Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I may be onto something.  A bit of a solution with the mess of papers I so proudly photographed and displayed in a few prior blogposts.

First, I have to give credit to Philippa.  She wrote a post on her blog at The Feisty Blue Gecko which was titled The Five Stickie Plan.

As I was reading the post, I was staring at my notebook, my (I never do anything on them) to-do lists and a plan began to formulate.  I've trained myself to rely on my phone calendar which sync's across my laptop and my iPad.  When Apple set up iCloud, their invention met me at the place where my brain resides.  Through the fog, beyond the haze my brain remains, in a CLOUD.

Something clicked when I saw the way Philippa was using the little stickie notes.  I already did the post-it note thing. When the post its were buried by other papers, they quickly lost their effectiveness.  Seeing that I was supposed to pay a bill on Monday as I was sorting through papers ten days later on a Wednesday would simply beg the question, "WHEN did you write that note?"  Immediately followed by, "WHAT bill?"  And soon both a question and a thought, "What utility or service is on the verge of being disconnected?"  and  "Your credit, the credit you've painstakingly built over the past few decades is being decimated in one fell swoop."

My problem isn't because I have too much to do (although I might but I'll examine that closer at another time), it's because there is too much variety.  In a former life, I believe I would call that multi-tasking.  In this post chemo, addled, distracted brain, can't figure out how to get myself started FOR STARTERS, "variety" and these tasks of monumental magnitude might include:

Mail a thank you note (yes, with a piece of paper and a stamp!) which is now at least four notes and let's just say there may be one or two people who will be stunned when the get the notes.  It's been that long.  And, it will take me three minutes.

Blog posts swirling in my brain.

Items that I set aside to read (Like the damn research study that was published on cognitive issues that I can NOT ACCESS unless I pay $31.50).

Discussing the access issue with the folks at the MSK library or reaching out to another organization to find out how I might be able to get access as a patient advocate.

And then the ordinary, schedule a hair appointment, time for a pedicure, call the dentist for a follow up to have this temporary thing adjusted now that the gum is healing... once these simple calls are made, an official hand off is made to the calendar in the cloud that magically appears on my phone.

Enter: The notebook, the stickies, the folders and colored fine line sharpie pens.

Here's what it all looks like.

The notebook pages are color coordinated with some sort of quasi-related items.  I began stressing about whether something belonged on the blue page or the green page and then realized it DIDN'T MATTER.  As long as I put a post it note that I would understand on any page, this could work.

I know this looks like I have a ton
of things to do, but EVERYTHING gets written down!

The post it notes are in a nice little plastic container where I can see all the colors:

AND, the colors on those pages are nicely coordinated with these bright mylar folders:

AND, I love pens.  Every kind of pen.... These multi-colored sharpies which came in one pack, perfect for the job:

Don't try matching up the colors.  The folder that looks yellow is actually orange and you will see there IS a page of orange notes.  What's missing?  Well, there are yellow post its with no corresponding folder (I SWEAR it's orange) and there's a red folder but no red post its.  Technically there are, but they are in the shape of an apple, too big for the job..... so they are still packed away with a host of other folders that I haven't incorporated into this gig.  I'm trying to keep it simple.

Now, follow along.  Keep Up.  The RED folder is for my writing... my blog ideas.  Get it?  NO????  REALLY?  Just look at the blog page and it should be obvious!  No brainer.  The red folder is for the writing stuff.... Uh oh....Now what?  I have no red notes.  That's where the pens come into the picture.  The yellow post its are written in red ink.

I only got this situation together over the weekend so the jury is still out as to whether or not it will resolve my problems. I do know I feel the stress lifted because I can flip through the note book, choose something, and go find any supporting paperwork in the corresponding folder.  And then Get.It.Done.  In other words, the part of my brain that was filled with worry is now free.

This is a huge improvement:


Which means I can send my brain up into the cloud to wander aimlessly as I focus on making sure I remove at least one more stickie than I add on any given day.  Just ONE.  The trick is making sure the notebook and the phone are always in the same spot.

Check the phone, pick a task and start with that thank you note to Apple for inventing the Cloud just for me!


  1. I KNEW it! I knew there was a reason I liked you other than your amazing personality, huge heart and fearless fighting spirit. You're an office supply addict!

    It's okay. You're not alone.

    Love, Acacia

    1. I AM! I love going to Staples and I love having all this "stuff" on hand. We can start a club or, alternatively, a 12 step meeting. I'm powerless over it! And, if this works, I'm going to be over the moon happy. Technically, I guess I'll be in the clouds, happy!


  2. Me too! Anne Marie, I'm impressed. What a great presentation you did- that is powerful in and of itself! And thanks to Philippa! And Apple, and the post-it note people (3M?) haha


    1. Ahh, Rann, Thank You!

      The post-it notes are the key to this whole gig!! Philippa's post (no pun) put this idea in my head and with the right supplies, it seems like it's got tremendous promise for me!

      Hugs and love,

  3. Happy to see I'm not the only one who (need to) use color to help the memory staying alert. I just found out that three diffferent binder with different colored tab with a front page with the colore/numbered index meaning is the best and faster to be able to get what I want fast.

    On my android phone I do function with Evernote, but also with "my binder" (it has 4 or more notebook of different color with colored tab in it!) that I use instead of the sticky notes when I'm on the road.

    Still trying to figure wich is better between those two, one is multitask and can log with the puter, but the other is simpler and colorfull...

    I love paper, pen, notebook... my second name is Papergirl!

    Hugs to you,

    1. Hi Suzanne!!

      I was using Evernote but it was confusing the hell out of me!! I have colored tabs and small binders, too. I'm definitely a junkie with this stuff. Now to see if I can implement the plan. Today was an out of the ordinary day but tomorrow, I'm starting to pull some of those post its off the page to see what I can accomplish.

      I think of you ALL THE TIME.... how are you feeling, my friend?

      Big hugs to you,

  4. In my professional line of work, one piece of advice I give to administrative offices is to color code their files. People boo-hoo in the beginning. But after a month? They're hooked. Plus, it's creative. And plus, it's pretty! Good luck!!

    1. Scorchy,

      I remember the comment you left under one of the posts when I decided to bravely post the mess. My mother can attest to the fact that I was an ORGANIZATION FREAK. For me, this is the worst part of the chemobrain. Constantly walking around with a feeling of "I know I'm forgetting something" is horrible. Now, I can flip through that notebook and KNOW if something has a deadline and I screw up, it's my own choice. This is the quintessential "work around" solution for me and my brain!

      I LOVE the colors. I think that's part of the appeal!!!


  5. dear anne marie,

    oh, my gosh - organization via awesome amounts of colored PAPER, PENS (YES!!!), NOTEBOOKS AND FOLDERS??!! i've read through the whole scheme off and on all day, and am finally getting a grip on how it works. i think i can do it, too! and i am so happy for you. i know how struggling to be organized is such a big fat black cloud that is so frustrating and bewildering. to have a solution is such a relief - i can't wait to go to staples!

    love, XOXOXOXO

    karen, TC

    1. Karen!

      Coming home with the bag, I was like a kid at Christmas... ripping into everything and deciding which folders I wanted to use. Coming next, organizing my online life. I have something brewing there, too...

      Stay TUNED....


  6. It's so organized and pretty! Let us know how it goes. Re multitasking, whoever came up with doing ten things at once never coped with chemo brain.


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