My Secret to Sleeping Well Every Night
It’s yellow and the size of a piece of paper.
I never leave home without a pocketful of 3×5 cards. And I’d rather forget my wallet than not have a pen. I can always get by without a credit card, after all…but I never know when I’ll need to write something down.
These days, my short-term memory is like writing in the sand on a windy day. No matter how many times I tell myself, “I’ll remember this when I get home,” it’s usually gone before I’ve taken three steps.
So, I’ve gotten in the habit of scribbling every one of my brain-farts onto a 3×5 card. And every evening I lay them all out and review what I’ve written.
Most of those 3×5 thoughts could just as easily have been forgotten. But there’s always the occasional nugget: that call I really do need to make; the chore that needs doing; the sparkle of an idea that I might be able to turn into a gem on social media.
But the most important task of the evening is putting together my To-Do list. I do a new one every night. I use an 8-1/2 x 11 yellow pad. Everything fits on a single page. And there are only three categories: Primary, Secondary and Other.
Each night, I take everything that didn’t get crossed off during the day and transcribe it onto a fresh page. I add anything from my 3×5 cards that makes the cut. Then I throw the old sheet and the used cards away.
I’ve been doing this for years. I’ve tried almost every one of the digital To-Do list apps, but I’ve never found anything that works better for me than writing things out by hand.
For one thing, manually transferring each undone item to a new page forces me to re-evaluate it. Have my priorities changed? Can it wait? Can I ask someone else to do it…or better yet not do it at all?
By putting just a few items into the Primary column, I’m forced to focus on what’s important, rather than what’s urgent. It keeps me from falling into the trap of crossing off a lot of tasks because they are easy and short, rather than focusing on the things I really want to get done.
I also pay a lot of attention to the “Other” category. If something has been lingering there for a while, it’s natural to ask, “what is this doing here at all?” Is it something I ever intend to do, or is this just an unrealistic aspiration?
If so, I’ll add it to my “some day” list – one of the two lists that I do keep on my phone (The other is a list of ideas for future social posts, which has several hundred items on it. And once I hit publish on this, there’ll be one less). But I rarely look at either of those. Because the whole point of having “not-going-to-do” lists is that they free you up to focus on the things you are going to do.
And that brings me to the real reason I write a new list every night: by touching every single item on the list, it ensures that I never forget something.
I never worry that there is something crucial that needs doing that I don’t know about. At night, I sleep like a dog: in any position, on any object, at any time. Sure, I’ll chase the occasional rabbit in my dreams, but I’m almost never staring at the ceiling worrying about something.
I may have a long list of things I need to do. I may have complicated or unresolved issues to deal with. But I never have that nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something. I know that my list will be waiting for me in the morning.
No point in worrying about it now.