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How to Have the Second Brain to Remember More

How to Have the Second Brain to Remember More

Your whole life depends on you being able to retrieve things from your memory.

I’m sure you know what I mean… “Where are my keys?” “What major tasks do I need to complete today?” “What time is that meeting I need to attend?”

Questions such as these bombard our minds daily. If you’re able to recall the relevant information, you’ll keep your life on track. However, if you fail to recall the information – your life will start to move in a confused and unproductive direction.

We’d all love to boost our memories, but often we go about it in the wrong way. It’s not about how much information we can absorb into our minds, but how easily we can retrieve this information (which most people aren’t good at).

Information Overload = Memory Failure

We live in an information age, where our minds are besieged 24/7 by facts, figures, news, drama and trends.

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To maintain our standing among our peers, most of us strive in vain to keep up-to-date with everything from music to movies to politics.

It’s a never-ending whirlpool of information. And if you try to remember all of this information – you’re likely to find that your mind becomes so full that you begin to lose the ability to think clearly.

Information overload is a modern-day plague. And your memory is likely to be one of the plague’s victims.

For example, when you were younger, you may have loved to sing along with your favorite songs. Sadly, as you’ve grown older, you’ve started to forget the words to the songs. The more you try to recall the words – the further from your mind they seem to be. It’s frustrating, and has probably blighted a pastime that you used to love.

Could it be that over the years, you’ve tried to remember just too many songs? Perhaps.

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As you’ll see below, continually overloading your memory, can lead to recall issues and embarrassing social interactions.

It’s on the Tip of My Tongue, But…

It can be distressing when the flow of our conversation is blocked by our inability to recall information. And this can be especially traumatic if it takes place during a formal work environment.

For instance, imagine that you’re doing a presentation at work to some potential clients. You’ve created PowerPoint slides to guide you through your presentation, but the bulk of the message you’re hoping to convey is held in the memory banks of your mind. You start your presentation positively, but after a few awkward questions from one of the clients, you notice your confidence slipping – and your recall ability falling too! Suddenly, facts and figures seem out of your grasp. You’re stuttering, and rapidly losing the attention of the audience. To put it another way: you’re presentation has gone down the pan!

Storing tons of information in your memory is worthless if you’re unable to recall the parts you need – at the time you need them. Luckily, there’s a way to give your physical memory some much-needed breathing space.

How to Let a ‘Digital Brain’ Take the Strain

Our physical brains can only offer us a limited amount of memory storage and recall abilities. These limits used to be sufficient, but as mentioned earlier, we now live in an information age, where our ability to absorb and recall information has been stretched beyond our normal capabilities.

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What’s the answer to this problem? Well, you could start by giving some of this storing and recalling work to a digital brain.

By this, I don’t mean you should turn yourself into a cyborg. In fact, the only thing you’ll be turning yourself into is a super-efficient and productive version of yourself!

I’ve called it a digital brain, but you’ll know it simply as digital or online storage. And you’re sure to recognize some of the tools:

  • Airtable
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Google Drive
  • Pocket

The above software (and other similar ones) allows you to store, organize, and easily retrieve information. For example, Pocket lets you capture blogs, news and videos into a digital pocketbook. This is achieved through a one-click process. Once the content is within your pocketbook, you can retrieve and view it at any time. Clearly, this is far more efficient than trying to remember which stories you’ve seen earlier in the day – but hadn’t had chance to read/watch.

Instead of trying to remember everything with your physical brain, begin moving over some of the information to your digital brain. Whichever tool (or tools) you decide to use, you’ll immediately be able to take advantage of the following benefits:

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  • You can store as much information as you wish. (Free plans may offer only limited storage.)
  • You can easily organize and prioritize the stored information.
  • The stored information is available in an instant, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Compared to relying 100 percent on your physical brain, the addition of a digital brain will help you immensely. You’ll be able to determine what to store, what not to store, and when to retrieve information. You’ll also be able to use a digital brain to help you with your to-do lists and goal planning.

I personally use Google Drive for storing all my documents and images, and I use Todoist to help me manage my day-to-day tasks and workload. I’ve found using a digital brain to be liberating. Before, I used to stress over trying to remember everything – now my mind feels relaxed and free. I also have more mental energy for creative pursuits.

You may think that highly-productive people must be blessed with super-powered memories. For sure, some are, but most of these people are ordinary folks, with one difference… They have learned how to use a digital brain to help them store and retrieve information – and to organize their lives.

More by this author

Craig J Todd

UK Writer who loves to use the power of words to inspire and motivate.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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