How can I stop repeating certain behavioral patterns?
April 16, 2015 9:21 AM   Subscribe

"We've had this conversation before. I don't want to have it again." I'm finding myself on the receiving end of this line way too often, from both my spouse and my employer. The problem is, I keep repeating bad patterns like forgetting to turn off the light as I leave the room at home, or not managing my project time effectively at work. I'm aware of the problems and I know how to fix them... I just don't think to, in the moment.

My wife has brought to my attention that I don't seem to have a very good memory, particularly long-term. I don't know if that's related to this problem. Of course I remember what the bad behaviors are, and that they need to be corrected... that's just not at the forefront of my mind when they happen. I get a razor focus on my current task, and become inattentive to secondary tasks.

It's straining my relationships (and my career). And making me feel powerless to better myself. I keep promising to improve and then failing again. How can I learn from my mistakes and make it stick?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
"...bad patterns like forgetting to turn off the light as I leave the room at home..." is raising alarm bells. I think we need a few more details, because right now it sounds like you're being gaslighted into thinking you're a colossal fuckup when actually you're just human. Tell us it ain't so.
posted by Mogur at 9:42 AM on April 16, 2015 [20 favorites]

Have you been evaluated for ADD/ADHD?
posted by desjardins at 9:50 AM on April 16, 2015 [19 favorites]

I was going to ask the same question as desjardins.
posted by MsMolly at 9:55 AM on April 16, 2015


Perhaps as a start: look through this, and see what resonates for you?
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:00 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Aw come on now Mogur. Forgetting to turn off the light when you leave the room is a simple enough ask, to me. I'd get frustrated if my SO did this often enough.

OP, when someone asks you to do something, do you nod and say yes, or do you take a moment to consider why they're asking you, and what it means to them? If you're not doing the former, there's little reason for the action to "stick".

For example, in the light-switch scenario. Consider that every light left on is using up energy (albeit tiny amounts, but it adds up) that isn't being used for anything productive. Turning each one off when you're done is chipping away in teeny little chips at the issue of how we tend to squander our resources as a species. I know that seems like overdramatizing, but yknow, if thinking of it in those terms makes it stick in your brain, do it.

Or maybe you don't actually agree with that, in which case, admit to yourself, and subsequently your spouse, that you're not bothered enough about it to expend energy trying harder to do it. It's a bit brutally honest but at least it'll be a step out of the guilt-cycle of, why didn't I do the thing I should have done.
posted by greenish at 10:07 AM on April 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

As desjardins & others are saying, you could look into having someone prescribe amphetamines to help you focus. Sometimes just getting enough caffeine can be a help - it's the stimulant effect that makes a difference.

Other options are giving yourself triggers to remember things - every time I leave the house, I think "phone, wallet, keys" and I haven't locked myself out in 10 years, even though I used to do it all the time - and getting someone to remind you - I have a partner who always checks if I've remembered things, e.g.

But you're definitely not alone.
posted by mdn at 10:11 AM on April 16, 2015

I went through a period of time having a similar issue, mostly from roommates but also the person that I was dating at the time. I found that the more I was reminded of my mistakes, the more anxious/depressed/worthless I felt, the more likely I was to repeat those mistakes and more (losing my keys, scratching pans, turning off lights, typical attention-stuff).

In my situation, it was really helpful to just ask for time to unlearn the habits. Next time you have that conversation with your spouse or employer, ask for a little patience. Maybe even suggest a deadline -- let's check back in two weeks, a month, whatever, as opposed to every day or several times a week. Explain that you are trying really hard, and that you need some time to unlearn/correct the behavior. At the end of the day, its pretty minor stuff; it might be helpful to just relax a bit, and take it one day at a time. That really helped for me, and I struggle a lot less with those issues now (even with ADHD).
posted by likeatoaster at 10:13 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Try slowing down deliberately for a few weeks. Instead of concentrating on what's next, like "gotta go, time to hit the road to get to work" which will put your mind a few yards ahead of your feet and out the door so in your mind the light switch is already in the past, practice saying to yourself "I'm getting ready to leave, and I am looking in my hands to be sure I have my keys (check), my briefcase (check), my vitamins (check), and now I am doing a mental sweep of the room I am in and that makes me realize that I need to turn out the light (check)."

