How I Stay Organized in Spite of Lyme Brain Fog

Get Organized. Stay organized. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s not! Especially when you deal with brain fog. My brain fog is from Lyme Disease, but I know there are other causes.

I have seen probably a million posts on getting and staying organized. Some of them make me laugh in disbelief. This is not because they’re bad articles, but because they are completely impossible for me. I have neither the physical strength, nor the mental clarity, for some of the more intricate organization systems. And I have tried a lot of them!

So how do I stay as organized as possible with this brain fog?

Stay Organized with Arc Notebooks

I stumbled upon these handy little notebooks while I was church secretary, Wednesday night teacher, typesetter, student, and teacher in our college. I loved them! They are customizable in so many ways. I was so busy, and my brain so scattered, that everything I was told immediately left. I forgot so many things. When I bought my first notebook, I could jot notes at church, then check that section when I got to my desk on Monday. If a student asked me for something Sunday, I could flip open to the college section, write it down, and check it when I put on my Dean of Students or Professor’s hat.

I ended up with two of them, gave one away, and recently bought another one. I won’t go back to the beginning, telling you how I used them when I was crazy enough to try to wear so many hats. I’ll just give you a peek at how I use them now.

My Planner


First, my planner. I already wrote about Planning With Passion. The first thing I do is print my planner and put it in one of my arc notebooks. I love the cover of this one. Because on hard days, when it seems impossible to accomplish anything, it reminds me it’s seemed impossible before, but it still got done. It’s a bit of encouragement every time I open it. After the planner, I use these dividers to give myself extra sections. I keep one for notes and ideas. Often when I’m planning, I have an idea for a blog post, a reminder for something I need to look up, or I start a grocery list in my head. Having a place to write this until I move on with my day has helped me forget less. It also helps me not get distracted by looking for somewhere to write my reminder.

As we are coming to the end of the year, I have printed a yearly calendar for 2018, and put it between my 2017 and 2018 planner. Now as we begin planning the process of renewing our resident permits next year, I can start jotting down things I need to do by a certain time. I am also adding another section in the back to start planning for furlough. There are new prayer cards, display board, video presentation, and more that need to be prepared, in addition to planning what we will take (very little) home with us, and what we will bring back home when we return (books, books, books, and Sunday School material).

On Furlough

When we leave for furlough next year, I’ll remove the used part of the planner (to make it lighter for travel), and add another section. This will be for sermon notes, etc. while we are visiting churches. I will put all to-dos that come up during our meetings (send a thank you, add someone to our mailing list, etc.), in the next week’s to-do section. I will be able to write in the planner what church we were in, the pastor and his wife’s names, where we stayed, what was preached, etc. This helps me remember later, because my Lyme-riddled brain loses a lot of information.

While on furlough, I will probably change to these dividers or these. The pockets will help me keep track of prayer cards, business cards, and notes that are given to us at meetings. I am excited about this, because I misplaced so many things while we were on deputation. These should help me keep track of everything easier.

Other Notebook Uses


When we had students here, I used one of the Arc notebooks to keep me organized. My brain gets overwhelmed easily with the Lyme Disease, especially when there’s a lot of noise and commotion. With five ladies here, there was always noise and commotion! I didn’t think of this solution until near the end of their stay, so I spent the first portion of their time here, searching for notes I had made, and forgetting things. When I remembered my notebook, I got it out and started putting everything in order. I loved it! I wish I had thought of this before they came. However, I’m planning to get it in order for the next set of students we have.

I am planning to pick up a letter sized notebook for this while we are home on furlough. It will have a section for planner & to-do lists, a section for classes I am teaching, a section for menu planning and grocery lists, a section for Bible studies, and a section for notes and ideas. With one notebook, I should stay more organized, which will help me and the students.

I think it will work much better than the smaller size, especially since I don’t need to carry it in my purse. I am looking at this one with these dividers now. Levenger and Arc use the same punches. With this clear cover, I can customize the cover the way I want.

Blog & Websites

My goal is to keep writing here. I also have a site where I am supposed to be writing about life here in Botswana, Myra’s Musings. My plan is to get back to writing there also. Then there is our ministry website, Safari For Souls; and a couple of other sites I’m trying to work on. I have re-purposed my other arc notebook for this. Each website/blog has its own section. I keep a running to-do list for each one, and then I have planning sheets for the blogs. I am just getting this notebook sorted, and I hope to see progress on the sites soon.

