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How to Remember Tasks When You Are Really Busy or Have a Terrible Memory

Updated on March 26, 2014
Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannie has been writing online for over eight years. She covers a wide variety of topics—anything from hamsters to office work.


It's a Busy Life

You would think with the increase in technology, our lives would be easier. Isn't technology and all our modern advancements supposed to make our lives easier rather than more difficult? Unfortunately, it seems as if everyone has more complexity in their lives than ever before. This means there are more work hours, more meetings, and more complications in life that lead to extra tasks. So how do you find the time for it all? I would like to help you remember those little tasks that might be falling off your radar while you are busy doing something else.

Many people mistakenly believe I have a good memory. This is really not true of me at all. I would forget everyone's birthday (maybe even my own) if it weren't for Facebook reminders. I actually don't remember anything on my own at all. I am just great at faking my way through the day. I take notes, I keep calendars, and I make lists. I make lots and lots of lists. If I did not, I would pretty much forget every extra task in life. Here are some helpful suggestions that might work for you, too.

Keep a Calendar

I know what you are going to say, "I have a calendar on my iPhone or on my computer." Well, that is lovely. If that is working for you, then by all means, keep using your fancy computerized calendar. However, I daresay it is not working that well for you if you are reading this right now. You must want more suggestions. I say, go old school. Get a real calendar for your home and for your office. The type of calendar you post on a wall or keep at a desk. A calendar that requires a real pen to write on. Really. Give it a try.

I keep one wall calendar at home and one wall calendar at work at my desk. I keep the calendars in a very obvious place and write down important reminders on them. Is there a task you do once every two weeks? Write it down on the calendar. Is there a bill you frequently forget to pay? Write that on the calendar. Naturally you want to post important appointments as well.

Some people find a date book to be quite beneficial, but I prefer a calendar since I can plan for the entire month. It helps if I can visualize each day and each week. I can make adjustments in my schedule based on how much must be done throughout the week. I can set realistic goals for myself. If you are attending college or have a frequently changing work schedule, a date book could be a good idea in addition to the calendar. It never hurts to write down important events in a calendar AND a date book / organizer.


Get a Whiteboard

I believe one of the greatest inventions of all time is the whiteboard. It is a simple way to track everything in life. When I was in college, I had a regular whiteboard and a calendar whiteboard. Now, I have managed to survive with just one whiteboard in my kitchen.

If you happen to have a constantly changing schedule, you may wish to have the whiteboard calendar as well as a standard whiteboard. Whiteboard calendars are especially handy for college students, business owners, and those working a frequently changing schedule. You may also opt to use a whiteboard calendar rather than a wall calendar, but whiteboard calendars are usually larger and you may not want all your private business to be hanging on a huge display like that.

On my current whiteboard, I write down reminders that are not that frequent in life. I have to change my Brita filter once every couple of months. I need to return my library books in a few weeks. If I have to do a task, but don't have a set date, that is perfect for the whiteboard. Perhaps I want to donate clothes within the next few months or I have to make a dentist appointment soon.

I've also found the whiteboard is the perfect place to write down tasks that I am afraid I will forget. I often have "double reminders" for important tasks, like buying a birthday present for someone or going to a job interview. In those cases, I write the task on both the calendar and the whiteboard to make sure my normally forgetful self will not overlook those tasks.


I am a big believer in stickies or Post-It notes, whatever you prefer calling them. When I need to remember something important at work that is a one-time event, I put a stickie note on the bottom of my computer monitor. This only really works well if you use the stickies sparingly though. I would not recommend going crazy with 20 stickie notes on the bottom of your monitor. First of all, that looks really unattractive. Second, you will eventually become so accustomed to seeing the notes, you won't pay attention to them anymore.

Another way I use Post-It notes is to remember to take something with me the next day. The night before, I write down a reminder like, "Don't forget the egg salad." I then stick that note right to my purse. For men, you may want to stick the note to your wallet or keys. The next day, when I grab my purse to run out the door, I will see the note and remember I was going to take egg salad to work for lunch. Trust me, in the morning when I am in a rush, I need all the help I can get.

As you can see, there is one list pad sitting beside the spare list pad I will begin using soon.  I can't be without my lists!
As you can see, there is one list pad sitting beside the spare list pad I will begin using soon. I can't be without my lists! | Source

Make a List

I make lists for everything! I write down lists for hubs I would like to write. I keep a grocery list hanging on my fridge. I write down a to-do list for all the tasks I need to complete when I get home; I usually write it while on my lunch break at work.

Yes, this may all sound obsessive (probably because it is), but when you have a terrible memory, it is practically impossible to function without these helpful reminders. Without writing these lists, I often overlook something or I try to complete tasks in a way that is not efficient.

