How To Keep Track Of Your Ideas And Lists During The Day


Throughout the day there are likely many times when you might think of something that you need to do or want to do, a project idea, a prep idea, or maybe something that you want to add to a ‘buy’ list, etc..

Here’s the problem… How do you remember all of those things that you might think of as you go about your daily life, and then take action on them?

The older you get, the more you forget ;) Unfortunately that’s just the way it is. However even for the younger folks, you might not remember ‘all’ of those ideas you had throughout the day…

Here’s what I do.

I keep a mini pocket notebook and a ‘bullet’ ‘space pen’ in my pocket!

Mini Marble Composition Books

Officemate Small Binder Clips

Fisher Bullet Space Pen

I might get one of these:
Refillable Leather Mini Composition Cover

I can write a quick note faster than I could type it into an electronic device, so I do it the old-fashioned way.

This small notebook stays with me throughout the day and fits easily in one of my cargo pants pockets with plenty room to spare. It is part of my every-day-carry (EDC) with my pocket knife, etc.. and it has become habit every morning to include with my other pocket carry items.

CAUTION: When run through the washing machine, your notes may become difficult to read ;)

From time to time I will transfer my pocket notes to other lists which I keep on various pads of paper – typically near my computer, on the desk – although I do keep separate lists downstairs in the ‘tool room’ for my next run to the hardware store..

I use a small binder clip to keep the notebook closed while in my pocket. It keeps the pages from opening or ‘stuff’ getting in there to mess it up.

I love the small little ‘space pen’ because it will fit in my pocket and it has a cap that will ensure that no ink will leak out (a click-pen will likely get clicked in your pocket – whoops). A pencil is not preferred because the led will break, poke holes through your pants, etc..

In summary, I thought that I would share this simple but effective technique which has been working for me. I tend to think of all sorts of ideas and things throughout the day – so I write it down. Some of it will get scratched off later (not all my ideas are good ones ;) ), but it sure has helped to keep track of things…

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  1. I always tell my wife to remind me. When she forgets, I’ll blame it on her when it doesn’t get done. She does the same with me, so it’s really just a game we play. IF it’s really important, I’ll try to do it right then before we forget. Sometimes I’ll dictate it to the voice messages app on my phone.

    1. Hahaha! We both do the same thing… I tell her to remember, she tells me to remember ;) (when I don’t have my notebook handy.)

  2. I kept a spiral notebook journal going on 8 years now. I use it for:

    A list of chores and repairs to do because it organizes things to get done within a period of time.

    I use it for planning like expenditures and income calculations.

    As a drawing board for ideas, costuming alterations, drawings, cartoons, and how to put things together including work projects.

    Lists of supplies to take camping so I don’t forget some.

    As a log to record daily events of importance to my safety, well being, and organizing my personal thoughts.

    I also would write down my anger just to let it out and then throw the pages away in the fire. I had to write it down because my dogs thought I was mad at them and they would cower if I said those things out loud. :-)

  3. We have two white boards on the refrigerator. One is for food items, the other is all other odds and ends. I tried to use lists years ago and would forget to grab the list when we had to head to the store. This way I am constantly seeing the list every time I go into the refrigerator so when we do go out I tend to remember better. It’s good training for the memory as well. For some reason I seem to retain things better once I see it written down.

    If I am out somewhere and I think of something, I write it on a piece of paper and put the paper in my pants pocket. Since I never carry anything in my pants pockets except for my hands from time to time, I feel the paper and realize it is something I need to remember. Then when I get home, I transfer it to one of the boards. This has worked well for us over the years. My sister is always making lists, then losing them.

  4. Sticky notes.

    Each sticky note goes on something in an appropriate place.

    For instance, I keep forgetting to unplug my car in winter and try to drive off with the electric cord still attached. So I put a stick note on my steering wheel, and another on my key.

    A sticky note on my front door reminds me to turn off the coffeepot before leaving.

    Sticky notes on the refrigerator door keep track of grocery items I am out of.

