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Last Updated on September 26, 2022

How to Stop Being Absent Minded and Become More Attentive

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How to Stop Being Absent Minded and Become More Attentive

Are you an absent-minded person? Does any of these sound like you (or someone you know)?

You walk into a room and don’t know why you went in there in the first place. You are always late. You can never find your keys (or purse, etc.). You space out in the middle of conversations. You don’t know what you want to do with your future because your thoughts aren’t organized enough to even begin to make any plans. You always say why am I so forgetful and absent-minded? 

If any of these things sound familiar, chances are likely that you’re dealing with absentmindedness. Closely associated with general forgetfulness, this is a mental condition that can be addressed through habits and familiarity with the condition.

What Are the Signs of Being Absent Minded?

An absent-minded person is often in their thoughts without realizing it. This person doesn’t know what is happening in their surroundings and daydreams. The distracting thoughts make them forgetful.

What Causes Absentmindedness?

Three major and different causes may lead to absentmindedness:

  • Low attention levels: Having a low level of attention overall is akin to blanking, zoning, or spacing out.
  • Extreme focus on a single object: Giving intense attention to a singular object or individual to the point the person is oblivious to everything else happening around him.
  • Daydreaming: Having unwarranted attention distraction from something due to irrelevant thoughts or environmental events.

Can Absentmindedness Be Fixed?

Curing absentmindedness is simple on paper. All you have to do is make changes to your everyday life. These changes aren’t incredibly drastic; however, they work to mitigate the causes of absentmindedness. Generally speaking, some things that can help are:

  • Simplify Life: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, it’s easier for you to be blanking or zone out in situations.
  • Rest: Ensure that throughout your everyday life, you’re getting plenty of sleep and proper nutrition.
  • Routine: Develop tricks for yourself, such as leaving items you use every day in the same spot at all times.

How to Stop Being Absent Minded

As mentioned above, there are many ways for someone to overcome absentmindedness, zoning out, or blanking. Below are 21 practical methods you can try out immediately and improve your memory so that you don’t have to say, “why am I so forgetful and absent-minded” ever again.

1. Put Everything Back in the Same Place

It sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done for some absentminded people.

Try to create a new habit of routine. For example, when you walk in the door, put your keys in the same place. When you go to the mall, park in the same general area. It will take a while for the new routines to become second nature, but it will happen if you keep doing them for a few weeks.

Just stay committed and try these tricks to make new habits stick.

2. Make Lists

Sometimes when you have a gazillion things flying around in your head, you get overwhelmed. And then nothing gets done. To fix that, incorporate lists into your everyday life.

Writing out lists can be oddly calming and can even add structure to your life in many ways. For example, writing out “At 10:00 I will answer all my emails. At 11:30, I will start a load of laundry,” could help in organizing a cluttered day. You can also consider putting things on a priority list. It sounds cheesy, but it works.

Find out what lists you should keep for staying focused here: The Power of the List: Essential Lists for Productivity

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3. Set Timers

If you’re always late, learn to set the timer on your oven or your microwave, or get an egg timer and set that. (Yes, here’re 7 Reasons to Borrow Grandma’s Egg Timer.)

As obnoxious as it sounds, when the buzzer goes off, it snaps you out of whatever you are consumed within the moment and re-directs your attention to where you should be going.

The use of timers will get rid of your excuse of “I just lost track of time.” It won’t happen with a timer or at least it shouldn’t.

4. Set a Schedule and Follow It

Maybe you love technology and keep your schedule on your phone, or perhaps you’re old-fashioned and keep it on paper. Either way, you still need one.

That might sound obvious given that we live in an over-scheduled world. But trust me, I know many people who don’t have one. If that’s you, get a schedule. And once you have it, pay attention to it and use it! What’s the point of having it if you don’t?

5. Delegate Responsibilities

No human is a superhuman. You can’t do everything all the time.

Some people don’t know this; they have perfectionist personalities. But being ‘perfect’ is a myth. It’s an illusion. There is no such thing.

