Have you ever gone to the store, knowing you need milk, bread, and…you can’t remember what else? Maybe you showed up an hour late for an appointment because you thought it was at 4 PM instead of 3 PM. Or perhaps your child missed a sports practice because you forgot the coach added an extra one. Most people experience memory lapses from time to time.
Generally, it’s not a serious issue if you can’t remember what page you fell asleep on while reading your book or misplaced your car keys because you switched purses or coats. Your brain only processes what it considers to be necessary information. Too much input caused by a hectic day or busy lifestyle can overwhelm your brain. If you aren’t focused on what you’re doing, like falling asleep while reading, your brain won’t remember the information you didn’t consider important at the time.
There are five simple ways you can organize your life and fix occasional forgetfulness issues. If you have a big project to do at work or your children are in multiple after-school activities, using these techniques can help you remember everything you need to do.
1. Write it Down
One of the biggest memory mistakes people make is thinking they will remember something later. Distractions, interruptions, and other activities during the day can push out what you are trying to remember. If you need to focus on something else, your mind might not retain your grocery list or exactly what time you need to be at the dentist.
Writing things down helps connect what you want to remember with a visual cue for your brain to remember later. Writing and reviewing a list, appointment time, or schedule makes it more important in your mind and helps you remember. And if you do forget, you have a written record of what you need to know.
2. Calendars and Planners
Using a calendar or planner accomplishes both writing things down and giving you a record. It’s more organized than scraps of paper with notes or reminders to do something or be somewhere. A family calendar, color-coded with each person’s schedule, helps keep everyone organized. A planner can help you plan your day or week and gives you a place to write reminders when new commitments or information needs to be added.
3. Reminder Apps
If you prefer to use technology to fix memory issues, there are hundreds of reminder apps available. Many allow you to access your lists and calendars on multiple devices and share schedules and reminders with your family. Some apps allow you to add information by voice command or set up repeated commitments, making it easy to stay organized.
Reminder apps can help with more than just lists and schedules. Some apps are designed or can be programmed to remind you to take medicines, get more exercise, or send a birthday greeting to friends and family. There are even smart appliance and pantry apps that remind you when you’re low on milk or other household items. If you need to remember something, there is probably an app for that.
4. Put Things in the Same Place
It sounds simple because it is. Following a pattern and creating routine habits for where you put your purse, wallet, car keys, briefcase, or other important items make it much easier to find them later. If you prepare your lunch and put your lunch bag in the same place every time, you’ll be able to find it when you leave for work. Your mind won’t forget where you put something because you’ve developed a habit of putting it in the same place all the time.
5. Use Acronyms
What happens when you can’t write something down or put a reminder into an app? Mental tricks like using acronyms can help fix memory issues when you need to remember something new. For example, when you meet someone, you probably won’t stop and write down their name. But using the acronym NAME when you’re introduced can help you remember their name later.
Notice – Noticing details about a person, like the color of their hair or their height, can help you connect the person to their name.
Ask – If you don’t catch their name, ask. Or ask if you’re not sure how to pronounce it. You want to remember the correct information.
Mention – Mention the person’s name while you talk to them. Their name will become part of the record of your conversation in your memory.
Envision - Use the details you noticed to create a memory picture of your encounter with someone. Building a visual picture in your mind can help you remember details later.
These five simple techniques can help keep you and your family organized and fix memory issues when you’re busy or stressed. Use them as habits that will help you remember important details and plans.