It's time consuming and it can be frustrating because your mind will want to continue to speed ahead of you. But if you do it deliberately for some period of time, it will become second nature. Take a look at these instructions for mindful eating. This is the kind of thing I'm talking about, although these instructions are for a meditation retreat and are one or two steps more involved than you can do on a daily basis (although it certainly isn't a bad idea to do this for a few bites at the beginning of a meal if you can't do it for the whole meal).
posted by janey47 at 10:17 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Other examples from around the house, all of which fall into the "small annoyance" category but add up and frustrate my wife:
  • Sweeping the floor after cleaning the kitchen
  • Putting lotion on the baby's arms and legs before dressing her
  • Rinsing off dishes before stacking them in the sink
There are a ton more but it's not worth listing them all. If I'm being gaslighted, it's not intentional. These are conversations that keep recurring, and I want to be more attentive to my surroundings so these things don't slip through the cracks anymore.

I have not been evaluated for attention disorders. If I have an issue in that department, I think it's that I focus too much on my current task, and block out everything else. With a baby in the house who needs constant attention, it's especially concerning. At work it's more immediately apparent: I'm a programmer who tends to dive into code and forget to come up for air.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:26 AM on April 16, 2015

In addition to being evaluated for ADD, an evaluation on memory problems might be helpful, too.

In terms of the practical, would having a physical checklist (paper/whiteboard/digital) be too much of a hassle?
posted by carrioncomfort at 10:29 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

How is your sleep? If you are exhausted and sleep-deprived, it's hard to focus, and your memory really suffers. In my case, I got a sleep test and a CPAP for my sleep apnea (severe - I stopped breathing 60 times an hour!) and it made an incredible difference in how motivated and organized I was.

You may not have apnea, but, with a baby, I wouldn't be surprised if you (and your spouse) are sleep-deprived. Try getting at least eight solid hours if you are not and see how that works.

Do you have way too much to do so that you are always in a rush? I do stuff like leave lights on if I have to race out the door in the morning. Now I always organize and lay out my next-day outfit the night before, have my lunch packed and ready (in the fridge), and my purse, keys, wallet and tablet all together and waiting near the door so I can grab it and go. This means I'm not harried and panicked and cutting my morning routine too close, which always leads to careless mistakes.

At work, are you always putting out fires, or can you take some time to plan your projects and schedule them in a spreadsheet, or on Outlook, or whatever works for you? Does your boss/co-workers come to you and ask, "Can you do X and have it by Wednesday?" and then demand an answer on the spot? I've learned to not answer right away, if possible (I had to retrain myself!) and take some time to assess how long a project will take and if I have the time to do it, rather than commit myself Right!Now!

Definitely get checked for AD(H)D, and get a sleep test, but also make sure you are well-rested, unstressed, and have enough time to actually get things done.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:42 AM on April 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

You are my boyfriend. It really is an ADHD issue for him, but medicine wasn't the right solution for him. Instead, he uses caffeine (like a minimum of four coffees a day) to keep him on track and it really, really works. Before you go through the process of getting evaluated and consider medication and etc, just try ramping up your caffeine for a week and see how it goes.

I also think that you might have to gently suggest to your wife to rank her concerns. Like, not every missed dirty dish is a big deal, but you definitely need to remember to pick up your daughter from day care. So maybe she can take the bottom 50% of her concerns and just agree not to harp on you for them. In return you can agree to really focus on the top 50% of her concerns. Maybe the percentage breakdown should be different, but I think the idea is worth considering.
posted by kate blank at 10:51 AM on April 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

Nthing checking out ADHD as a possibility, seems likely. But I agree that some of it might also be a question of prioritizing particular tasks, and believing that they have value. Were you socialized to care about things like sweeping? Some of us, despite having imperfect attentional reserves, had that kind of thing browbeaten into us, so we know to think of it, even if we don't do it, for that reason.

I think, in addition to addressing any possible medical reasons, one way to get past it is just to rely on checklists. But too many new tasks at once will be overwhelming. So for domestic things, at least, I think it'd be a good idea to have a chat with your wife about which tasks she thinks are really essential, and start from there. Once routine X is more ingrained, it will be easier to expand into another domain. I think it's fair to ask her for some patience, too (a diagnosis would probably help her with that).

Checklists will be useful at work, too, but you've obviously got less leeway in terms of determining priorities.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:53 AM on April 16, 2015

I had a period of time where I kept doing boneheaded things like that. Forgetting my keys constantly was one. Losing my credit card all the time. Putting things down when I think of something else I want to do, resulting in items ending up in very random spots. The worst example was I started cooking something and forgot about it until it was a charred mess. I considered asking my doctor for ADHD medicine.

