Record plans and then put them into action

A Dh18 whiteboard is helping on the money columnist Nima Abu Wardeh map out her errands for the week and the potential to map out her entire life.

Gary Clement for The National
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I just have to tell you how a recent investment in four smallish whiteboards from Geant has transformed my life.
I am not exaggerating.
For a start, they're great for doodling on. It's amazing how being able to freely make shapes, lines and colourful creations can focus the mind and give us great insight. The current thinking is that this simple activity has major health benefits too. Look it up.
So one of the boards is set aside for just this purpose.
But here is the more important revelation: the whiteboards are making me more efficient.
The upshot is that massive chunks of time and mental capacity are being freed up. Priceless.
Let me first share how they're being used and the practical impact they're having, and then I'll go into a bit about science.
Last night I was up writing down my meal plan for the week. I use a different colour for each day. I can see, instantly, whether we are getting too much or too little of any one type of food or food group. And because it's a whiteboard, I can easily swap and change things if I want to.
I use another board to write down our snacks for each day of the week. As well as snacks to be munched at school, I write down my own - I always carry home-created food and cannot remember the last time I had to buy lunch. I find this to be much more convenient and yummy.
What's the big deal you might be thinking.
Well, it's the knock-on effect that's the biggie.
After setting out the plan, I check that I have all the ingredients needed; the right amounts of everything for each meal of the week.
On my third board I write out what's missing and where to get it from.
This board is used to chart up errands linking what's needed and by when with my schedule and movements across town. Some items can be bought only at certain places, and if I'm close by I can factor that in.
You see, it's all about clarity - of thoughts, of needs, of priorities, of timelines - and how to achieve them.
When you have all these elements written down and staring back at you - multicolour helps, I believe - it becomes glaringly obvious what needs to be done, when and where. It becomes obvious what preparation can take place to make life easier, more efficient. It could be as simple as creating a marinade and have food drinking it in overnight or using one base for more than a meal.
Do you see what this means? What starts out as a way of knowing exactly what we will be eating each day, throughout the day, has become a map for what needs to be done where and when by for the whole week. My very own life-manager. Or week-manager at the very least. As a result, money and time are used optimally. But most important of all is this: with the mundane sorted, I am free. Free to think, focus, achieve and simply enjoy other things. Be it work, reading, really listening or anything.
Now for the science: this is why writing things down longhand is better than typing things out on a laptop.
I am simplifying: writing stimulates cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). These cells act as a filter for things your brain needs to process. They give more importance to the stuff you are actively focusing on at any given moment. When you are writing, your RAS sends a message to other parts of the brain saying "pay attention". This is one reason why it's said that writing (realistic) goals down gives us a better chance of achieving them.
Sure you could write it out on a piece of paper, but where's the fun in that?
There's a lot to be said about seeing your life, even if it's just the basic building blocks of food and errands, mapped out in technicolour before you. It makes things jump out, puts your mind at ease, and gives you a sense of safety - or at the very least a sense of calm. it's the feeling that you really do have a grip on your life.
Get a whiteboard. It'll be the best Dh18 you've spent in a long time. Then write things down and make them happen.
Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website cashy.me. You can reach her at nima@cashy.me
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