The Herald Bulletin

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February 6, 2013

Susan Miller: How to remember not to forget

During a corporate retreat, a facilitator asked participants what animal they would like to trade places with if they could no longer be a human. Honestly, I can’t remember why she asked the question, but I do remember my response.

After some thought about what animal traits would serve me best at work, I settled on the elephant. Not because I need any help in the sags and bags department, mind you. Rather, I’d like to believe there is truth in the saying that an elephant never forgets.

Few moments are as anxiety-producing as that second when you remember the call you forgot to make, the form you neglected to mail or the child you forget to pick up early from practice.

Forgetting is also annoying. How many times have you gone to the office supply store to buy copy paper only to return with four packs of pens, an office-sized pack of Twizzlers and no copy paper?

The uber-organized may scoff at those of us with a memory impediment, citing the prevalence of scheduling tools and apps. I sometimes get annoyed at those Outlook messages that remind me of a conference call I’d rather forget!

But even in an age of unparalleled connectivity, we can’t always write an idea down or tap it into an app. Let’s say you’re swimming at the gym, surfing on vacation or singing in the shower and an idea comes to mind.

Hopefully, you won’t interrupt the moment to track down a Post-It or access your smartphone. Note to those of you considering the $80 waterproof case. Despite commercials showing scuba divers using their “waterproof” phones, trust me, they’re not that waterproof.  

Paula Rizzo, who founded the List Producer blog, recently shared the following tips for remembering a task when you can’t stop and write it down.

◆ Focus on an object: When you remember what you need to do — look at something that will jog your memory about it later. If you need to buy toothpaste and you’re at the gym, focus on the TV where the news anchor is smiling.  

◆ Put something out of place: When you think of a task you must remember, take an object like a cup and put it in a place where it doesn’t belong. Think about what you want to remember and walk away. Later on you’ll say, “Why is this here?” and it will help you recall the earlier task.

◆ Say it out loud: Verbalize a task as you do it. Say, “I’m setting my alarm for 6:30 tomorrow morning.” You’re now using your eyes and your ears to reinforce the task you want to remember.   

◆ Tell someone about it: The act of telling someone about something you need to do holds you accountable and may even prompt the other person to bring it up.

Enduring the consequences of forgetfulness can also prevent recurrences. If you don’t want to suffer the consequences of a memory lapse, remember that next Thursday is Valentine’s Day!

Susan Miller is owner of Ewing Miller Communications, an Anderson-based marketing and public relations firm. Her column appears on the first Thursday of the month. Write to her at susan@ewingmiller.com.

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