For losing things, I just had to decide on a spot to put them. Like I had to pick a spot and get it set up. "This is where my keys go." With my credit card, I bought a special little wallet that went on my keys so it would also be with my keys. That's where my credit card belongs -- it's just its spot -- so that's where it always is now. For forgetting things, for me it's helpful to set a process. You can even write it down to commit it to memory and post it somewhere as a reminder. Like at the station where you change the baby, have the steps listed, including the lotion thing. Have a "cleaning the kitchen" checklist until you automatically remember to sweep. When you are cleaning the kitchen, it will spelled out on the refrigerator and you can refer back to it.

My memory isn't bad, but I definitely lose the details of verbal conversations quickly. After I discuss something I am going to do with someone, I write down whatever we decided on in an email that I send to us both, or if it's not a work situation, in a Notepad doc for myself. Otherwise, sometimes I remember what we discussed, but I might lose sight of whatever we landed on in the end. It's good to have something written down you can refer back to.

To be honest, I think since I took up coffee-drinking, I have become a bit less of a space cadet, too.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:08 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Look into mindfulness and meditation (book). It emphasizes paying attention to exactly what's going on in the moment and in your immediate environment: not the abstract in past present or future, and not just the single thing you decide to focus on - only here and now, but all of here and now. While a large portion of the point/purpose is about mental and physical health and philosophy, one of the side effects of "being fully present" is that you notice things. You notice that the baby doesn't smell like lotion yet and has irritated skin on one arm. You notice whether the lights are on or off. You notice whether you've been coding for an hour or three hours.
(warning - not a quick fix.)
posted by aimedwander at 11:09 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

You are my spouse.

Spouse was tested for ADD/ADHD and results were inconclusive. The overarching theory is that Spouse is thinking about 80 things at the same time (with an equal mix of fatigue, anxiety, and smarts), so details (lights left on, dishes loaded in washer but cooking counter left filthy, empty dog food cans left on counter, jackets left behind when picking up the kid from school, etc.) get lost in the ongoing internal deluge.

Spouse's fix, which has made things better by maybe 60% (good enough for me!), is mindfulness. This means daily meditation, better sleep habits, and a concerted effort to slow down and just do the thing one is doing. Don't start planning your next task. Be present. No multitasking.

Also, we've discussed how super literal Spouse can be - doing dinner dishes may mean ALSO wiping the counter and cleaning out the sink. Feeding the dogs also likely means putting cans in recycling. I had to explain what my chore expectations are and also decide that my way isn't always worth bitching over. Sometimes I put those cans in the bin and don't say anything because OMG, so what.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 11:12 AM on April 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'd guess that unless this has been a lifelong problem, it's probably more that you're just overwhelmed, and my money's on "this has mostly been an issue since the baby." Some people are great at remembering 5000 different tiny details every day and some people top out at a more average 2000, you know. Babies require about 6 billion new tasks every 30 seconds, and are basically tiny machines designed to ruin us. ;)

For work, at least, are you getting truly clear outlines of the expectations? Are they constantly changing or mostly static? If it's a time management issue, and your expectations are relatively clear and regular, then I would suggest using some sort of external helper like a timer or an internet reminder or a phone buzzer to alert you when you need to "come up for air" and switch tasks, or complete a task.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:13 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

And yes if you can work out checklists, both at home and at work, that's a great way to start building the long-term habits of memory while meanwhile not letting important things slip.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:16 AM on April 16, 2015

I'd be tempted to put this entirely down to the existence of the baby, if this time and task management hasn't been a big issue in the past. There are so many details to try to keep in mind. I mean, you should be congratulated on keeping the baby dressed and kitchen clean at all, let alone adding lotion and sweeping to the mix.

Although I like the idea of slowing down and practicing mindfulness as a solution, I'm not sure there's the necessary time for that kind of practice to bear fruit, but I do want to second it at least as a medium/long-term solution, because all that "bad patterns" talk is kind of judgy and probably doesn't feel very good, and doesn't seem to give you enough credit for all the things your memory and attention are actually getting right.

The more immediate solution, it seems to me, is to have clunky analogs for your missing memory. Any work steps you think you might miss, email to yourself in all caps (assuming your inbox is anywhere in view while you work); otherwise, set an hourly or half-hourly timer to go off, to interrupt the flow of your current work, to take a look around and consider whether there is another task that needs your attention. Break focus, in other words.