    Sticky notes on the covers of library books remind me the date I need to return them.

    A sticky note on the dog food reminds me to give him his pill.

      1. Being watched:

        Many years ago I worked in an office of a small company that got sold. Before the new owners took over my supervisor gave me ALL their office supplies (the new owner didn’t want them.) I had computer paper to last for a couple of decades. I just recently had to buy more computer paper. The pens dried up, the floppy discs became obsolete, and the rubber bands got hard. But I still have lots of sticky notes.

      2. Got to agree. I’m stuck on sticky notes. DW painted the door to the garage with chalkboard paint. Notes on it are helpful and it is re-usable.

      1. Billy,

        I live in the Big Horn Basin. It gets very cold here in winter (record -43, but often -30 or -35) because the cold settles to the lowest point.(It is warmer in the foothills of the mountains that surround us.)

        I have no garage, so I use a long blue cord to plug my car engine into an outlet on my front porch. There is a small hole for the cord to go through. If I forget to unplug it, the plug won’t go through that small hole. Trust me; I need to remember to unplug.

        1. Billy,

          In answer to your next question — The “hole” is actually a small notch in the floor under the screen door that exactly fits the cord. Once I close and latch the screen, the plug won’t go through.

          1. I’d venture to say that your car is not a battery operated vehicle. The plug in option is used as a heater to ensure the engine block doesn’t crack due to extreme cold? At least that’s how it was explained to me by a few Yankee friends of mine who live in NE.

          2. Being Watched,

            That is correct. There is a plug that sticks out of the front grill. I don’t understand exactly what is heated, but everybody here does it. Surprisingly, in an area where it gets so cold, there aren’t many garages. Most of the houses are old, (few newcomers and thus not many new houses) and when there is a garage, it is small, old, and has no heat or electricity.

            If you go for a walk, you have to watch where you are walking because almost every house has a long cord crossing the sidewalk and leading to their vehicles that are parked on the street.

          3. Usually it’s an oil dipstick heater, same the engine oil pan oil so the engine will crank over faster, oil is more viscus. I have seen heater blankets to warm the block. Also keep the battery warm. When I lived in the Green Mountains I would bring the car battery inside, install in the morning and fire up the engine, had to warm up the transmission and power steering fluids, 18-25 below in the dead of winter, not close to DaisyK temps.

          4. My F350 truck ‘plugs in’ ;)

            Yep, when it gets 20 or 30 below up here, it’s good to keep that diesel engine heated for startup…

            Actually, I will plug it in when the temp is approaching the single digits (Fahrenheit …for you outside the U.S. ;) )

      2. Here in Anchorage the mantra is plug it in at 20. It’s an inline water heater to keep the coolant in the engine block warm for quicker warm ups in winter.

        1. I have a 1500 W inline heater. You cut the heater hose from the engine block and attach the heater inline with 2 clamps. The water is self circulating because as it heats it will move. The engine block and oil is heated by this and if you have your defroster on it circulates through the car heater also so helps to defrost windows. Cost 20 – 30 $ and about an hour to install tools a sharp knife and flat tip screwdriver.

  5. I gave up writing things down years ago.
    I came to the realization that if I forgot to do something – it must not have been that important, anyway !

  6. I have been keeping a typed Preparedness list since 2009. It helps me to focus and it is a weekly ‘log’ of sorts.

    I keep track of weekly accomplishments (makes it easy to make the Saturday post here) and minor ‘do list’ items. In my year-long Preparedness list, I also make notes on some of the current political activity, situations worth listing, and any other interesting points I want to note.

    I also have a few large goals that are noted at the beginning of each year. At the end of the year, I print the list out and file it. Maybe in a hundred years, a future descendant will have a glimpse as to how our world went crazy (or figure that I went full-tilt).