If your overcommitted life causes you to be absentminded in your everyday life, tell other people to pick up the slack for you. Get your kids to do the laundry. Get your spouse to pick up your daughter at her friend’s house. You don’t have to do everything!

Learn about delegation so you can be a more attentive person: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

6. Use Sticky Notes

If you need to remember to send that email or make that call when you get to work, put a sticky note on your cell phone. Chances are that when you get to the office, you will check your phone anyway – and you’ll see your reminder. It’s simple and effective.

One note of caution, don’t use too many! If you do, it becomes overwhelming, and you get to the point where you don’t even “see” them anymore.

7. Do One Thing at a Time

Many people think they are great multi-taskers. They can talk on the phone, type emails, and put make-up on all at the same time. But when you do too many things at once, none of them are done particularly well.

The absent-minded people know the real absent-minded meaning because they are suffering. To ease your life, do one thing at a time so you can make sure that you complete everything you are doing. Just be sure that you’re not hyper-focusing on that task.

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8. Have an “Accountability Buddy”

If you’re trying to develop any of the new habits that I’ve discussed so far, it helps to have someone hold you accountable.

Grab a friend and schedule quick, regular texts, emails, or phone calls. They could either be reminders, or they could be check-ins to report progress. Either way, if you know that you will have to answer to someone else, you will be more likely to stay committed to change. This will also help others to understand your absentmindedness.

9. Schedule Regular Decluttering

Lots of people have junk piles or even entire junk rooms. The problem is that many times they get out of control. Anyone who has watched any hoarder TV shows knows that once you let it get that way, it’s difficult to correct it.

Put your decluttering sessions on your schedule. Since you are already following your schedule, you will have consistency with throwing out what you don’t need.

Some decluttering tips to help you:

If that’s a little bit too much for you, try this: One Question to Help You Successfully Declutter Anything

10. Foresee the Consequences of Your Actions

Your absentmindedness affects other people. If you’re constantly late, your friend is probably sick of waiting an hour for you to show up at the restaurant; or maybe your kid is feeling bad because you are the last parent to pick them up from the slumber party.

Your actions affect others. Once you realize that, it might motivate you to adopt some of these tips.

11. Stop Talking and Start Doing

You can’t lose weight if you just sit around complaining about how fat you are. You can’t become a better basketball player if you sit on the couch and watch reality TV every night. And you can’t become less absent-minded if you don’t take action.

12. Eat Right

We’ve known for decades that foods with unhealthy levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol are bad for the heart. However, they’re also not good for your brain either. Researchers at Harvard found that LDL-saturated diets are linked to the same protein clusters that cause the brain damage associated with Alzheimer’s.[1]

To counter this possibility, adjust your diet to healthier options. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, whole grains, and olive oil are all good sources of unsaturated fat.

13. Exercise

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is a strong link between regular exercise and brain health. Working out not only boosts blood flow but can also reverse the reduction in brain size that naturally occurs as we age.[2]

While some remain skeptical of a direct causal link between exercise and brain health, the obvious benefits of regular exercise—increased physical health, elevated sense of well-being, etc.—are beyond dispute. It’s shown it improves our ability to handle stress.

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14. Cut Back on Alcohol and Caffeine

While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the occasional cocktail or cup of coffee, anxious times tend to cause our consumption of alcohol and caffeine to increase. It was reported that alcohol sales rose 686.9 percent in grocery bills during the pandemic.[3]

While you may initially resist any call to delay “wine o’clock,” this is another area where journaling can be your best friend. Commit to tracking your alcohol consumption as an experiment. You’ll be able to correlate those efforts with any noticeable improvements in memory performance in the weeks to come.

15. Read

There is a difference between scrolling through Twitter and reading a novel.

At least one vital distinction between these two forms of reading lies in how the brain reacts as it processes information. Hits of norepinephrine released by browsing social media keep your brain in an unhealthy state of fight-or-flight arousal. Time spent on a good novel, on the other hand, engages the imagination.

Screens are great for instant access to information, but they’re lousy for relaxing and recharging. Go ahead, invest in a real book made from paper. They’re still around.