As for the baby and the kitchen, go even clunkier. If you always dress her in the same place, put a sign up to remind you of lotion. The sign may not be pretty, but it's not like it'll be there forever, just until you develop the habit of lotion-first. If you need to sweep the kitchen, keep the broom in view somewhere in the kitchen (I keep mine, which is bright red, next to the refrigerator, which is white). Also, it helps to have other sensory reminders. If the sweeping issue, for example, has to do with the baby leaving finger-foods on the floor or something like that, going barefoot in the kitchen could be a help, as the texture of food underfoot is a good reminder to sweep.

There are some--like the lights issue--that might not be as amenable to having signs; after all, you're already on your way out of the room, not looking at the light-switch. But if you could tackle some of the reminders, it could be that the ones you can't get to yet, would be less stressful.

Good luck!
posted by mittens at 11:29 AM on April 16, 2015

You sound like my husband, who definitely has ADHD issues, and takes medicine for it, and also has some sleep apnea which affected his ability to sleep well (how did you sleep pre baby?). His poor sleep aggravated his issues, and he sleeps a lot better with a CPAP machine now, which does help him with his memory. If ADHD is an issue, a new baby and new baby sleep deprivation will definitely exacerbate issues that any sleep deprived new parent can have anyway.

Definitely get checked for ADHD, but also try some coping stuff like routines and checklists. For example, if your wife has a routine with specific steps for how she considers cleaning the kitchen properly (or a routine for the baby), then a written list of those steps that you can put a check mark by as you do each step can help.

My husband brings a backpack to work, and his keys are cabled to the backpack, so he does not lose them. His wallet always goes into a specific bowl on the table when he gets home. There are steps like that that can help, though his inattentiveness issues (part of the ADHD) sometimes mean that he has issues following all the steps in proper order even with a checklist, i.e. he may do things on the list a bit out of order sometimes, which is not always good (i.e. in your example, he might remember he needs to apply lotion to the baby after the baby is already dressed and have to undress the baby and start over). I see him visibly struggle with it, and try to cut him some slack, as I know how hard it is for him and how frustrated he gets with himself over it.

Your wife may need to also pick her battles. In other words, proper care of the baby is a priority, but she may need to give you a pass sometimes on forgetting to turn off the light switches. The light switch thing is also an issue for my husband (and sometimes forgetting to flush the toilet!! why!!), but my priorities are on his keeping track of work stuff, health appointments, keys, wallet, credit cards, bills, etc., which I prioritize over the light switch thing, even if I sometimes come home and find a light on in every room in the apartment, which I then have to go around and turn off.
posted by gudrun at 11:31 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Hyper-focus is a part of ADD/ADHD but most of these sound like routines that you've not developed, because you've not seen the need. Rinsing the dishes seems fairly trivial, putting lotion on the baby is more important, I think, but if it's your first kid--you've not had to automatically do it before.
My husband neatly folds clean laundry--I don't bother, because most of my stuff goes on hangers. It's just a different style of doing a household task.
Sweeping the floor, rinsing dishes before you stack them--I don't quite see why these are so important, and why your spouse is insistent that you do these tasks her way. If the dishes get washed (either by hand or machine) what's the diff? If the floor isn't knee-deep in trash, does it need to be swept every day?
I think this is more about micro-management than your alleged forgetfulness.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:36 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Regardless of anything else: when you get things right, is there any positive reinforcement?

Both my partner and I have difficulty remembering the little things sometimes. One of the things I've noticed is that attention to X little thing (let's say, turning out the lights) is much more likely to improve if the person who noticed the deficit makes a point of noticing and thanking for the improvement, when it occurs, even if the behavior ought to be baseline behavior.

The following works really well:

A: Hey, I saw you turned off the lights! Thanks! I really appreciate that you remembered.

Also key: not getting mad if improvement is made but then slacks off. Instead, a better approach is: "You were getting really good at remembering the lights, but I've noticed them on again a couple times lately. Thanks for continuing to work on that."
posted by ocherdraco at 11:53 AM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

I am you.

I drink 3-4 cups of coffee a day. When I developed acid reflux and couldn't drink coffee anymore, I was doomed-- but now I can and it helps a lot. I'd imagine ADHD meds would help similarly/more.

I establish tiny routines for the important stuff. "Keys, phone, lunch, watch" goes through my head every day before I leave for work. I develop muscle memory for things like turning out the lights. "Door, lights" is just the natural order of things.