The Next Step

That is my organization in that area. Now if I can find a plan that works for keeping my desk organized, I’d be so happy. Do you have any ideas that have helped you keep your office organized? My office is where I keep personal and ministry finances straight, work on planners and blogs, take care of Sunday School preparation, typeset, prepare for Bible studies, deal with correspondence, and so much more. I have a small space, so I’m looking for ideas on how to make it work more efficiently, especially with my physical limitations. If you have any ideas or suggestions (that do not specifically involve the Dollar Tree or other stores we don’t have here), I’d love to hear them! Drop me a line below and share your experience with us.



Just Stop Planning

Just stop planningWhat? I’ve written a post on How I Plan For Hard Days, and Planning With Passion. Now I’m telling you to stop planning? Well, yes. Sort of. But it’s not quite the contradiction that it sounds, so stay with me here.

I’ve already told you I’m a planner. But what I may not have shared is how I over planned. For years I planned way too much. I was very hard on myself when I couldn’t live up to my expectations. As my health worsened, it all got worse. I stayed frustrated with myself, and overwhelmed with life.

Friends and family had been telling me that I needed to slow down, but I didn’t seem to know how. If I could do something to help, I couldn’t say no. But then I started having to cancel appointments, beg off of time with friends, and get out of commitments because I was too sick or exhausted to follow through. Satan had a field day with that one! I was giving him ammunition to use to attack me, and I didn’t even realize it.

Then came the crash. I slowed down some after my first miscarriage, but we were on deputation, and I had to keep going. However, after the second and third miscarriages, I physically could not go on anymore. I had to take time off of deputation. There were days while still traveling with my husband that I didn’t make it to church because the migraines were so bad I couldn’t stand and the rest of the pain had escalated until it was all I could feel. I had hit a brick wall. You don’t want to get there. Trust me. You just don’t. If you’re heading that direction (or already arrived), what do you do? Here’s what I did:

Just Stop!

The Solution: Stop! Just stop over-committing. Stop saying yes to everything, when there was no way I could do it all. I had to give up some things I really wanted to do. I had to say no to some things so I could say yes to the most important. I still have to say no so I can say yes to the most important things.

Just recently I had to disappoint someone because I couldn’t keep up. I had started teaching a young lady piano, with the understanding that we’d do it until it didn’t work for one of us. It didn’t take long until I knew I couldn’t keep it up. I was having too many bad days and missing too many Bible studies and Sunday mornings. I had to choose. I can’t commit based on what I want to do. I have to commit (conditional on my health) to what I am capable of. And at times that is depressingly little.


What is the most important thing you have to accomplish? What is the second? Writing these down made a huge difference for me. I was able to identify my priorities. Everything else came after – if there was any energy left. I don’t always like having to put aside things I want to do, people I want to help. But if I don’t, I won’t be able to do any of it.

I was having to cancel quite a few Thursday night Bible studies with a dear friend. It seemed by the time Thursday night rolled around, I was exhausted and in pain. This Bible study is supposed to be a priority, but I was missing it much too often. My solution was to schedule nothing after my Thursday morning Bible study. If I feel really well, I will do some writing or office work. I do no laundry on Thursdays. Absolutely none. I found that if I do, I use up my energy and there is none left for the study. Most weeks I rest all Thursday afternoon.

We have a Bible study Wednesday morning in a neighboring village. It’s a long morning and I have another Bible study Wednesday night. I rest Wednesday afternoon. I must. I want to clean my house or do print shop work, but I cannot. I have to say no, so I can say yes to the studies. I am learning to guard my priorities. This is even harder to do when we have company and I want to be hospitable, but I must plan easy meals, rest while visiting, and even excuse myself to lie down in the quiet for a little while.


Rest. I have started adding rest in my planner, giving myself a reminder to rest. Wednesday and Thursday afternoons are not the only ones set aside for rest. Every afternoon (except Monday) in my planner I have rest scheduled. Monday is our family/rest day, so I usually have plenty of time to rest that day. On the other days, I make sure I lie down at least 30 minutes to give my body a chance to recharge. If I have an evening study, I rest longer. If I’m having a rough day, I sleep more. Sometimes when we have company I get less rest, but I always try to get away a little while. I have found that company understands, and no one seems to go away disgruntled that I rested while they were visiting. They probably appreciate the opportunity to get away and rest a while too.

This is a recent addition. I used to just rest in the afternoons when I hit a wall. Hitting a wall hurts! I can’t wait that long. I have to rest so I don’t crash. Just this week I crashed anyway. It wasn’t from lack of rest. It is just part of having chronic Lyme Disease. Because I had shifted my thinking, It wasn’t so hard to just plan to rest until I was able to continue.

