I Can’t Remember

Clearing Mind ClutterMemory is a big subject – much bigger than a blog post! But nothing is more frustrating than not being able to remember something you need – it feels disorganized and out of control. Forgetting things wastes time and frustrates us.

For some, failing memory is an indicator of a bigger problem. I’ve heard that not being able to find your keys is normal, not remembering what keys are for is not, and should be checked by a doctor. For the majority of us, our inability to recall information is a symptom of lives which are complicated, crunched for time, and overloaded with responsibilities.

So what are we to do? I believe that taking one small step can make a huge difference: intentional remembering. Often, we forget things because we have not made an intentional decision to try to remember it. We hear a person’s name at a party, but we don’t focus on it and figure out a way to remember it. We complete tasks while distracted, leaving only a weak impression on our memory of what we’ve done.

If we want to remember something, we need to give our brain a “trick” for recalling it. For example, when I want to remember that the underwear goes in the third drawer down – instead of the fourth (which I was tending to repeatedly mix up) – I made up a little verbal phrase to remind myself: “under goes over.” This may sound silly, and it kind of is, but the point is that by taking a few seconds to tell my brain a riddle or a clue, I’ve now made a deep enough impression to remember.

Another example is the “number of items” trick to use when out and about. Every time you leave the house, count how many items you are taking with you. Perhaps it is four: a coat, a cell phone, gloves, and a purse. Every time you move to a new location (into the car, out of the car, into the office, out of the office, etc.) count to see if you’ve got 4 items. You don’t need to check for all four individually, just the total number. If you’ve got 4, you are good to go! If you don’t have all 4, then stop and think about what is missing. This little trick is very helpful to avoid the problem of leaving items behind.

To help with people’s names, come up with an association for every name. For instance, say silently to yourself “Blond Betty” or “Tall Tim”. The very action of pairing a name with another word makes it easier to remember.

If you have trouble remembering where you put things down, enhance your memory by increasing the number of senses involved in the task. Try establishing a designated place for frequently misplaced items (hook for keys, dish for eyeglasses, corner of a desk for cell phone, etc.), and then when you are learning this new place, take time to stare at your hand as you put it there (for a second or two), and say “I am putting my keys on the hook” out loud, which gives your brain three impressions: the kinesthetic feeling of hanging keys, the visual input, and the auditory sound of where you put them.

There are limitless numbers of tricks you can use, and there are no wrong ones. The key here is to be intentional about helping your brain remember. And if you forget something, don’t berate yourself. Self criticism hampers growth, so just tell it to be quiet and leave you alone:)

What tricks do you find helpful for clearing the mind clutter and being intentional about remembering?

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6 thoughts on “I Can’t Remember”

  1. It’s funny how it’s easier for us to remember *more* than *less*. When my twin grandsons were born, even though they’re not identical, I needed a way to remember which name belonged to which baby. The larger one happens to have the same name as a big guy I used to know, and that helped me to remember his name until I got to know their faces. I had a similar trick to distinguish two former co-workers who shared similar first names, but it wouldn’t be polite to share it. 😉
    Janet Barclay recently posted…How to Pick a Good PlannerMy Profile

    1. Okay, now you’ve got me wondering about those co-workers:) My friend had twin boys who looked exactly the same, and the only way I could remember who was whom was by a small birthmark one had on his jaw. I used to recite to myself, “Jordan.. jaw.” I never would have remembered otherwise!

  2. Love this idea of “intentional remembering!” There are times I hear myself repeating something out loud until I do the task or get to a piece of paper to write it down. Remind me to tell you sometime a funny story about trying to remember a name using the word association trick. It worked, but not exactly as I expected.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How to Set the Stage for Better Life BalanceMy Profile

    1. Now I’m on the edge of my seat to hear the story!! I think many times I’m either not paying full attention, or am just distracted by multiple things and that’s why I forget. Thank heavens for the ability to write things down:)

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