Staying Organized with Brain Fog
guest post by Noelle Janka
I lived with varying degrees of brain fog for years and I currently support several clients with it in my life coaching practice. It can be difficult to stay organized when your memory is shot and thinking about your priorities feels like staring at a blank screen or, worse yet, putting your head in a vice.
As you know well if you have brain fog, feeling like your brain isn’t functioning properly can also produce a lot of worries – that you will lose track of things, that you can’t handle certain jobs, that you’ll never be able to complete a big project, etc.
The worry about the brain fog, it turns out, can be more prohibitive than the brain fog itself.
I’ve seen this with so many of my clients and I personally left a job I loved because my working memory got bad and I felt like I was screwing everything up. In reality, I hadn’t dropped the ball more than the average person might and my boss hadn’t even noticed. With coping skills and support, I may have been able to stay.
How can we bring a sense of ease to the experience of living with brain fog?
How can we stay organized when we live with brain fog?
First, assume that you’ll remember nothing. This is useful for people without brain fog too! With everything we’ve got going on these days in our modern life, it’s pretty unlikely that even the clearest of heads will remember everything it wants and needs to do. And, trying to keep any important information in your head steals brain power that you could use for something else.
Write things down and create a system that is full proof for you.
Some people prefer good old fashion pen and paper. If that’s you, make sure it’s paper that you’ll take with you everywhere and actually look at every day. It could be a notebook, Bullet Journal, or Productivity Planner.
I use a combination of paper and digital tools to keep myself on track.
I use the Productivity Planner during the week for work but also put date-sensitive tasks in my calendar with alerts to remind myself. Google Calendar on my phone reminds me to take medicine, do my PT exercises, go to bed on time every day. Then I add alerts for one-off tasks that I’m likely to forget, like needing to fast before a certain medical procedure.
If you’re a regular email checker, you can also write email reminders to yourself and set them to be sent to you on particular dates in the future. Look for the “Send Later” function in Gmail.
Give everything a home.
This is a good way to make sure things don’t get lost. Give your keys, wallet, bullet journal, medical records, phone charger, and all the important things in your life a place to perch that’s easy to get to.
Then train yourself (and your household) to always put the thing back in the correct spots. It’s not a huge thing, but it can save a lot of time. This is true for digital organization too, in terms of computer files, email labels, etc.
Create a system that’s really obvious to you and easy to use. Tweak it as necessary to keep it easy and intuitive.
Ask for support with complex or really important tasks.
If you’re worried about forgetting something during a particularly rough flare or busy time in your life, ask a well-organized friend, family member or colleague to check in with you and provide a reminder. That will give your brain the added assurance that a particular task will get done.
If you’re having trouble interpreting something because your brain isn’t working well, see if you can get someone to explain it to you in a different way. If you’re not already open with people in your life about your brain fog, consider whether that is really serving you.
As I wrote about here, being open about your health challenges, at work, in particular, can drastically reduce your stress in the long run.
Finally, practice self-compassion.
Even if you have an amazing to-do list system, you’ll have bad days and things will fall through the cracks. It happens to people without brain fog too.
Chances are, nobody will die as a result. And, beating yourself up about it will not make you remember to do the thing next time. Cut yourself some slack and note if there’s room to do something different next time. Then make a note of it somewhere where you’ll see it next time!
Author Bio: Noelle Janka is a yoga teacher and a life coach for individuals with health challenges. A perennial student of healing, and a chronic illness survivor herself, Noelle believes that acting from the heart is the best medicine and thrives on supporting others in doing more of what they love. More at www.noellejanka.com