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Richard Clegg

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LIfehacks [Sep. 27th, 2010|10:32 am]
Richard Clegg
Various people posted a list of lifehacks. Here are my lifehacks for people with crap memories. You may say "Steer, you have a really crap memory". Example, the other week I bought a coffee and sandwich in a service station and drank the coffee in the car. Caron said "did you eat your sandwich?" I honestly could not remember. It was at most two minutes previously. It is true that I have a crap memory but you would not believe how crap my memory would be if I did not use these techniques.

4) Bog roll pill reminder -- if you need to take a pill with any kind of weekly cycle (in my case calcium supplements) but you lead the kind of lifestyle that means you might not necessarily remember if you have or have not taken today's then you can make a simple reminder with the end of a bit of bog roll (and possibly blue tack). Cut down the bog roll so you get a simple band. Write the name of the days of the week that you need to take the pill around the band and put it over the pill bottle (if the pill bottle is too small use the blue tack). The pill bottle usually has some kind of directionality (the arrow on the child proof top). Set the bog roll so it indicates the day you most recently remembered to take the pill. You buy days of the week pill boxes but this works as well and costs nothing and doesn't require you to preload the pill box.

3) Name memorisation through constant repetition. I am useless with names. I've never found many of the touted techniques in memory books work for me. One thing that does work for me is in mid-size meetings (10-15 people sort of size) or in lectures if you're not talking 100% of the time (and if it's a mid size meeting you probably shouldn't be) take an idle moments (that you would normally use for sexual fantasies or gazing blankly out of the window) to survey the participants and name them to yourself -- if you can't name some, ask someone else at the next break until you can name them all. This weekend I was running a course with 15 participants only 5 of whom I knew and 1 I had met before. I was able to remember all the names (two of them kept swapping a bit) for all of the weekend. This may seem unimpressive but without this technique I'd probably have remembered only 7 (including 5 I know well and 1 I'd met before).

2) Digitally enhanced memory for appointments with set date/times or mid-long term tasks (need to be completed in days or weeks). The moment an appointment is made enter it in the calendar in your mobile phone (tell the person what you're doing so it doesn't look like you've just stopped the conversation to text). The moment a mid/long term task is assigned enter it in the task list in your mobile phone. Note to people with old clunky phones -- your mobile phone is almost certainly *not* too old to have this functionality. Even clunky old brick phones can do this -- every phone I've owned in the last 15 years can. Transfer the appointment to a task list or paper diary or electronic back up at some point. [Some people do this task with a paper diary -- this doesn't work for me, the diary can't make appointments for next year, can't be backed up, can't make recurrent appointments for birthdays and anniversaries and can't sound alarms when meetings are near]. Mobile phones can set alarms for months in the future using their calendar feature. Online calendar tools can send reminder emails if you prefer that but you can sync them to your phone. I estimate I have about 100 alarms set on my mobile phone currently and a further 100 events "coming up" from weekends away to people's birthdays.

1) Jewellery enhanced one-bit memory for short term appointments with uncertain but short timescale -- this is my favourite because it's so simple. It's essentially a variant of the knotted hanky to remember something but I don't carry a hanky and even if I did I would not look at it that often. Most people have some piece of jewellery (watch or ring-that-you-always-wear is best) that they wear on one side of their body habitually (watch on left hand, ring on ring finger). If someone says "remind me to do X when we get to the venue" or "look out for a cash machine" or you think "must remember to turn the heating on when I get home" -- the sort of task that you can't set a phone alarm for because you don't know when it occurs and you can't put on a task list because you probably don't look at the task list often enough to help. Take you piece of jewellery and transfer said piece of jewellery to the opposite hand. It will feel slightly weird -- you will remember the thing you need to remember. This is only good for short term things (30 minute sort of duration) because otherwise you will acclimatise to having the piece of jewellery on the "wrong" hand/finger. However, if you're like me, the strange "jewellery on wrong hand" feeling will be enough of an impetus to really make you want to complete whatever memory task you're assigned. Despite my really poor memory I can't think of an occasion where I've moved the jewellery and then forgotten the thing and I've been doing this for about five years I think. (Of course I could have forgotten the occasions I've forgotten).
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: foxy76
2010-09-27 09:58 am (UTC)
Thank you for this! I have a similarly piss-poor memory, on Saturday I was given 2 pieces of information that I needed to remember and had forgotten them both 2 hours later - except that one began with 'C' and the other began with 'V' (or was it 'Z'?). I am racking my brain to even think of the context which might help me remember and I can't. Useless!