I've also found that writing lists helps relieve stress. Sometimes when I am very busy, I start thinking about every task I need to get done. Once I do that, I become frustrated and I have a hard time focusing. I've found when I write out lists, I no longer have to think about it anymore. I know that somewhere there is a list of what I need to do later, so I can focus on what I am doing now.

Keep a Notebook

Keeping a notebook is not necessarily a tool everyone needs, but it helps for those of us that enjoy writing. I don't know about anyone else, but typically my best ideas come to me when I am about to go to sleep or can't sleep at night. I will often scribble down some sentences in the middle of the night and check them out in the morning. Sometimes I find a page filled with brilliant ideas. I can't wait to get started. Other times, I find weird ramblings from a half-asleep person. I did not say the process was always successful!

Whenever I don't have a notebook by my bed, I come up with ideas, but don't remember them. That is especially frustrating because then I spend too much time the next day saying to myself, "But what was that idea? Did it have something to do with cats? No, bats... no, rats. I don't remember!" I would prefer to spare myself from that torture, so if you are the creative type, keep that notebook by the bed!

Final Thoughts

Hopefully none of this sounds too terribly obsessive, although I realize it just might. I know so many people that need a little help remembering tasks, and if they tried even just one these suggestions, I think the day might go a little smoother for them. Hopefully some of this information will help my fellow overly busy people or folks with memory issues. If not, at least you've had a good laugh as you imagine all my reminders everywhere I go.

Copyright ©2014 Jeannieinabottle

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Submit a Comment
  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Hi Bob, it sounds like we have the same problem. It is great that you are learning a new language and how to play a musical instrument. In my opinion, that is what retirement should be all about. You finally have the time to do all the fun things you couldn't do before. Even better, now you don't have to keep as many folded sheets of paper with you. :-) Thanks for your comment!

  • no body profile image

    Robert E Smith 

    7 years ago from Rochester, New York

    I am following you because it seems in this particular topic, we are kindred spirits. I forget everything. For many years I worked at a facility that was detail oriented. I can't tell you how many times I had a folded piece of paper in my pocket so I would not forget a detail essential to completing my day and keeping my job. Now that I am retired from that job after 40 years, I find I am not carrying in my folded piece of paper as frequently. But I find that having fewer details to act on in this new life I live is very important to feeling positive and fulfilled. I have a whiteboard for groceries, I have a to-do notebook, I have sticky notes with positive sayings to keep my mind on the precious things that keep me motivated. When a person is retired, it is very easy to just sit, not move, gain much weight, etc. I have promised myself that I would not turn into that guy. For the first three months of my retirement I was depressed and so forgetful. I did nothing much at all except sit. Then I began to make some goals and to get up off my butt and come to life again. I have resolved to learn a new language (Italian), learn to play a musical instrument (the ocarina) and to help my wife with the housekeeping because she is still working and will be for some time. All of this takes time, organization and, for me, many of the same tricks you use to keep myself productive in these last years of my life. Thank you for the ideas and the practical wisdom you have written here. Bob.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I can't remember anything anymore either. I practically forgot to check HubPages this weekend!

  • janesix profile image


    7 years ago

    Good ideas. I use them all. I can't remember anything.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    vocalcoach, no need to memorize this hub. ;-) If you do that, then you won't have the chance to remember other stuff. Just check back if you need this one. :-) Thanks!

    brakel2, thanks so much. Whenever I have too much to think about, I have to write a list or I can't function. I've been making A LOT of lists lately. I am getting married and moving. I think my brain exploded this week with lists. ;-)

    sujaya venkatesh, I think your message got cut off. Thanks for trying though.

  • sujaya venkatesh profile image

    sujaya venkatesh 

    7 years ago

    need of the hour je

  • brakel2 profile image

    Audrey Selig 

    7 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    This hub hits the spot, Jeannie as we all forget things and need lots of reminders. Sometimes I do OK , unless I go on brain overload. When too much gets into my brain, I must write everything down. Your ideas are magnificent. I love your system. Pinning. Blessings. Audrey

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    I need to memorize this hub Jeannie. I'm really bad at this. Thank goodness for you. You truly are a 'Jeannieinabottle.' ~ Audrey

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I hope that works for you. I have to do things as soon as I think of them, so once I remember to put the list by the door with the bags, I am usually set. Good luck!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Jeannie: I like the idea of putting it near the door. I'll have to try putting it in the basket where I keep my car keys the night before I go shopping.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    sheilamyers - My mother always says remembering the grocery list is her biggest problem, too. I usually keep a shopping bag or two by the door when I know I am going grocery shopping. I usually put the list on the bags a day or two before I go shopping (I just add to the list when it is by the door if need be). I've found it is most important to do things when I remember them because I know if I wait the day I am about to go to the store to these things, I will forget the bags and the list. Having a bad memory stinks!

    bravewarrior - You are not alone! I can't stand relying on technology to remember tasks. Anyone I know that does that eventually forgets whatever tablet or phone they are supposed to take with them, and their world crumbles apart. They don't remember their grocery list, passwords, phone numbers, etc. I don't want to rely that much on anything that could break if you simply drop it.

