Growing up, my mama used to get exasperated with me a LOT because I am not the most organized person. Burara, which is Filipino for someone who is disorganized or scatter-brained, was something she used to call me often. Misplacing things and just being forgetful is a negative trait that I’ve been trying to work on for years now.
Then, I gave birth.
“Baby Brain” or “Mommy Brain”, where sleep-deprived mothers often feel like their brain cells have deteriorated causing them to forget the simplest things/tasks, is apparently a common thing. I’m sure we all have our war stories. But add Mommy Brain Syndrome to my already scatter-brained self plus having no adult conversation during the day and I really feel like my brain is now mostly mush.
Often times, I have stayed awake till the wee hours of the morning while my boy and my husband are sleeping peacefully because I have all these thoughts running in my head. I think of stuff that I need to do the next day. It’s like my thoughts are running around on some hamster-wheel.
I wonder where we misplaced that toy Carlo and I were looking for the whole afternoon. I think of the laundry sitting in the hamper that has yet to be folded and put away into our closets. I do a mental inventory of the contents of our refrigerator/freezer and try to plan what we’ll be having for breakfast/lunch/dinner the following day. I worry about potty training. I research about preschools. I remember that I need to call the people who installed our fences because our backyard gate’s door fell. I think of my list of maintenance tasks that I need to do around the house before winter arrives. Etc. Etc. Et cetera.
When I finally doze off to sleep, I wake up a few hours later still feeling restless and tired. That to-do list in my head seems overwhelming and is already at the forefront of my mind. I try to shove my thoughts aside, to r-e-l-a-x by surfing or reading a book. And while that works for a bit, this “Me time” is often interrupted by Carlo waking up with pleas for morning snuggles, milk and/or food, and/or the two of us playing with trains/numbers/blocks together downstairs.
I need to be off to the “races” before what’s left of my brain even engages. So, the thoughts/worries/lists that kept me awake the night before fade into the ether and the business of getting through the day with my tornado of a toddler takes over anything that I might have planned. Then, night falls and I’m back to where I started with my thoughts and plans.
One late night while I was awake in bed, I read this article that a friend shared on Facebook. I’m a sucker for anything that’ll help me get my scatter-brained self a better and more organized way of life.
This thought jumped out at me:
Everything you’re worried about, every to-do, every concern gets written down in one place. One. Not scattered across a notepad at home, your iPad in the office, your email inbox, sticky notes on your monitor, and your unreliable memory.
I started jotting down all my thoughts/tasks/plans in one notebook. After dinner and after I’ve done the dishes, I take 5 minutes to plan my list for the next day. And I make sure that I edit myself. That is, I strictly keep the list for the next day to tasks that I know I can actually accomplish. [I have a separate page/section for everything else that I’m concerned about (as suggested) and I refer to it for my daily list.]
I keep that notebook out on our kitchen counter. So that when I think of something I need to do, I know where to find it. Furthermore, having just one place for my concerns has helped me sleep better. Really. I now know that I can just hunt up my notebook and see what I’ve got to do for the day. My hamster-wheel of a brain has stopped it’s endless looping. No more staying awake at night with thoughts and thoughts running through my head. Yay!
Listing mini-goals for each day has also kept me from straying from my plan. You know… you’re going about your day, let’s say you’re playing with your kid, and while you’re on the floor with him you happen to glance up and you notice that the windows are so dirty. It bugs the hell out of you. So then and there, you decide that you need to clean those windows. You get out the Windex and the squeegee and start cleaning. But in the middle of cleaning that one window, your toddler says he’s hungry. You glance at the clock and realize it’s way past lunch time. So you drop the squeegee and rush to prepare lunch. Then, your toddler needs to poop. Then, he wants to eat some more. Then, he needs to poop again (because the first poop time was just gas). Then, before you know it, it’s dinner time and you’re getting that meal ready. Then, it’s bed time and you’ve forgotten that you’ve left that stupid squeegee in the playroom and you get it and grab it because, well… because you forgot it and it’s still there and you’re irritated with yourself.
So that notebook? That list of mini-goals for the day? It has kept me sane. It has kept me from deviating and getting lost with all the thoughts in my head and the events of the day. It sounds crazy but if I have a wayward thought or plan (like that window cleaning episode), I reign myself in and remind myself to check the notebook. If I didn’t write it down, I don’t do it. Period. I can write down whatever new idea/plan (e.g. clean windows) as a goal for the next day or some other day. I’ve even written down “cut your nails, both hands” as an action item, because one time I cut all the nails on my left hand but forgot to cut the nails on the right hand.
So my tool to fight mommy brain? Write things down in ONE PLACE.