Every professional needs to have a personal organization system. David Allen (author of my favorite organization system - Getting Things Done) likes to say your mind is for thinking, not remembering. What I learned from his system is that using the correct tool is the key. Let me explain.
I’m not what anyone would consider to be a handy person around the house. However, I can do a few things. Recently, I installed a Nest thermostat. It didn’t require a ton of tools - a screwdriver and wire cutters. But imagine if I hard tried to use a hammer. Or even a screwdriver that was too big or too small for the job? It would have been a disaster (and trust me, I know home improvement disasters).
The same principle for my organizational system. I have a calendar that I use for my time-dependent events. I have a to-do list that I use for my tasks. I have a notebook (several actually) that I use to make notes. If I tried to keep that all in my head, I would be lost. Or if I used only 1 thing for everything (a notebook for my calendar, tasks and notes), it could be hard to organize. I happen to do most things electronically, so my items are with me through my phone or computer all the time. But paper works as well.
He is the dirty little secret of organizational tools - when used properly, they free your mind up to focus on the important things. I don’t worry about writing and missing a meeting, because a reminder will pop up with plenty of time for me to join. I don’t worry about missing a task, because it is on the list that I review regularly.