    FlourishAnyway - I have not utilized spreadsheets for my own personal tasks, but I have heard they are helpful. I am sure I could be using spreadsheets to help track things for this site, as well as others.

    Thanks for the comments!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    7 years ago from USA

    I'm usually right on top of what needs to be done, thanks to calendars and post-its, spreadsheets and automatic reminders. I naturally have a not-so-good memory so I need all the cheats I can muster.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    7 years ago from Central Florida

    Jeannie, I use many of your tricks. I have a wall calendar in my home office where I write down webinar dates and times, lunch dates, birthdays, etc. I also do the stickies thing. Can't live without them! I have them stuck to my monitor and inspirational stickies on the hutch above my monitor. I keep an ongoing grocery list. As something runs low, on the list it goes. When I worked outside the home I had a huge desk calendar where I recorded meetings, notes, etc.

    I'm all for the old school way of reminding myself what has to be done. I'm glad I'm not alone!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I use all of those except for the white board. I prefer these low tech systems because I don't get on the computer every day and I have a "dumb phone" which doesn't have all of the bells and whistles. It seems my biggest problem is remembering to take my grocery list to the store with me. I guess I need a sticky note hanging by the front door reminding me to take my list.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thanks so much! I am glad you liked it.

  • Eiddwen profile image


    7 years ago from Wales

    I thoroughly enjoyed this hub and could have been published just for me.

    Great hub and voting up.


  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    You are right. With a list, you can check off things as you achieve them. It does give a person a sense of accomplishment. Your son is already well on his way to be very organized. Good for him! Thanks for checking out my hub!

  • shanmarie profile image

    Shannon Henry 

    7 years ago from Texas

    I use lists to remember and also to feel like I'm actually accomplishing something. It can sometimes seem like nothing is getting done because there is so much to do. My son uses the calendar method and sticky notes - he's only 8!

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    sassypiehole - I suppose procrastination is one way to tackle the issue... not sure if I would recommend it though. ;-)

    billybuc - Hahaha... that is why I put the post-it notes right on my purse or sometimes even the remote control or computer mouse. I won't miss them there!

    Sunnyglitter - Oh no! I am sorry about the concussion. I hope you feel much better soon.

    kerlund74 - The computer calendar does nothing for me either. When those reminders pop up on the screen, I shoo them away like they are flies. I hope the whiteboard suggestion works out for you.

    Glimmer Twin Fan - I would not make fun of you for that. I used to carry an organizer with me everywhere when I was in college, but I am allowing myself to just have the wall calendar now (my schedule is not as hectic). It just depends on your schedule and if you need it, you need it!

    Victoria Lynn - I can't imagine my life without my grocery list. Every now and then, I forget the grocery list and it feels like my world is crumbling apart at the grocery store.

    Thank you for your comments! :-)

  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Victoria Lynn 

    7 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    I don't forget much, but I just always have a lot of stuff to do. I have lists about my lists. Piles of 'em! I make a daily one, have a master one, and specific ones about different things like hubs, projects, etc . . . . I do keep the ongoing grocery list on the fridge, too.

    All great ideas, Jeannie!

  • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

    Claudia Mitchell 

    7 years ago

    People make fun of me, but I still keep one of those big leather organizers, about 6x8 inches and it has my life in it. I like to see a month on two pages so I know what's going one. I've misplaced and left it places and I start to panic because I am so dependent on it. These are very good ideas.

  • kerlund74 profile image


    7 years ago from Sweden

    I don't remember if I haven't written it down. On a paper... Things in computer calender don't do me any good. Thank you for some great suggestions on variations in my ordinary lists. Like the white board tips.

  • Sunnyglitter profile image


    7 years ago from Cyberspace

    I'm recovering from a bad concussion and need all the help I can get. Great tips!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    7 years ago from Olympia, WA

    This is definitely not my problem, but my wife Bev could use these tips....but then she would need to remember to read the post it notes. :)

  • sassypiehole profile image

    Lisa René LeClair 

    7 years ago from the ATL

    I've tried all of those techniques. What seems to work best for ME is avoidance. I'm a REALLY GOOD procrastinator!


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