'Jewellery enhanced one-bit memory for short term appointments with uncertain but short timescale -- this is my favourite because it's so simple.'

I like the idea of this, though I suspect that I will see the jewellery - realise that I'm suppose to remember something but be completely flummoxed as to what!
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-27 10:02 am (UTC)
I have a similarly piss-poor memory, on Saturday I was given 2 pieces of information that I needed to remember and had forgotten them both 2 hours later - except that one began with 'C' and the other began with 'V'

Heh... task list of your phone -- except sometimes I find that my phone has something like "axolotl" or "hedge" and I can't for the life of me think why but at least there's a few more letters to jog your memory.

I like the idea of this, though I suspect that I will see the jewellery - realise that I'm suppose to remember something but be completely flummoxed as to what!

Give it a try. If it's a piece of jewellery you always wear and always on the same hand then just moving it will "set" the thing in your memory and then it will sort of "be there" in the back of your brain. It gives a constant "why is that ring on the wrong finger, oh yes because I'm suppose to remind Kriss to ring the garage when I get home". Because the jewellery is constantly "wrong" you constantly think about why it is wrong.
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[User Picture]From: foxy76
2010-09-27 10:37 am (UTC)
'task list of your phone'

You think my phone has a task list? Hahahahaha!

Anyway, I was not near my phone and had one arm tied up at the time ;-p

I will try the jewellery thing though - it's worth a go!
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[User Picture]From: nigelmouse
2010-09-27 10:41 am (UTC)
For phones without a task list you can always create a draft sms. don't send the sms to anyone and it that bit of your phone becomes a very handy 'notes' section.
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[User Picture]From: foxy76
2010-09-27 11:44 am (UTC)
This is a good tip. But requires that I remember to take my phone to places and subsequently remember to double check it!

I am more a 'paper and pencil' type of person :-)
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-27 11:55 am (UTC)
Fair enough -- most people are more likely to take their phone with them than a pencil and paper. Still, it's all about what works for you.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-27 11:45 am (UTC)
You think my phone has a task list? Hahahahaha!

A lot of people think "my phone is really old so it doesn't have that". I may be proved wrong but the phone I bought around 2000 had one and every phone I have bought since has. At the time I wasn't buying top of the range phones either -- these were the cheapest phones available at the time. Even people who pride themselves on never upgrading their phone usually find their phone has this feature. If your phone is as modern as this one (from 2000)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_3310

it probably has some ability to make very short notes with it which is all you need.

