Help me remember what past me said
June 6, 2012 5:39 PM   Subscribe

How can I get better at remembering the things I say in conversation?

I've always had a really difficult time with remembering the things I say in conversation. I can remember what people say to me down to the inflection but I've never been able to remember at a later time (tens of minutes or tens of months) down the road what I said in a conversation with them. It always feels like I'm watching a movie in the first-person perspective.

This causes a lot of problems, especially when I promise somebody I'll do something but later forget about it -- at 24, I feel like I've broken more promises than most people twice my age. Even if I write down future engagements, inevitably I end up forgetting that I wrote down a note to remind myself (I once found a note reminding me to call someone back that was 2 years old). I wouldn't consider myself chronically late, but I do tend to forget to bring things to social engagements or follow through on favors that I'd offered to do for people.

Is there a trick/hack to remembering the things that happen to you in daily life? I feel like life happens to me instead of me being the one making life happen, if that makes sense.
posted by bumpjump to Human Relations (6 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Do you keep a planner that you refer to on a daily basis? If not, you might consider doing so.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 5:41 PM on June 6, 2012

Keep your notes in the same place. I use my iphone now to help manage these things. Appointments go straight into calendar. If I need to bring something, do something, it goes in there with a reminder. Do this consistently - it will help.

Promise less.
posted by b33j at 5:41 PM on June 6, 2012

I'm way on the other end - I remember conversations with great detail, and it's infuriating when others don't remember them at all.

The reason I do this, though, is that I dwell on things a lot. When I have a conversation with someone and they laugh, minutes later I'm already going, "wait, what the heck was it I said that made them laugh?" and then two minutes after THAT I'm thinking about it again. This might be overkill, but the thing about memory is that short-term memory doesn't become long-term memory unless it's repeatedly brought up.

So my suggestion is, keep a notebook. I keep a little moleskine in my backpocket. I use this for remembering dates and organizing my time and making shopping lists, but also as a mini-diary - "talked to x today, and she gave me a card for my nephew - I should buy her flowers". When I open the organizer the next morning I'll see that I should buy her flowers.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:47 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am you! I struggled with this problem for years, and while I'm still not great about remembering things I miss way fewer appointments and drop the ball on fewer commitments than I used to!

Set up a calendar that automatically syncs between every device you use regularly -- google calendar works nicely for this. Whenever you say you're going to do something, or set up an appointment, or buy a ticket, immediately put that thing into your calendar as a specific task/appointment/etc. If it doesn't have a deadline, make one up.

And when I say immediately, I mean THAT MOMENT -- drop everything else and pull up your calendar, because if you say to yourself you'll do it in a second then you're that much more likely to forget entirely.

Set your calendar up so that it notifies you automatically of impending items, either by email or by a popup notification on your phone or your web browser -- preferably both!

Keep your system as simple and straightforward as possible. Put EVERYTHING in it, even stuff you think you'll never forget.

I know it's a pain in the ass, but nothing else worked for me.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:11 PM on June 6, 2012

"Even if I write down future engagements, inevitably I end up forgetting that I wrote down a note to remind myself"

Do you have a cell phone? Immediately add things to your google calendar or text (or e-mail) them to your e-mail. (You used to be able to add things to google calendar by SMS, I don't know if that's still true.) I can manage to look at my calendar every day to see what's coming up and my e-mail works pretty well as a to-do list, with unread items as to-dos. I never "read" the text messages from myself ("call joe about TPS reports" is short enough to show up in the single-line preview) so they always appear as something that needs to be dealt with with some urgency, until I delete them.

Everyone who knows me knows that I have to put important things on my phone IMMEDIATELY or I'll forget, and even people I've just met are fine with it when I say, "One second -- let me text that to myself so I make SURE I don't forget it!"

I get a little teasing about how I whip out my phone for even little bitty things, but it's good-natured, and since I always have my phone with me, it works.

When I enter things into my calendar, it creates a default alert for 20 minutes in advance, which is a good amount of time for me for most things. I have to consciously turn it off if I don't want the alert. This is good because it makes it harder to forget things when my phone's all "HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! You are meeting Georgiana at the deli in 20 minutes! HEY! HEY! HEY!" I sometimes am like, "I so did not need an alert for $item," but it's much better if the fail-state is too MUCH alerting rather than too little.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:10 PM on June 6, 2012

Adding more routine into your life may help. Try putting aside the same time everyday to make personal calls and emails and plan things. Same thing at work; have a master list that you review every morning along with email and whatever. Important or unusual events go in phone-calender with alert.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:53 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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