16. Converse

In the era of texting, making good conversation is a skill that is rapidly declining, even as it’s been shown to increase empathy and give our brains a workout in our everyday life. So make a point of engaging with people more often in person. You’ll find your brain will thank you by ensuring it stays in more shape and reducing the risk of zoning or blanking out.[4]

A videoconference call can work similarly, although it’s harder to pick up social signals. It’s a better option if you can’t meet up with someone.

17. Play Games

In addition to giving yourself a much-needed mental health break, games tend to sharpen brain skills. These include processing speed, decision making, response time, planning, and strategizing.[5]

If your goal is reducing absentmindedness, choose which games to play. Video games often—though not always—excite the brain’s amygdala and threaten to overwhelm. Something more traditional games could be a better choice. Card games, chess, and strategy board games can be fun and recharge your brain simultaneously.

18. Make Use of Strategic Visual Cues

One proven way to reduce your frustration over absentmindedness is to “cheat” by sidestepping the problem entirely. If a friend has asked to borrow one of your novels, throw the book onto the passenger seat of your car the night before you head to her house. The idea is to “booby trap” your life so that you almost literally trip over visual cues as you go about your day.

To make this tactic work, you need to act on your thoughts when they’re at the forefront of your mind. After you pour the last of the half-and-half into your morning coffee, don’t sit down to breakfast until you’ve jotted down the depleted dairy item on your shopping list.

Always be looking for ways to free yourself from the number of things swirling around inside your head. When you have fewer things to remember, you’ll be able to place your focus where it’s needed at any given moment.

19. Sleep

Few things will improve absentmindedness more than a good night’s sleep. Our brains need rest to process information and turn it into memory. When we deprive ourselves of sleep so that we can get more things accomplished, we are adding gasoline to the memory-loss fire.[6]

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While your brain can bounce back from an occasional all-nighter, an ongoing pattern of inadequate sleep will cause more problems than it solves. If you are having consistent problems with sleep, start journaling your experiences. Identifying insomnia triggers will help you take steps to improve your sleep hygiene over time or at least have a more informed conversation with your doctor.

20. Soak Up Some Sun

Time in the sun has been linked to the release of serotonin in the brain – that’s a good thing! Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that serotonin loss is associated with memory decline, and now you know how to raise your levels.[7]

While its impact on absentmindedness isn’t fully established, serotonin is known to have a positive impact on a person’s mood, relaxation response, and ability to focus. So, start treating sunshine as a valuable commodity. Location, time of day, and skin tone will affect how much exposure to sunshine works for you, but it’s worth upping your daily dose.

21. Get the Help You Need

Absentmindedness requires self-help initially, but if it doesn’t improve anything, then you should seek additional help. You can take counseling sessions to improve your day-to-day routine without forgetfulness. Talk to your physician about your issues because sometimes, it may have an underlying cause that you are unable to point out on your own.

Final Thoughts

Human beings are infinitely complex, and despite all of the advances in neuroscience, the inner workings of the brain are still somewhat mysterious. What works for one person may or may not work for another, and that’s okay.

As you battle your absentmindedness, keep your journal close at hand. Review your progress at least once a week and tweak your routines until you see improvement.

Knowing your problems and finding the solution is the first step toward betterment. You have read this article because you don’t want to be an absent-minded person anymore. Try to implement our suggestions, and if you don’t find them helpful in treating your absentmindedness, then take the help of an expert.

TL;DR

Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

How to Stop Being Absent Minded and Become More Attentive

Absentmindedness refers to being lost in thought with little or no awareness of the surroundings; it is something to take seriously because it worsens with time.

Making a routine and developing some habits can help in improving the condition; for instance, try to put things in their particular place always, and you will know where to find them automatically.

Don’t burden yourself and do one thing at a time – if possible, distribute responsibilities.

A healthy lifestyle leads to a healthy brain – eat healthily and exercise daily to boost your physical and mental health.

Stop thinking and start implementing to see the results; if there are no changes, medical advice may be needed.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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