    At my desk, I keep a small bulletin board with several tacks that hold binder clips. Those clips hold a list of seeds needed to buy or save, or seed envelopes that are empty. I also post the monthly credit card bill and electric bill so that both are paid in full in time. We don’t do ‘revolving’ credit…lol

    I also usually have a shopping list for a couple of the stores nearby — it’s the lazy way of remembering what to get when out.

  7. My journal is read every few months as a reminder of progress made, goals accomplished and equipment upgrades. Also listing things to place in a garage sale next week with my brother. Also keep a “To DO List” daily and weekly. What doesn’t get done, goes to the top of the next day’s list.

    I’ve found that using this method helps me achieve better time management!

  8. Wunderlist on my Android phone. I’ve used everything from pen & paper to a palm pilot.

    Wunderlist works very well. You can use a single entry for a basic item or you can use that single entry for a project with subtasks, notes and supply list listed under (inside) the entry. Dates, reminders etc are built in.

  9. I’ve been known to list starboard…haha

    I live by lists…too much going on my head to keep track of!

    I keep my grocery list on my iphone notes thingy…not my favorite as there’s no way to tick off what you’ve done. I just have to backspacebackspacebackspace til it goes away! ugh.
    Then there’s the time I leaned on the phone or something and lost my whole list in the middle of the grocery store. Not good.

    If I’m at work, I make an excel spreadsheet. Then I can sort/categoriz/colorize it. My SHTF spreadsheet is scary. Haven’t figured out how to tame that beast! It’s downright ugly (guess I have a bit of OCD?). Thanks to all you guys, I add to it all the time. Now if I could find monetary support for my new habit…

    My other standby is a piece of old printer paper folded in half for my weekend checklists.

    Modern Throwback, you’re making an archive! Save it for the grandkids…they’ll get a kick out of it!

    DaisyK, your comment about stickies on the car…reminds me of the “clean/dirty” signs you can get for the dishwasher. Maybe make something like that that hangs/velcros to center of your steering wheel…haha


  10. I just need to write something down once and I can remember. I do not need to keep what ever I wrote it on. I use to drive my mother crazy, I would read all of the grocery store adds in the newspaper make a list for each store and Always leave the list at her house. I could remember every thing on my list as long as I wrote it down.

    My mom use to have many list going at all times, everything possible was on her list. For many years it was a joke she had “work on quilt” on her list. She started it when she was pregnant with me I received the quilt on my 22 birthday when it was finally finished. But it was always on the list along with anything she ever wanted done. I sure do miss her lists.

    1. That reminds me of a doctor I used to work with. He said he was born with a photographic memory and the problem was he ran out of film when he hit 34.

    2. Raised this way–i would have liked to meet your mom.

      My second grandson is a senior in H.S. and i haven’t finished his baby quilt yet. :)

  11. A lot of speak-and-type dictation apps are being developed, soon we’ll all be talking to ourselves into our two-way wrist TVs.

  12. My friend, Emily Ley, makes a great Simplified Planner. Every year she gives me a weekly version. I use it to remind myself of appointments and also to write what I accomplished that day. In the back, there are note pages for my supply list (what I have and what I need to get), ammo list, canning list, budget, etc. It’s 6″ X 8″, so it is fairly portable. It’s a good record for the farm.

  13. When I built my home almost 24 years ago I kept a running list of all the things, both big and small that needed to be accomplished but since then it hasn’t worked very well. I tried it for awhile afterward but my idea list became just as cluttered as everything else around us so I stopped. I wound up scratching through most of the things on the list as their importance waned.

    We keep a shopping list and if there is a really important “honey do”, I might jot it down somewhere, but then only after DW has hounded me several times, but for the most part keeping enumerable lists just becomes another bunch of useless clutter.

  14. I have a large bulletin board in the kitchen. On it is a calendar marked with upcoming appointments etc. Also, there are the Bristol board dividers from boxed tea that are used for my weekly errands – food, hardware etc. There is also the long, long term list which I never get done. Another list is the Prepper List. These are things I would love to order when the budget allows. Ideas for presents are also posted.

    On my table are the daily “to do” list. Such fun to scratch them off at the end of the day!

