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8 Ways To Compensate For Your Terrible Memory

8 Ways To Compensate For Your Terrible Memory
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If you have been described as having the memory of a goldfish, then that is not a good sign. Furthermore, if you keep forgetting that your sunglasses are on your head, or worse, that your keys are in your hand, then you are really in need of this list of memory tricks. Save yourself the frustration of forgetfulness and start using these 8 ways to compensate for a terrible memory.

1. Sing a song

Even if you have a terrible memory, you will be surprised by how well you are able to sing along to that song on the radio. You may even have that song you absolutely hate stuck in your head right now; no matter how hard you try, it has made a permanent home in your head. With the addition of a melody, the brain has a better ability to retain words. Take a tune you love and replace the lyrics with whatever it is you are trying to remember

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2. Acrostics & Acronyms

You probably know what Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge stands for, as well as the FBI’s full title. Come up with your own acrostics and acronyms. The letters do not even have to make sense. The mere act of narrowing down your list to a few letters that you can string together is an incredibly helpful way to remember.

3. Mental pictures

The mind does better with visual memory than with auditory memory. Rather than try and remember simply what you hear, create visual pictures in your mind for the words and/or tasks that you are to knock off your to-do list.

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4. Set an alarm

Your alarm clock is not only good for getting you up in the morning. If there is something during the day that you need to be prompted about, set your alarm for that time. You most likely will forget to check the calendar on your phone during the day, so this is a great “third-party” assistant for your memory.

5. Password relief

Nothing is more frustrating that typing in the wrong password a bunch of times and then getting blocked from your account. Thankfully Safari and Google Chrome have password manager systems that will keep a hidden log of your usernames and passwords. Use these tools or keep a logbook of passwords near your computer to save yourself the frustration.

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6. Tell a story

A similar effect to song lyrics is the use of story. Everyone loves a good story. Go back to your childhood days and recover that highly imaginative mind. Create a story around the list of items or the tasks that you need to remember. The more vivid and ridiculous the better. Make your avocados eat a fish that is filled with bread to remember those three simple grocery items.

7. Write it down

Researchers have shown that students who take notes have a far better retention rate than those who simply sit and listen. The act of writing something down causes your mind to process the information and engage at a deeper level, thus strengthening your neural memory connections. Post-its are still ever-popular because they are so effective. Carry some small post-its or a notepad with you wherever you go.

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8. Novelty

You are probably very familiar with the old “string on the finger” trick that your grandparents swore by. The idea behind it is to create a novel trigger for you to remember what the task you intended was. Some people will put a little toy in their pocket, so that when they pull out Spiderman they are reminded about that phone call they need to make.

Give your brain a good piggy-back with these memory techniques today. You may even be surprised by how your memory gets stronger in the process.

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More by this author

Thai Nguyen

Thai's a Mindfulness-Meditation Coach, a 5-Star Chef and an International Kickboxer.

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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)
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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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