How to remember things when you need to remember them

Do you ever remind yourself over and over and over to do something only to completely forget just as the moment comes? I do it all the time and it drives my wife crazy. My overactive imagination led me to a simple technique that helps me remember things at the exact moment I need to. In the hopes of helping my fellow absent minded earthlings, I thought I'd share.

Don't forget ... don't forget ... don't forget

I've tried a lot of the conventional reminder techniques. Writing on my hands, writing on post-it notes, getting a planner, repeating things over and over in my head, etc. They always seem to fail me for some reason or another. Usually it's because I get into my daily routine and the reminder part of my brain turns off. I forget to remember what I was supposed to do when I need to do it, only to remember sometime later.

The reminder part of the brain is tucked snuggly between the organization part and the common-sense part. That whole section of my brain seems to be broken.

So what is this nifty technique to never forget anything again? Basically all you do is send a reminder to yourself in the future. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

Travelling through time to never forget

All you have to do to never forget something, is go into the future to the exact moment in time that you need to remember it. Then tell yourself what you had forgotten. Once back in the present, you can go ahead and forget all about it, because you know that future you is going to be reminded. Doesn't that feel great?

Ok, so you aren't going to be doing any actual time travelling. But that really is the basic idea of this technique. Since I can't actually travel through time to remind myself. I pretend to travel through time to the moment when I need to remember. While this may sound childish, it actually works really well.

The trick is to get as detailed as possible in your imagination. If I want to remember to pick up some milk on the way home, imagine yourself driving in the car at the exact moment you need to remember to turn and go to the store. There is probably an intersection where you turn left instead of right or something like that. Imagine yourself getting to that intersection. Imagine the all the buildings, signs, landmarks, whatever that are there. Imagine what you'll be thinking about at that moment, or what you'll be doing. Maybe you can imagine how it will smell, or sound around you. The more specific and distinct your imaginary future is the better. Once you've made as detailed an image as you can, imagine yourself saying "Oh ya, I need to go get some milk!"

When you actually arrive at that moment in the future, all of the details that you imagined earlier will trigger your memory and suddenly you'll remember "Oh ya, I need to get the milk!" Isn't imaginary time travel fun!

Never forget the milk again

I've found that this method works great for remembering random tasks you don't routinely do. Everyone's different, and maybe the reminder part of your brain works fine. If it doesn't, this might be just the trick you need. Try it out and let me know how it goes.

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  • Rick B


    How do you make it stop? I did what you suggested and now every time I go past the Quickie Mart, I stop in and buy a gallon of milk. As I go past it 3 or 4 times a day, my refrigerator is now full of milk and I have had to start making yogurt just to use some up. Of course though there is no room in my refrigerator to put the yogurt.

    At first I thought that my situation was funny, but then every time I thought about my situation and laughed, milk would come out my nose! This has become very embarrassing. Please send help and/or send lots of chocolate chip cookies. Better yet, stop by with the cookies and be sure to come thirsty.

    Got Milk!!!

    Rick B

  • mattc

    This is an interesting predicament. Either I need to delete this post before I get sued or get an endorsement with the Dairy Farmers of America.

    The good news is I’ve got tons of cookie dough lying around and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it. Just be sure to get rid of that warm yogurt before I come over. Blech!