Create Margins

Bro. Paul Chappell talks about living with margin in his book, Stewarding Life. I lived without margin for more than 10 years. It nearly destroyed my health. Now I plan rest. I add margin to my life on purpose. I set aside times when I schedule no work and no studies. My only plan is to rest as needed.

When I started doing this out of necessity, I hated it. I felt like I was wasting time. I have found that I actually get a lot more done now. My mind is (sometimes) clearer. I function better. Some (many) days I have to work a little, rest a little, and repeat. To my surprise I get quite a bit done – more than when I push until I drop. I really recommend this book if you find yourself running on empty more often than you like. Creating margin in your life is just part of this very practical book.

Start planning now to rest. Plan to say no to some things so you can say yes to the most important. What is most important in your life? For me, it’s God, my husband, and ministry. In ministry, it’s teaching Sunday School and Bible studies. I must say no to many things so I can say yes to my relationship with God, my relationship with my husband, and the ministry God has given me. What do you need to say no to today? What do you need to stop doing so you can have enough time and energy to do what is most important? Then the most important question is: Will you stop? Stop so you can start living life with the purpose God has for you.


Planning With Passion

Passion PlannerUPDATE: 

Soon after posting this, a friend informed me that Passion Planner’s founder and CEO openly supports Planned Parenthood. She told me of a social media post of her outside of Planned Parenthood, promising to donate $1 for every “like”. I emailed Passion Planner and asked if the company donates to Planned Parenthood. An employee replied that as a company, Passion Planner funds have not gone to Planned Parenthood. Even so, with the owner so openly supporting a group that kills babies, I cannot recommend buying from them. The planner ideas here still work, but I will probably be changing my planner out with another printable. I may even create my own. Keep an eye out for a post about that.

I’m doing a series of practical posts to help when you struggle with chronic illness, especially when that illness flares unexpectedly.

I recently wrote on How I Plan for Hard Days. Today we are looking at one aspect of how I plan: planners! Those handy things that have driven me crazy for years because I would plan, but my plans always seemed to fall through and my planner was a mess of marked out hopes.

So, how do you use a planner when you know your week (or month) won’t turn out like you want? First, I’d like to look at some planners, then I’ll share how I use mine.

What I use to Plan

I love planners, but most of them don’t work for me. I cannot count how many I’ve bought, downloaded, printed, and discarded because they didn’t work for me. Below are two planners for you. The first is one I’d love to try, because it looks like it just might work for me. I’d love to know if you’ve used it, and how it worked for you. The second is the planner I’m using now.

Living Well Planner

I love the look of Ruth Soukup’s Living Well Planner, but I’m living in Africa now, and mail doesn’t always arrive. I’d hate to spend money on a beautiful planner, but never get it. It’s really not in my budget now either, but one day I want to try it. It looks amazing. If you’ve used this planner, please leave a comment and let us know how you liked it.

Passion Planner

Right now I am using Passion Planner. I really do like it. A lot. It also works for me because by sharing it on social media, I got a free download, which I could print myself. Since shipping stuff here is a problem, the download option is wonderful. I am using the 2017, and just downloaded the new 2018! I also have an undated copy, just in case I need it. If you would like to try before you buy, go to their Download Page and follow the instructions there. All you have to do is Share, Email them the share screenshot, and get a password to get your free download.

This planner has a place for to-do list (personal and work), a blank section you can use for anything (Space of Infinite Possibility), and a block to write in the focus for the day and focus for the week.  You can order the undated planner on Amazon, or the dated planners on the Passion Planner website.

Arc Notebooks

Putting it all together: When I print out my planner, I put it in a Staples Arc Notebook. I love these things! I may one day do a whole post on how I’ve used (and plan to use) these handy notebooks. They are completely customizable. I have this Junior size book that I use for my planner. I print it, punch it with the handy punch (link below), and pop it in. If I make a terrible mess of a page, I can reprint it and replace just that page. Although, I hardly ever do that now that I’ve changed how I plan.

Here are some of the accessories I use with my notebook:

Colored dividers: These let me separate my planner and easily find my note pages, blog idea page, etc. This keeps me on track. Without dividers, I can never seem to find where I put things. These are tabbed, so I can find the right section immediately. You can get the dividers alone or you can get this accessory pack. Keep an eye out for my post on Arc Notebooks. I’ll going to let you in on how I’ll be using these for our furlough next year too.