  15. For some reason I usually have my best ideas in bed, so I always keep a notebook and pen on my bedside table. Once I’m up I make lists of what to buy at the grocery store on the back of old receipts.

    1. It drives me nuts when I wake up at 3 in the morning with ‘racing brain’ filled with all sorts of things to do, etc… !

      It’s interesting how the subconscious ‘sleeping mind’ will ‘think’ during the night ;)

  16. I’m with you Ken, old school.

    I break phones too often to depend on them for notes. But I’ve had the same leather binder that I keep notes in, for 15 years.

    I also keep in the truck, my old aluminum service note book. Basically it’s a clip board, that opens and I have a monthly calendar, generic work orders, a mileage log, etc.

    At home I have a magnet white board and the top is a monthly calendar.
    When the bills come in I sit down a write the check, put it in the envelope with a stamp. And hang it on the magnetic board with the date to mail it.
    Yea I know, real old school. But it works for me, and I’ve never been hacked!?

  17. I have a 2 year pocket calendar it’s my file cabinet. I jot everything in it and it has room in back for important information. It’s always with me and at the end of two years I put it with my other pocket calendars for reference.

    1. Hahaha…

      Here’s a question for ya, how many times have you walked into a room and then stopped and said to yourself, “What was I going to do?” “What did I come in here for?”

      1. Ken,


        I regularly get up to take care of something “before I forget it” only to reach the destination where that “something” is waiting to be taken care of, only to forget what that “something” is.

        1. Dennis, Ken…I can relate.

          Doing a task, head to the basement to get a certain tool, 45 minutes later I have done 2 other things in the basement, go upstairs and outside and do an “Oh sh$t” remembering why I went to the basement originally! The positive is I seem to accomplish additional things, just wear myself out up and down the basement steps! I’ve learned to “go with the flow”.

      2. there’s an interesting cure for that.

        turn around and walk back through the door. 9 out of 10 times you’ll remember what it was you were going for.

        try it!

  18. I picked up some military – type pocket notebooks for a home-school project. The writing doesn’t smudge or fade if wet. They are slim enough for purse, jeans or shirt pocket. Great for quick notes and lists. I got enough to put in the haversacks we carry when out on the farm, too.

    We bought a 10 year journal to record daily events on the farm. This is year 3 and I love looking back at the dates for the first frost, birth of calves and lambs, number of eggs laid.

    Other lists and storage goes into a ringed notebook to be updated, reviewed, etc. I like that we can put copies of plans for homestead projects or sketches, maps, so forth in the book.

  19. I keep three books–one a journal, one a gardening notebook (all the planting dates, varieties, how long they took to germinate, plans for next year, etc), one a writing notebook. Then of course there are the backs of receipts, envelopes, post-it notes and anything else that will hold ink.

    I used to hoard paper and note-books, but that got unwieldy. I got rid of most of it.

  20. I have a bad case of CRS disease!! Gotta write it down or its gone..gone..gone!!
    My DW keeps my honey-do list long and up to date all the time!! Never seems to shrink no matter how much I do!!

    Darn!! Was gonna say something else but forgot what it was!!

  21. I have a variety of digital and hard copy journal/list systems. But for on the go I just tell Siri to take a note.

  22. My wife has been using the Marble mini-notebooks for a long time now. I like the idea of the larger ones AND the cover! Thanks Ken, now I will be “noticeable”, while shopping. I HAVE to have a list, because I can’t remember what to get by the time I get to whatever store I am supposed to be going to…Lowe’s or Home Depot?…grocery store? Which one had that sale SHE wanted me to get one item of?

    Hey, at least I can STILL remember how to get there and get home….

    Prefer the Parker or Zebra medium point pens, both are great “tactical” pens without being “tacti-cool” OR tactical. Haven’t yet had TSA monkey give me issues yet with either of them.

    If I don’t have a list, I am screwed.

