, there’s a whole philosophy around small improvements called Kaizen.

Kaizen is Japanese for “good change.” It refers to any improvement, big or small; one-time or ongoing.

In Kaizen, the whole idea is that change and improvement is a process.  And the cycle looks like this:

  1. Standardize an operation and its activities
  2. Measure the operation (so you have a baseline – a place to begin)
  3. Gauge measurements against requirements
  4. Innovate to meet requirements and increase productivity
  5. Standardize the new, improved operations
  6. Continue cycle ad infinitum

Here’s a working example using email.

Step #1: Decide you’ll follow my five step email processing plan (Unsubscribe, Delete, Do, Delegate, Defer)

Step #2: Note how many emails are currently in your inbox (this is your baseline – your desired outcome)

Step #3: Decide how many emails you want in your inbox (my answer is never more than 30; yours might be more or less than this)

Step #4:  Decide you’ll only spend one hour, three times a day on email.  Stick to this schedule using a timer.

Step #5: Perform this way for one week and then check yourself according to your desired goal (for me, do I have no more than 30 emails in my inbox at any one one time? If yes, continue doing what I’m doing; if no, what small change do I need to make to approach my goal?)

Step #6: Continue, continue, continue. Adjust goal if/when necessary. Otherwise, the system works for the desire outcome you’ve chosen.

Give it a try for anything you would like to accomplish or improve. And let me know how it works for you!

Make Some Room,


P.S. I’m starting 31 Days of Organizing on Monday, December 1st. You will hear from me every single day in December with a tip, idea, or video on “getting organized.” December is my favorite month and I like to give, give, give. I hope you’ll play along!

13 Ways to think differently about systems and organization

A client of mine tried to introduce me to his team recently. And he said, “I don’t know what to call you because you won’t tell me.”

I’ve had this problem for several years. It started in 2011 when I joined an accelerator group and one of the members said to me, “You’re good at systems and organization. You should really let that be your focus and what you ‘sell.’ Business owners will buy that.”

And so I did. And it worked, mostly. Except over and over I found out that what I wanted to work on had nothing to do with actual systems or technology and everything to do with communications.

This week, I had an epiphany. It hit me *POW* right between the eyes.

I teach a lot of things, but probably not what YOU think I teach based on my website and my company name.

Rather my real interests include:

  1. Integrity before productivity
  2. Self-management instead of time management
  3. Integrity and perseverance before sales and marketing planning
  4. Empathy, not efficiency (especially with people)
  5. Honest communication rather than avoidance
  6. Purpose before planning
  7. Infrastructure before systems
  8. Meaning, not materialism
  9. Awareness before organizing
  10. Letting go rather than grasping and striving
  11. Passion before planning
  12. Authentic team-building, continuously and relentlessly
  13. Technology as a tool, not the be-all/end-all solution

And then another epiphany hit me right between the eyes: I actually have a degree in communications. It’s an Organizational Communications degree and it’s about how people are as individuals and how they interact in groups, big or small. Even in college 15 years ago, I unconsciously wanted to focus on this work. Wow!

Here’s the deal: before we talk about systems and organization, I want to get deeply personal with you.

I want talk with you about your fears. About your dreams. About your wishes and hopes and what matters to you. I want you to tell me the things you don’t want me to know about you – to walk right into your terror, your shame, and your frustrations together with me.

And then we can get into productivity, time management, team-building, organization and all those other things. But I have to understand who you are right now before I can help you become who you want to be. And YOU have to understand who you are right now before you can become the person you want to be.

Does that make sense?

Because who you BE affects everything you DO.

I want to connect. I want to dive deep. I want to know what’s up. What you dream about. What scares you shitless.

After we get into that, then the magic begins.

When you’re ready, I’m ready.

Make Some Room,


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