Sticky Tabs: I love these because I can flag any page to go back and find it easily. I can also use them to mark each month making it easy to go to the  monthly calendar. If I have something I want to do, but don’t know when I’ll get to it, I put it on a sticky tab, so I can move it to next week if this week doesn’t work. I can use a regular sticky note, but these are small, and more durable.

The Punch: I love this! It works on both Arc and Levenger notebooks. I used this to punch my planner so I could use the Arc notebook. I also make my own customizable inserts, making my planner uniquely mine. You can only punch 2 pages at once, but it’s portable and easy to slip into a bag.

They also have a large punch for if you want to punch 8 sheets at once. It’s a bit more pricey, but good if you’ll be doing a lot of organizing and punching. I’ll put more about that in another post.

There are several other accessories I’d like to have one day, but I’ll save those for the post on the Arc Notebooks alone. These are the ones I use in my planner.

How I Plan

This is the best way I can plan at this time. This may change as time goes on, but for now, this works best.

About once a week I block off the “set-in-stone” portions of my week. This includes church, my time with God, my evening routine time, etc. I also pencil in any scheduled Bible studies for the coming week. I realize even these may be changed if I wake to a killer migraine or really bad day of pain, but they are the “do if all possible” parts of my week.

For everything else, I only add daily tasks and appointments as I work on my to-do list each day – after I see how much pain and energy I have. I may pencil in a few things I hope to accomplish that week, but I truly plan each day after I see how that day is going. You just have to adapt with chronic illness.

I often have Bible studies cancelled or rescheduled, and many times my work planned for the afternoon after a study will fall by the wayside because I ran out of energy. When this happens, I just cross through those and reschedule. Because I plan most of it daily instead of weekly or monthly, there is less crossing off, and I follow my schedule more.

Some weeks I put the menu in the Space of Infinite Possibility. Some weeks I put in a verse or quote from Sunday’s sermon that I want to think on all week. At other times I write really important to-do items in large print so I don’t forget it. There are so many possible uses for it.

I am thinking of starting to use sticky tabs to “pencil in” those tasks I hope to accomplish, but I don’t know how the week will go. If this works better, I’ll update you and let you know.

How Do You Plan?

Now that I’ve shared my planner and planning strategy, I’d love to hear from you. What planner do you use? How do you use it so you can work around unpredictable health or life? What tricks do you use to plan for those hard days? Join the conversation so we can learn from each other.


How I Plan for Hard Days

I Used to Plan

I used to be a “get it done” kind of person; the kind of person who liked to plan ahead. For years, I worked hard, pushed myself, and did what had to be done to finish any project or work. I even pulled a couple of all-night “shifts” to finish projects that needed to be done in a timely manner. It was hard for me, when I found myself unable to keep up the pace. I was still young, so why couldn’t I work like I had in the past? Why did simple jobs leave me exhausted and weak? Then came the miscarriages and the Chronic Lyme Disease diagnosis. My limitations now made sense, but they were still hard to accept.

Some time after my third miscarriage, a friend sent me some information on some health supplements that helped me immensely. After being on them for a couple of months, I had energy and more stamina than I had in years. Yay for Plexus! I was so excited. Then my lovely energy was gone. It simply vanished one day, and I woke up exhausted. The disappointment only lasted a couple of days because I discovered I was pregnant again! I didn’t mind the exhaustion, I was growing a baby, and that’s a lot of work.

Within  a few short weeks, I had miscarried again. I was devastated. As I healed, I waited for that energy and stamina to return, but it didn’t. Instead my Lyme Disease flared and I was worse. Two more miscarriages followed. I couldn’t seem to recover. I went off the Plexus to see if it was even helping. Boy was it! Within days, I was nearly bedridden. So the supplements were helping, I was just in really bad shape.

How Can I Plan?

I am doing better than I was, but I still struggle. I want to go back to planning and scheduling, but how do you plan when you don’t know if you’ll wake up feeling great, so-so, exhausted, or in too much pain to moveFor me, the answer is “very loosely.” There are some things I plan every week. I may not get to do them, but I plan them. I plan knowing that this is a best-case-scenario plan, and there’s a strong possibility that I won’t get to do all I expect to do.  Other things I plan only on a daily basis, seeing how I feel first.

I’ll be looking at some things that have helped me in the next few weeks. Here is a sneak peek at a couple of items I’ll be reviewing:

  • Make Over Your Mornings
  • Staples Arc Notebooks
  • Menu Planning – to plan, or not to plan

I hope you’ll join us as we look for ways to plan for hard days. Will you join the discussion? What are your secrets for planning with chronic illness or fatigue? I hope you’ll share with us so we can all learn.