  23. I carry a 3×5 memo book and a zebra click type pen for work. At home I use dry erase marker on my refrigerator, then I take a photo of that (on my phone) to the store so I don’t forget the shopping list.

    I need to find a space pen.

  24. Two very good items to have: 1.Rain/water resistant writing tablet. 2.A pen/marker that will write in the rain. CR

  25. I think being a hairdresser for so many years, an appointment book was my daily life. Then after “retiring”, it still stuck with me. I write down everything!

    The backs of envelopes seem to be my favorite places to write my important things to do, to buy, or to get accomplished. I have my own system that no one else can decipher, which is fine with me. I can’t understand how anyone can function without lists! My son thinks my writing stuff on paper is crazy cause I could put it on my phone or I-pad, I tell him, it’s just not the same. I need to write it on paper, I have no idea why, but it’s just not the same.

  26. I keep a 3×5 memo book with me all the time. I also use a small pocket recorder for detailed notes. I have used a recorder for more years than I care to think about. It came in handy for the type of construction work I did and still do on occasion.

  27. Ken you are spot on with the picture of the bound composition book and the heavy duty pen. I still write brief notes on paper in my pockets and I have a pen and wristwatch on me most of the time while awake.

    Writing reports and tracking activities is still a big part of my job so this ingrained habit still gets used at work while others tap away on the computers. First line of each entry: note of date and time.

    During my off grid years, I still had to measure and record fire weather data each day at 2 different weather stations. I also wrote down vehicle descriptions and plate numbers at locations to place in my duty log. Regular visitors could mean several things like people growing marijuana or poaching. These same duty logs have been used to track the trail of serial arsonists after the fact. At the end of the year, the accumulated duty logs get turned into an annual report which helps determine the budget for the following year (above my pay grade). Data gathered in the field was tracked using paper and pen/pencil to start with.

    I still use the composition string bound books to write in. Over the years my duty logs have been turned into a series of articles in progress in which I remember and record the equipment I tried and used while living the off grid lifestyle those many years ago. These days, the equipment is so much better than some of the stuff I was using back in the day.(ie: Forester headlamp with 4 D cell batteries versus the new LED headlamps using 3 AAA cells and are self contained. S&W revolvers versus the Glock pistols. First need water filters or the expensive Katadyn ceramic filter were our only choices back in the 1980’s.) Much of this would be forgotten without the aid of my journals I kept to track events and the equipment I used way back when.

    The string bound journals are a trip back to the days when I lived in the mountains and had to shoot a deer in the fall to have meat for the winter. Employment was seasonal and tough to get at times. The journals were also where ideas for future projects would gradually take shape like the rebuilding of rifles for specific purposes like Palma match shooting or rebuilding a Winchester Magnum length action into a working 375 H&H rifle for a guy that lives on the Kenai penninsula.(the materials are ordered and parts assembled after the check clears the bank).

    I still enjoy the feel of paper and pen in my hand. I enjoy going through my journals these days and I thank my English teachers for getting me on the road to getting me to write purty.

  28. As I was running low on my 3×5 memo pads I headed off to the store to buy some more. Much to my surprise they had a four pack on sale! Great colors too! Blue, green, red and black. I was one happy camper let me tell you.

    As it is Wednesday that’s ‘wear my NRA cap day’. As I get to my truck the pony tailed fella next to me is putting groceries in his car trunk. Out of the blue he tells me my NRA hat offends him. So I replied him breathing air offended me. But in the spirit of cooperation I was willing to stop wearing my hat if he agreed to stop breathing..well, he didn’t like my idea and suggested instead that I should eat Sh** and die. Seeing I had already eaten lunch and I don’t do requests I wanted to end the conversation on a high note…

    So I poll axed him with an overhand right to the kisser. Seeing he was suddenly tired from our conversation I gently tossed him in the trunk of his car.
    Now my wife tells me I need to work on my unresolved anger issues. But I didn’t feel angry. In fact I was giggling quite a bit. Especially when I closed the trunk, broke the key off in the lock and threw the rest of his keys on the roof of a tractor trailer pulling out of the parking lot. All in all, it was a really productive day and I felt pretty darn good about myself as I headed back home. And that’s what counts right?