My boyfriend is very understanding about my suckiness in this regard, but I imagine if we had a baby things would start to be higher stakes. "I forgot to to lock the cleaning supplies cabinet" with a toddler is not an option.

For things like the baby NEEDS lotion before she is dressed, somehow these things become a part of my consciousness-- I perceive the baby as "dry" (if that makes sense) and then when I'm dressing her I'd be like "gotta make sure the baby gets moisturized," because it would be restoring the natural order of things (I think this is the same mental mechanism that makes people fall for silly health fads like "cleanses" and "toxins," because you start to perceive something a certain way-- ick, toxins in colon!-- and become kind of obsessed with "cleansing." Except, in this regard, it's training your brain to take that mildly obsessive attitude toward something important.) So 'lotion the baby!!' is an imperitive. I notice small things, like when her skin feels dry/flaky, and I want to "right" them ASAP.

I have noticed that women are often better at these kinds of things (to the point of cliche, of course). I am not qualified to say why-- nature or nurture, maybe a combo of both-- but I know that in practice, I internalize these kinds of dichotomies on a gut level-- hungry/fed, tired/rested, dry/lotioned. It's all part of the maintenance of the baby. It's like playing The Sims-- you get in a routine, there are certain things you keep needing to do, you note the signs of crabbiness/hungriness/dry irritableness when you don't do them, you monitor the signs carefully to make sure they don't snowball into a bad situation. The importance of baby maintenance + careful, pro-social observation of the baby's "stats."

I am also a person who falls into code (and other tasks) and forgets to come up for air, and for a long time this was the only way I could work "effectively." There's not much I can do about this-- that's just the way I am formed. But if you need to check in at work and be attentive to certain concerns (as I struggle with), set up some kind of involuntary reminder, maybe? Focus on those concerns as your real "work," since digging in deep comes easier to you. Don't think "my job is to make this widget work," think "my job is to manage this schedule and communicate/adjust accordingly." It's a reframing issue, for the baby, for the lights, for your job. Coding is "easy," coordinating with your boss and team is the work. For now. Until it becomes instinct.

If you can share more of your work issues, I might be able to give more specific advice about what has worked for me.
posted by easter queen at 12:08 PM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Someone close to me had similar issues, being intensely focused on one thing, but not always the thing that needed to be focused on, and completely losing track of everything else. ADD meds made a huge difference. I think your spouse needs to learn more productive ways to talk to you about what they need from your behavior, though.
posted by matildaben at 12:13 PM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding/thirding/whatevering mindfulness.

Just today I was chided by my boss for not punching in/out 5x in the last two weeks, so yeah...

I get a razor focus on my current task, and become inattentive to secondary tasks.

I also do work that requires intense focus. The thing is, when I arrive at or leave work the task at hand is to punch in or out. When you leave a room the task at hand is to turn out the light. Razor focus on certain tasks is not the issue; inattentiveness to the task at hand is. One thing that has been helpful to me is awareness that, for instance, stopping work and leaving for the day is a transition that requires my attention. If I don't attend to it I not only don't punch out, I'm totally zoned out for like, hours.

I remember what the bad behaviors are, and that they need to be corrected...

I've had zero success changing anything in my life by identifying "bad" behaviors and "correcting" them. I've had a lot of success bringing awareness to my behavior and letting change happen. A big part of that is some form of regular meditation. Like 5 minutes most mornings, then, like, micromeditation throughout the day--like just becoming aware of my physical surroundings, tuning into my senses, noticing my breath.

I also find it helpful to approach this kind of thing with a spirit of investigation/experimentation. Instead of "I need to FIX this PROBLEM," I start with something like, "I wonder what it would be like to have a different kind of experience?" Then find out. Try different stuff. Notice what works & what doesn't, what you enjoy or not. It can actually be pretty fun.
posted by generalist at 1:13 PM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

What methods are you already using to get yourself to remember (other than feeling guilty and beating yourself up)? If the answer is nothing, then I think your first step would be to try something. Maybe that sounds a little facetious, but a lot of people behave as though just wanting to do something is enough to make it happen. It's not. You have to actually do something. I understand that the whole point of this question is to figure out what that something should be, so good for you, you're on the right track.
posted by sam_harms at 1:53 PM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think my husband always believed that terms like "mindfulness" meant "better memory", until he got enough ADD treatment to understand more clearly. I see you talking in terms of memory as well, and it was unhelpful to approach that way because "do memory better" isn't a thing. It's really about focusing on the task at hand and practicing and planning and rehearsing are words that are more useful.

