Coping or staying organised

I listened to a great podcast about organising yourself: Note to Self, A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Getting Organized. It’s only 16 minutes long and it’s a must-listen for any busy person.

images I have tried many ways of staying organised, many efforts not to drown, to cope, to manage, to keep everything going, to meet all my targets/requirements, to not go insane etc. There is no foolproof method, and each human being needs their own tailored system. I’ve tried Evernote, I’ve tried Pomodoro, I’ve tried pen and paper, the “4 hour workweek” and quite a few other ‘systems’ that people wrote books about but I’ve forgotten what they were called.

My current system is using the full power of Outlook and Outlook tasks. It’s been working pretty well for the last 3 years, but I still get side-tracked, overwhelmed, distracted, snowed-under etc. I’ll keep on plugging on though, and will slowly try to get better.

Things I do in Outlook:

  • I have my timetable in Outlook
  • As soon as I get an email with a due date, a meeting time or some other time in it, I make it into a meeting and put it in my diary.
  • I use categories for Calendar appointments and Emails
  • I use email rules, great tool.
  • I use Outlook tasks and prioritise by using those little flags (today, tomorrow etc etc)

Below are the key take-aways from the Note to Self, A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Getting Organized podcast website:

1. Write down everything you need to do. Everything! Then prioritize what really needs to be first. Basically: brain dump with bullet points, then go through and number in order of importance. a

“You look at your list of things to do and there’s one that you’ve put there on top, you sit down to do that, and you really become immersed in it. Instead of wondering, like so many of us do, ‘Is there something else I should be doing? Is this really the thing I should be doing? Let me check my email, maybe there’s something more important…'” b

2. Find a way of making all your digital stuff look different. You could create different email accounts for different parts of your life, or amp up your Gmail to do some real filtering for you.

“During the day when information comes in you’re not quite sure how important it is, or how important it’s going to be. [If] you have no system for it, you can’t attach it to anything on your priorities list. And so you put it in your brain and you kind of toss it and turn it around, and because it doesn’t attach to anything, it takes up neuro-resources.”

3. If paring down isn’t an option, communicate. Explain to those around you what’s on your plate in terms of priorities – i.e., “yes, I will read that, but after I put the finishing touches on this. It’s due at 3 p.m. See my list of priorities I wrote out right here? I can make changes if need be, but…”

Levitin says these are conversations best handled in person.

4. Don’t beat yourself up about it. When you start to feel overwhelmed, that is the exact moment when you need to make your list of prioriites.

“Cortisol is released whenever we’re trying to do more than we can handle. Its part of the fight or flight response, which made a whole lot of sense in hunter-gatherer times but now it’s just toxic, it makes your stomach ache, it shuts down your immune system, you’re more likely to get sick when you’re stressed. All because of cortisol.” c



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  2. All this text is taken from  (back)
  3. Yup, this is also taken from, I did shorten some bits to make it even faster to read. I can really recommend listening to the full podcast, it’s fantastic  (back)