I was not near my phone and had one arm tied up at the time

OK good, if alarming, excuse.
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[User Picture]From: andrewducker
2010-09-27 10:24 am (UTC)
Yeah, without a calendar on my phone I'd be fucked.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-27 10:25 am (UTC)
It's a complete life saver for me and has been for many many years. I don't know how many double bookings I've avoided. Previously I was always carrying a shambolic paper diary about with pages falling out.
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[User Picture]From: rosenkavalier
2010-09-27 10:31 am (UTC)
I've generally got a pretty good memory for things, but names have always been a problem - I can be introduced to someone and fifteen seconds into the conversation I'll realise that I have no idea what they're called... This is particularly embarrassing when I then have to introduce them to someone else (or when it's someone I've known for years without ever quite managing to remember their name).
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-27 11:46 am (UTC)
I certainly get that on being introduced to people... and I can certainly second the "known them for years". Even more embarrassing if a third person in the conversation does "Don't be so rude, introduce me to your friend".
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[User Picture]From: hirez
2010-09-27 12:44 pm (UTC)
Whitby's a nightmare for this. You're drunk, introduced to someone in a loud pub by someone equally drunk, and then expected to remember them when everyone's hungover and sans warpaint the morning after. Or when the leap out of the cupboard at you, pitch up in a field in Holland, etc.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-27 01:41 pm (UTC)
Absolutely -- Whitby where you meet someone, chat to them about some bizarre world changing thing that you happen to be interested in at that moment and then see them again six months later. The absolute worst is if it's someone who reads my LJ who I don't know that well. So they know and mention some terrible thing about me and I don't even recall their name.
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[User Picture]From: shermarama
2010-09-27 11:46 am (UTC)
I used to be pretty good with names until I started playing lots of gigs where I'd chat to various members of other bands and suchlike and knew I'd never have to remember their names again past the one evening, so I gained a sort of extra register in my head for names-that-don't-need-to-stick. And now everyone's name tends to end up in that unless I make sure to put it in somewhere else. So now I will do the 'can I remember *your* name' in quiet bits of the conversation but generally I only need to do it once to put it a non-temporary register and then it's fine.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-27 11:48 am (UTC)
I find that even if I make an "effort" to remember someone's name I will forget it unless I try again and again until it's stuck into medium term. So I need to do the "Can I remember your name" thing about three or four times before it's there.
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[User Picture]From: drdoug
2010-09-27 01:08 pm (UTC)
I do like these, especially the names and the one-bit memory.

I've been trying to do better on names for ages. My current scheme involves thinking of a caricature adjective or word and then the name - the ruder and more alliterative the better, but ideally it's a feature that persists, not e.g. clothing. Then I mentally go round the room in those idle moments, checking off Dodgy Dave, Airhead Agnetha, Miserable Manmohan, etc. You just have to stop yourself ever mentioning these aloud to anyone, ever.

But the constant repetition thing is a good plan.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-27 01:41 pm (UTC)
Heh... I like your "dodgy dave" scheme.
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[User Picture]From: drdoug
2010-09-27 01:48 pm (UTC)
I find the effectiveness is very highly correlated to the outrageousness of the nickname. You do have to make an effort not to blurt it out when you've just asked someone to remind you of their name though. It's fine to do it mentally (and in fact that's an important part of how it works for me), but any potential social benefit of learning their name is completely undermined if you say "Oh, of course, Shithead Siobhan, now I remember."
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-28 08:18 am (UTC)
*laugh* Or if you just remember the first part of the name -- even worse.

It's weird how remembering more complex information enables you to remember simple information -- you are remembering shithead siobhan to remember siobhan.

I remember numbers via a sequence to generate them. 4893 becomes the first square, the first cube, the second square and it's square root. That's clearly much more to remember but it sort of works.
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[User Picture]From: rosenkavalier
2010-09-28 02:02 pm (UTC)
I find I do exactly the same with numbers. I've never managed to find an equivalent method for people, however.
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[User Picture]From: scatterbeetle
2010-09-28 03:39 am (UTC)
When I'm introduced to someone, I'm usually too busying saying hello and shaking hand to actually listen to the person's name!
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-28 08:15 am (UTC)
Yes... and then you're smiling and shaking hands while you're being introduced to the next person so you miss their name and so on and so on.
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[User Picture]From: kissmeforlonger
2010-09-28 07:50 am (UTC)
I'd never noticed you being particularly forgetful.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-09-28 08:16 am (UTC)
That's sarcasm right? Is that sarcasm? I can't tell with you anymore.
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[User Picture]From: kissmeforlonger
2010-09-28 08:14 pm (UTC)
No, it's not sarcasm. Well, it wasn't.
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[User Picture]From: foxy76
2010-09-28 08:32 am (UTC)
'I'd never noticed you being particularly forgetful.'

Indeed, he has made a point to remind you to take a non-existant car to the garage ;-p
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