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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).

[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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