Are you forgetful?
December 2, 2004 5:34 AM   Subscribe

Are you forgetful? If so, what do you do to remember things? MI

It seems that as I get older, I'm becoming more forgetful. For example, just this morning I decided to get a banana, but when I got to where they are kept, I did something else. As I walked away, I realized that I hadn't gotten the banana and returned to get it.
posted by ashbury to Grab Bag (22 answers total)
Yes. I used to have a great technique for remembering things, but I forgot it.

Important stuff gets put into my to-do list. That way I don't forget it. Sometimes I make notes on scraps of paper that I leave on my desk, but I go through them every day for either action or placement on the to-do list for later action.
posted by grouse at 5:39 AM on December 2, 2004

I will sometimes write one or more mnemonic letters on the inside of my left wrist, just below the fleshy part of the palm. There's an almost-obliterated 'R' there now, from where I reminded myself to pay the rent the other day. When, later, I see the letter, I will (usually) remember what it stands for, and perform the appropriate task. Obviously, however, this is not foolproof, and I do somethimes forget my encoding strategy, and am left wondering what the hell it was I meant to remind myself to do.
posted by misteraitch at 5:46 AM on December 2, 2004

Scraps of paper folded and stuck in my pockets. During the day I always put my hand in my pocket, say, "What the hell is this?" unfold, and read. "Oh, crap, I had an appointment this morning." It works sometimes.
posted by dual_action at 5:50 AM on December 2, 2004

I guess there should be one more part to this question, and no, I didn't forget to put it in, I just didn't have time (had to bring the kid to school, donchyaknow). Does your forgetfulness worry you?
posted by ashbury at 6:22 AM on December 2, 2004

The scraps of paper works well for me when i have to remember to do something when i get home, since the first thing i do when i get home is take everything out of my pockets. at work i put post-its on the side of my monitor, then i can't help but stare at the note and remind myself that i have a meeting at 10am.

About simple things like the banana, if you go to the kitchen to get a banana, hold out one finger on one of your hands and when you get to the kitchen and realize that you forgot what you were there for and open the cabinet to get some chips, you'll realize that your finger is sticking out or pointing and then you know that you meant to get a banana.

My forgetfulness worries me a lot sometimes. I didn't drink too much in college or anything, but it does make me wonder if my brain has a bunch of holes in it or something that doesn't allow me to retain my ideas. Thankfully I have an understanding fiancee that knows that when i ask her for the fifth time what we're doing on the weekend that I keep asking because I care and I forget, not because I don't bother to remember.
posted by Arch Stanton at 6:32 AM on December 2, 2004

My forgetfulness & absent-mindedness upsets me sometimes, when it's something really stupid, for example, when I go to the store to get item x, only to come home with items y & z, but I don't really worry about it.
posted by misteraitch at 6:34 AM on December 2, 2004

I'm always forgetting things, for example just now I had to run upstairs and misplaced my cup of coffee! It doesnt worry me at all for these things, but when I forget to pay a bill or miss an appointment, that bothers me.

So, I carry a Palm, a Sony TH-55, and use the excellent add-on DateBk5 which enhances the built-in Datebook and To-Do lists. If I have something I really need to remember I will attach an alarm to the item. It's great to be able to set alarms with advance notice, so you get a reminder that your dentist appointment is 3 days away, etc.

Also I usually have a notebook or a pad of paper on my desk or nightstand and will make a list of anything important I have to take care of that day. If you don't want a handheld device, then try a paper day planner.
posted by isotope at 7:17 AM on December 2, 2004

If I have to do something when I get somewhere (ie, pick up milk on the way home), I picture myself doing that thing in that place at that time in as much detail as possible. So, for the milk example, I'll picture myself getting off the subway, up the escalator, through the thing, up the other escalator, turning left instead of right, and going to store, saying to myself, when you're doing this, remember this.

Usually works.
posted by Capn at 7:50 AM on December 2, 2004

I'm sorry, what was the question?
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:00 AM on December 2, 2004

I forget things sometimes (well, ok, a lot), but I never worry about it. As my beloved grandma used to say, in her Italian accent, "You gotta too many tings commin outta da toppa you head". Loosely translated, that means that the more you know, learn, and absorb, the more there is to forget. So much cranial capacity is taken up by big stuff, that sometimes the small stuff (like going to the pantry for a banana) gets lost in the shuffle.

She also made killer meatball sammiches.
posted by iconomy at 8:09 AM on December 2, 2004

If I'm trying to remember a name (like an actor in a movie I saw) I will go through the alphabet in my head, and when I get to the letter their name begins with, I'll remember it every time.
posted by robbie01 at 8:11 AM on December 2, 2004

I use iCal, it emails me things that I need to remember and when a message is in my inbox, it gets done.
posted by spaghetti at 8:41 AM on December 2, 2004

The best tool I ever found for this was a cell phone + Yahoo! calendar.