So practice how to leave a room for 2 minutes a day for a week. Observe that it both becomes ingrained to reach for the light switch as you leave, and also that you are more aware of the light status as you enter and leave rooms. Rehearse how to leave a room to make yourself better at it.

You have to think ahead, instead of reacting behind. You have to reach for the light switch in order to turn it off. You have to put pants on to go to work. You have to concentrate on the steps of dressing the baby in order to properly dress the baby.

You have to sit down either first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon and make a list of things you need to get done at work - for the day, week, month, and project. It's not magic, you have to do it, over and over again, because that IS part of the work. And knowing how to do it isn't magic either, you have to learn and develop and adjust based on experience. You may have to make a checklist for yourself to use - this is also a form of planning.

Getting things done is a series of choices to get it done.

And, uh, this is hard to say gently, but you have to give a shit. Making your wife turn lights off for you takes a certain amount of comfort with being super privileged. You get away with taking poor care of your child because someone else is taking up your slack. You have to have some ambition - a plan - to do better than that if you want to actually accomplish better than that. If you struggle with perfectionism (another reason to look into ADD coping methodologies), you need to instead make the effort to determine what good enough looks like instead of just giving up. It's a muscle that gets stronger as you exercise it, so understand that a thing that is difficult today will be less difficult in 2 weeks/months/years if you keep doing it.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:10 PM on April 16, 2015 [11 favorites]

I think your wife should lighten up. No one is perfect.
posted by maurreen at 7:59 PM on April 16, 2015

And, uh, this is hard to say gently, but you have to give a shit. Making your wife turn lights off for you takes a certain amount of comfort with being super privileged. You get away with taking poor care of your child because someone else is taking up your slack.

You sound a lot like my husband, and although I totally agree with everyone else that ADD testing is a good idea, one thing that has worked for us in the short term is reframing these sticky situations. For example, when my husband unloaded the dishwasher, or moved things around in the kitchen to get at a certain pots and pans, he never ever put things back in the right place. I don't just mean the putting the glasses on the mug shelf, I mean like measuring cups hidden inside cereal bowls and the vegetable peeler in the crock pot. One day I sat down with him and said, "Look, you are making my life, as the primary food-preparer, much harder than it should be. I waste a lot of time every day looking for things that aren't where they should be. I need you to be more conscious of where things go in the kitchen because it really helps me a lot." And that did the trick! Now he thinks of proper kitchen organization as something that really has an impact on someone he loves, rather than just some dumb task he doesn't give a shit about.

Perhaps it would help to reframe these things, turning off the lights and putting lotion on the baby, as things that really help your wife out (she won't have to go back and do it herself), or even better, as you pulling your weight as part of a team.

No advice on the work front, but I do wish you luck!
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:06 AM on April 17, 2015 [11 favorites]

I have not been evaluated for attention disorders. If I have an issue in that department, I think it's that I focus too much on my current task, and block out everything else.

Erm, yes, that's what ADD/ADHD is.

With a baby in the house who needs constant attention, it's especially concerning.

You might want to get evaluated. Forgetting lotion for the baby isn't a big deal, but there are plenty of things you could forget with a baby that would be a big deal. And your wife might be concerned that she can't trust you to remember to do more important baby stuff if you can't keep track of things that are mere inconveniences if not done.
posted by yohko at 12:41 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Habits, routines, systems. You already know you don't "think to" do certain things, so stop relying on the idea that you will. Accept that you won't and work around the issue.

You're a programmer, so come up with some algorithms and then compile them into your brain by repeating them enough that they stick.


So I don't forget to turn off the stove: I always turn it off BEFORE I remove the food from the pan.

So I remember to take out the garbage: I always take it out before I turn off the light (that is obvious to me) before going to bed.

Project time:

Break down into small tasks. Put into Voo2doo or something similar and estimate time for each. Double the estimates, of course. Routinely compare total time left with the time left before they are due. (Procrastinate as long as possible but no longer.)

Anything I want to think about "later": put into a calendar (like Outlook or google) that will remind me at a certain time. Or email a note to myself and let it sit in my inbox bothering me every time I check my email until I finally do something about it.

Sometimes I'll set the timer on the microwave just to remind me e.g. that I am supposed to do the kitty litter before my wife gets home.
posted by callmejay at 5:15 PM on April 17, 2015

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