I can be an extremely absent-minded person when left to my own devices. It's why a few solid ways to stop forgetting things proves extremely useful in my day-to-day life. It doesn't matter how many times I tell myself I need to pick up dental floss or can't forget my packed lunch for work, if I don't actively set up a reminder system, I'll forget to do it nine times out of 10.
According to an article in Psychology Today by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D, there's actually a very good reason for this. Research shows that in order for us to remember things (i.e. where we put our subway card) we must first have encoded it in our brains by being conscious of our actions in the moment.
The problem, Whitbourne said, is that most of us "mindlessly go about our day's activities, often preoccupied with several concerns at once. We all dissociate to a certain extent ("multi-task"), and so the part of our brain carrying out routine activities doesn't connect with the part of our brain responsible for conscious thought." This means that we're very likely to forget simple things, like where we parked our car, or the receipt we needed in order to return an item at the store — our mind is working on ten other things in that moment.
If you're tired of losing things or forgetting basics, like your apartment keys or a new co-worker's name, here are seven tips that will help you to almost never forget daily essentials again.
1. Keep Designated Spots For Commonly Used Objects
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According to personal organizing expert Elizabeth Larkin on About.com's Home section, one of the most efficient and simple things you can do to never forget things like your keys or phone is to always keep them in the same place. Larkin specifically recommended providing yourself with a little bowl or tray in an easily accessible spot by your door to drop your essentials right as you walk in. That way, even if you were totally distracted when you got home, you'll always know where to find your basics.
2. Keep Something You Don't Want To Forget By Your Keys
This is a tip I actually saw my super organized type-A cousin once do and I have never forgotten it. She wanted to remember to bring a tupperware full of leftovers home with her from my aunt's house, so what did she do to ensure it wouldn't slip her mind when it came time to leave? She put her car keys in the fridge with the tupperware. Her logic was she literally couldn't leave without her car keys, so she would be forced to remember the leftovers when she went to grab the keys. Pretty genius, right? I now use this tip for all sorts of thing, like placing my house keys in a bag I need to remember to bring to work the next day.
3. Create A Mental "Hook" For Names
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According to Ira Hyman, Ph.D in a piece for Psychology Today on memory association, we're way more likely to remember stories or details about a person than their actual name. He says this is known as the "Baker-baker paradox" in which test subjects who are told that a man is a baker are way more likely to remember that detail, whereas subjects told merely that his name is Mr. Baker are much more likely to forget it. Hyman said this is because we associate so very many mental images with a baker — aprons, bread dough, rolling pins — and so it leaves a much stronger mental impression in our brains than simply a name. Because of this, he recommended creating a little mental story and word association when meeting new people.
4. Set An Alarm
In a piece on his site about ways to stop forgetting things and getting more done, Craig Jarrow, the "Time Management Ninja," said to simply set an alarm to jog your memory about things you need to do. "Setting an alarm is the simplest way to remind yourself," he said. "Need to call that customer back by end of day? Set your alarm for 5 p.m." He also recommended setting weekly alarms for weekly tasks, like taking out the trash on garbage night.
5. Keep A To-Do List
Jarrows also stressed the importance of writing things down on a To-Do list — tasks big and small. "Your todo list should be your best friend. It should remember so that you don’t have to," he said. I am a huge advocate of writing things down in a centralized notebook that I always have on hand and I even keeping a separate little running list for things I want to grab while I'm out, like dental floss or batteries. It's an incredibly effective and low-tech way to make life easier.
6. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
The Rosetta Stone Fit Brains blog recommended taking a minute or two to repeat a detail you don't want to forget, like names, addresses, and special pronunciations. This moment of being conscious, as well as the act of repetition, will help lodge the detail in your brain.
7. Technology Is Your Friend
Author of The New York Times bestseller The Four Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss reminded us that we have a slew of technological assistance at our disposal when it comes to reminders. He personally recommended Google calendars as a super usable and highly accessible mode of keeping appointments and important events straight, as well as certain reminder-related apps. For example, did you know there's an app called Jot!, which allows you to send a voicemail to yourself, which then gets e-mailed to you? This is especially awesome for when you're driving or on the go. Do a little research to find the apps most suited to your particular reminder needs.
Forgetting stuff is crazy annoying, and can sometimes actually really negatively affect our day. If you've been struggling with remembering things, big or small, try some or all of these methods for some seriously helpful results.