A Clean In-Box

By Jeffrey Bridgman
It turns out (to my horror) that even though I look like I’m 20-something, my mental capacity for actually remembering anything is fairly equivalent to an 80-year-old man. I’m constantly forgetting appointments with my advisors, stuff I need to buy at Wal-Mart, e-mails I need to write, forms I need fill out and things I meant to do for my friends. And as if it’s not difficult enough coordinating myself, there are these things called group assignments that require working together outside of class and coordinating with others. If there are four people in my group, and each of us forgets to meet 25% of the time, that means, almost every time, at least one of us will fail to show up. Yikes!
To compensate for my hit and miss memory, I’ve had to learn to be more on top of things. Here are some tools that worked for me.
Sticky Notes are Lifesavers
Sometimes, all it takes is a well-placed sticky note to remind me of something. If there’s something urgent I need to do first thing in the morning, I can put a sticky note on my wallet or my computer monitor. (Can anyone say computer-based-lifeform?) I’ve more than once put a sticky note on the steering wheel of my car, so I don’t forget to gas up before leaving on a long trip through remote areas. I also use sticky notes as a general scribble pad. I jot down ideas, make shopping lists, write reminders and keep to-do lists. When I’m done, I rip’em off and throw them away.
Calendars are Your Friend
If your school is anything like mine, each semester they give you a nice “agenda” to help you “organize” your life. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve never used it. Turns out these things can be rather handy afterall. My school’s calendar is a giant, letter-sized spiral book, which is difficult to handle. Previously, I’ve opted for buying a smaller calendar to keep track of assignments, important events and tests. Lately, I’ve started using a Google calendar, which has a lot of handy features to help organize and keep track of what’s going on. You can set it up to notify you by e-mail regarding particularly important events, and you can even share your calendar with your friends. This comes in handy with those group assignments. If you have a fancy phone, you can sync your calendar, so you have a copy with you always. Even if you have a cheap phone, like I do, it probably has some basic calendar feature. I use mine as a backup to my Google calendar to remind me of really important meetings and appointments.
Time to Manage Clutter
Organizing can take so much time that it’s hard to get anything else done. On the other hand, if your desk, in-box, car, room, fridge and life in general is ridiculously cluttered, it can take a toll on you. It’s a catch-22. Personally, I tend to get lost in the clutter after a while. When my desk is a mess, I can’t concentrate. When my inbox is cluttered, I miss important e-mails that require a timely response. Clutter attracts clutter, like a magnet, and it just keeps getting worse until you show no mercy and exterminate it. That’s why, with my e-mail, I practice an Inbox-zero policy. Show no mercy with emails. They should not survive long before they are deleted.
There are five ways to man-handle e-mail:
DELETE: Some e-mails are not worth reading, or sending a reply. You can also archive it.
REPLY: You should deal with it immediately in the appropriate manner. Keep it short, simple, and keep the ball in the air, as in the game Hot-Potato.
DELEGATE: If there’s someone who can better deal with the e-mail, forward it!
DEFER: If you have to wait, and only if you have to wait, let the e-mail live for another day.
DO: If the e-mail requires action, don’t put it off, do it right away.
Coordinating Events

Finally, for managing others while you manage yourself, there’s Doodle, which allows you to set up an event with various options for times and dates. You receive a link you can post on Facebook or send by e-mail to the others involved in the event. They click on the link to choose the time/date that works best for them! This makes getting the group together for work on the assignment a relatively sane process.
From the low-tech sticky note to the Google-enabled Droid, there’s an organizational tool that can streamline every life and keep us feeling like the young men we are … even if we’re not technically remembering things on our own.

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