I can’t remember… where I put that report… the name of their contact person…where my glasses are… where I left my pencil… whether I locked the door… whether I unplugged the iron….
This is commonly called absentmindedness or “senior moments” and often seems to become more prevalent as you get older. However the phrase, “I can’t remember,” may not be accurate. You cannot forget what you did not remember in the first place. Absentmindedness is actually a memory problem.
So much of what we do is performed unconsciously. It is exacerbated by our present work-whirl of multitasking where it can be difficult to stop and be present in the moment. Since you are already mentally onto the next tasks, you do not take the time to imprint on your mind all the pieces of the current situation.
Yet if you want to increase long-term productivity, using memory triggers to improve short-term recall can give you more time every day. Let’s use the missing report as an example. When it first landed on your desk, you might have glanced at it and set it aside to review in detail later. Did you consciously form an image of where you placed it, or were you already moving on to the next item as you added it to one of the other piles surrounding you?
Two major memory tools are links and substitutions. A key in using these for maximum results is to find silly things to connect. Suppose, for instance, that report you cannot find was a draft of the new budget.
Link: You might think about placing it next to your calculator because they both have numbers on them. Just the thought of doing that forces you to be conscious of your actions.
Substitution: Budget: “I bet they will not budge for the IT software request.” Then the silly connectors happen when you envision locking the report in a drawer that won’t budge, and the whole IT department comes in and together they try pulling out the drawer.
Try the same techniques when you meet someone.
Link: Denise. I’m originally from New York where Italians were a big part of the community. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the comment, “Da Niece? How’s da nephew?” Silly, yes, but it was an immediate association.
Substitution: Next focus on a facial feature that stands out. Build a silly picture from that. It will help you remember the face too, and the connection will form. “Da Niece has quite da nose!” Now exaggerate that and see both da niece and da nephew snooping around like bloodhounds.
Simply by the act of searching for a facial feature and a connection, you pay attention. You become a better listener and your memory will improve because you are focusing on the present, not looking past that person to the next one with whom you want to talk.
Are you thinking that there is no way you have time to stop and consciously track everything that you do? Be assured that once the procedure becomes a habit, it will not take long to process each incident. You will not lose time backtracking to verify that you did something or waste precious minutes finding something.
If you want to save time, don’t forget ... and you cannot forget something you did not remember in the first place.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Denise Landers is the author of “Destination: Organization, A Week by Week Journey.” She helps businesses and individuals accomplish more with productive office systems. Reach her at (602) 412-3876 or firstname.lastname@example.org.