Remembering everything except one
June 23, 2014 4:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm a person who excels very well in jobs and make great first impressions. However, a problem that has plagued me all my life is forgetting ONE detail that might seem small but very important.

If you were to give me a series of steps, I forget only one step as much as I memorized everything else. Or when I leave the house I forget only ONE item. Seemingly not important but is for the moment needed. I try hard to remember everything but come up short. It's affecting my reliability for jobs. I want to learn more about this condition. Again, it's always one, not two or three, just one step I forget. I don't smoke, I eat well. I take my vitamins. I exercise for an hour 3 times a week. Any way I can overcome this? Also, any Universities conducting brain studies that I can be part of? I will gladly participate. Thanks!
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You need to use checklists. Read this book: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:34 PM on June 23, 2014 [12 favorites]

I've found committing to memory the number of things I need to remember helps. So for instance when I leave for work I need five essential things: keys, phone, wallet, bus pass, work badge.
posted by alusru at 5:06 PM on June 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I also remember the number of things/steps. When I travel, I don't remember that I have a backpack, a purse, and a carry-on. Instead, I remember I have 3 things. And since I've started that, I have not actually left a bag behind.
posted by ethidda at 5:53 PM on June 23, 2014

You may be facing the limits of Miller's Law. Maxing out your working memory can have additional side effects like reducing your ability to self-control eating.
posted by JackBurden at 5:55 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Save yourself a lot of mental energy and stress and start writing things down. Writing things down helps in a few ways: you are more likely to remember it; it frees up brain space for important stuff; and, it gives you a reference for when you don't remember.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:04 PM on June 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Pop evernote on your phone and all the computers, so you can always access your to-do/remember list. You can't possibly expect yourself to keep everything in your head. Writing things down, sending emails to yourself allows for documentation of what you did and didn't do in the workplace, which can be very valuable for forgetful people like me and you. Save yourself the stress, and write it down, like Daisy said^^^ . Also means that you don't spend as much time lying awake at night, or anxious you forgot something.
posted by NorthernAutumn at 6:42 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Checklists would like they would work perfectly for you. I find if I can at least remember how many things I have to do/remember I can make myself remember them all.
posted by wwax at 7:15 PM on June 23, 2014

In addition to remembering the number of things you should have in hand at launch, it works for me to remember the group sensually (sensorily?) - so, on leaving for work I should feel the (1) metal of the keys, as well as the hard fabric of my (2) fannypack containing my (3) phone. Also helps to be primed for the colors of the three things: keyring, fannypack and phone are all 3 black.
posted by mmiddle at 6:13 AM on June 24, 2014


I always remember almost everything. I never had your particular problem, but I was list averse.

So a few years ago I started keeping lists. In essence, off shoring memory space of things that really suited a list instead of taking up precious memory. So my project list and schedule became electronic files. Long term plans, things to write, things to make, holiday gift ideas throughout the year, books I wanted to read, tv shows to watch, etc.

I'll nth Evernote. Keep a list of everything. I still remember pretty much everything, but it's nice to have a reference. Writing the list itself helps me remember. And it is a comfort to know I don't have to stress about remembering everything in nit picky detail.

Good luck!
posted by PlutoniumX at 7:44 AM on June 24, 2014

I completely agree with @bluedaisy, write things down.

In addition to making a checklist, it may help to work out a consistent method for writing down the things you need to know for a specific context.

For (a super dumbed-down) example, if you needed to remember the steps for making instant ramen, write that down in the same way you write down instructions for making grilled cheese, pizza-bagels and bacon-pancakes. It gives you a consistent form to learn the stuff you want to know.

(If you're using paper, The Cornell System is pretty adaptable note-taking system, and can be set up with any paper notebook you like. You don't have to spend a ton on moleskines or Franklin-Covey or whatever.)

Then only put those notes in your Food Recipes Notebook. No chores lists in your Food Recipes book, no phone numbers, no instructions on how to make your own silly putty. Only Food Recipes.

It sounds pretty school-nerdy, but it puts your information in a form that's easy to scan (when you forget that one step), and makes you put that information in a context of other things you already know. That reinforces your ability to learn and remember it.
posted by Tara-dactyl at 7:47 AM on June 24, 2014

I have a real problem remembering what I need to leave the house, particularly in the morning/evening due to the medication I'm on making me a bit drowsy, so I ended up coming up with a series of ridiculous mnemonics. Packing my bag before I go to bed:

K(ey[office key] in pocket)


K(eys[house, on fob])
I(dentity badge)

Leaving the house:

W(ashing, does any need to go in the machine?)
I(pod, charged, podcasts downloaded)
N(utrition, get lunch ready)
D(oor, go straight there)

L(unch in bag)
O(utfit, does it look a mess)
W(eather, are you prepared for it)
S(unscreen, are you wearing any if it's sunny)

They are stupid, but they do actually work. There's a reason medical students use so many mnemonics - they're a good way of remembering all of a sequence, ie noticing that there's a bit of it you've forgotten.
posted by Acheman at 11:39 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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