    1. @ Bill Jenkins Horse

      OK Ok, now I have to laugh at that one…. Dag-Gum longhaired hippies HAHAH


  29. My Pop was a cowboy,,, he kept a little spiral notebook in his shirt pocket always, there was everything from rainfall amounts to how many calves we branded and everything in between, maybe thats what i need to do, start using a notebook to keep a running tally and keep track of stuff. Perhaps then i wont be so scattered,

      1. NRP

        That is what happens when one is side tracked by TV will should have been ‘WELL’

  30. Well because I have Swiss Cheese for brains at times and I have too much fugitive information rattling around in the old bean. I have a dry erase board on the fridge, a (semi-organised LOL) binder for my coupons and note pads around the house to jot down any ideas or things we may need WHEN I THINK of them. Other wise I forget and that bugs me.

  31. Hi everyone, I’m new to your group and and happy to share –
    I have always liked lists. My DH uses Post-it notes regularly to remind himself and I like to hide a surprise note in the middle somewhere to him! :)
    I used to use a legal pad for my To Do Lists. Would have worked well, but found myself distracted as I got to working the list and half way through the day realized I hadn’t gotten much on my list done – So I added what I’d done to the list and crossed those off! Looked good! Then I carry the To Do List over to the next day of what doesn’t get done. ;)
    Using a small booklet would be a help when it comes to groceries. Then again I’m always in search for that bargain, so again find things not on my list…
    When DH asks me to do or get something (he uses a wheelchair so some things he just can’t do or get to) I stop what I’m doing and take care of it, otherwise I’d forget until a much later time – like the middle off the night!
    If I have to remember something for in the morning, I write it down or I’d worry that I wouldn’t remember and have a lousy sleep.
    Yes, there is a method to this madness…
    By the way, I also want to say I am happy to have found your website. I enjoy reading the comments from the group and seeing the Comradery (I googled this word and it said: the spirit of friendship and community in a group, like the comradery of soldiers at war who keep each other upbeat despite the difficulty of their circumstances. … A close friend or a fellow soldier — in other words, someone who comes to mind when you say, “We’re in this together.”) I understand the term OPSEC and appreciate when others share. We are in this together!

    1. @ Suebeedo

      Well I try to catch all of the new people here and give them a HUGE “Howdy”

      “Welcome to the nut house”, I know we all do try to have a few laughs but we all remember this is a Survival Blog and as such we share GREAT information.

      A word of warning though; watch out for that NRP guy, he’s a little off the reservation at times… HAHAHA


      PS; know I miss some of the new people, and to those also a warm and heartfelt “Welcome to the Nut House” also….

  32. I to use the “Bullet” Fisher space pen. It fits perfectly into the side of my leatherman sheath “opposite a tiny fenix flashlight”. For paper, I prefer the Field notes brand notebooks with the graph paper. I find it great for small quick sketches and it helps keep my notes numbers neat and in line if i’m working out some dimensions or scaling issues in a drawing.

    It also keeps the Grocery list neat and legible when I am taking dictation ;)

  33. @ NPR
    Thank you for the welcome.
    You learn quite a bit from this site when reading the comments and it appears you have revealed to all an obsession with TP… When the going gets rough, the rough get Charmin… :)

    1. @ Suebeedo

      You’re most welcome….

      Just to clarify, I am NOT a TP psycho (mostly not), I do use the item to help get across the fact to be prepared with whatever is need to “get by” longer term. I guess I could have used Pepsi or Corn, but TP gets people laughing and thinking about that “nut-case” NRP and getting more TP (stuff) …. HAHAHAHA Heck I even have Ken’s “better-half” laughing when they go to the store…. So I guess my oddball think works :-)


      PS; don’t forget the TP, and is 500 rolls really that much??? Hummmmmmm

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