Like most free web calendars, it can send reminders to you when an event is coming up. But email reminders aren't that helpful to me, and I don't use Yahoo! messenger. BUT! It will also text-message your cell phone with the title of your reminder, at a time interval which you specify. You can do 2 reminders per event. It's highly configurable, and can do things like "every 3rd Saturday of the month." It's totally sweet and has saved me countless parking tickets.

Did I mention free?
posted by scarabic at 8:50 AM on December 2, 2004

make a list.


cross off the things you did.

next day, write over the things you didn't do

and get a PDA - and use it.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:01 AM on December 2, 2004

I simply remember one thing: how pissed my wife would be if I forget to do something. Then I usually remember to do it in a timely manner.

Doesn't help much with office-related tasks though, unless I think of how pissed my supervisor would be. But I don't go to bed with my boss. *shudder*
posted by icontemplate at 9:25 AM on December 2, 2004

I have lots of strategies for remembering things that have to be done - hope some of these help you:

I leave myself voicemails. If I'm at work and have to remember to bring something from home or do something at home, I call home and leave myself a message stating whatever it is I need to do. If I'm at home and remember something work-related, I call work and leave myself a message there. This is, to me, the most useful way of reminding myself of stuff to do.

Important appointments go onto either my work calendar or yahoo calendar (depending) and I set the reminder to come on at the appropriate time (enough time to get to an appt, for example, or two weeks before a birthday to make sure I have enough time to get a present). Yahoo calendar is great for this.

I work in a high-stress, fast-paced environment and frequently have to drop whatever I'm doing in order to handle something more urgent. The main challenge of my job is to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. I do this by keeping a notebook at my desk where I write down everything I have to do as soon as I remember it. Never use post-its - they get lost and if you clutter your desk with them you'll just train yourself to ignore them. Instead
keep everything you think of in one place, and develop a system to keep track of anything not completed by day's end. (I use highlighters - yellow for anything that still needs to be done and pink for pending/follow-up.) Lists are only useful if you remember where you put them and you actually complete the items!

If I have to remember to stop somewhere on the way home, I'll leave a note on my cellphone or carkeys. I'll then carry the note in my hand till I get in the car, and then I'll put the note in full view in the car so I don't just mindlessly drive home.
posted by widdershins at 9:48 AM on December 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

One thing that I do is tell myself how many things I need to remember, i.e. if I'm going to the grocery store I tell myself "I need to get four things at the grocery store", then as I'm wandering around the store, or before I get in line I ask myself, "How many things was I supposed to get?... Did I get all four things?". Also helps to remind me to go the grocery store, as in "I need to stop 2 places before I go home, the gas station and the grocery store", etc, etc.
posted by vignettist at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2004

(In a cruel twist of fate, while previewing, I lost my original reply to this question. Now I must try to remember it!)

I can't remember anything. Well, that's partially true. I can remember verb conjugations and vocabulary in foreign languages but I can't remember anything to do with history (though it fascinates me). I can remember songs I learned fifteen years ago but can't remember to do the dishes or take out the trash. I can remember all my lines in a play (and everyone else's) but, if interrupted, I can never recall my train of thought.

Does it concern me? Yeah, I know I should get checked out one of these days. I had several concussions in my early teens and haven't been the same since. And I hear it'll only get worse when I'm pregnant.

I live with it by leaving thing I need to remember out where I can see them and by having a patient husband who does remember the dishes and the trash and doesn't mind if I've forgotten to brush my teeth or put on deodorant.
posted by wallaby at 10:39 AM on December 2, 2004

I tend to forget the taking of things to other places, such as my keys when I leave, a book to my friend, etc. My solution is to make this impossible—my keys are on a ribbon and hang from the doorknob and I cannot lock the door without the keys. I put the book in my bag as soon as I think of it, no exceptions—even if I just sat down and am really tired, even if I really want to dance to this song, I do it now.

Also, I do everyday things in the same order every day. Though this will make people think you are compulsive, it will prevent you from forgetting. (And when I do something out of order, I always forget something.) None of this worries me, but I am young, so I know it's an idiot thing as opposed to an aging thing.
posted by dame at 1:17 PM on December 2, 2004

I wear a class ring with a crest. If I'm lying in bed at night and think "Crap, in the morning I HAVE to remember to do X," I flip the ring over so the crest is upside-down. Then the next day if I notice it, it usually sparks the memory of what I have to do. Usually. Not always...
posted by GaelFC at 1:34 PM on December 2, 2004

A little memo pad and a pencil stub, and one of those big calendars at my desk. Any time you have to remember something, write it down in the book, and transcribe it to the calendar when you sit down at the desk. Just a more organized version of the scraps of paper thing.
posted by apathy0o0 at 2:36 PM on December 2, 2004

Good advice, guys. Thank you. Dame, your advice in particular rings with me. Routine is very important and I too find that when I break my routine, I invariably forget something.

Wallaby, get yourself checked out. Please!
posted by ashbury at 4:00 PM on December 2, 2004

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