Say what you will about the benefits of writing over an oral culture, but an unfortunate side effect of recent leaps in technology is that our memories aren’t what they used to be. Luckily, there are ways you can compensate for that atrophied part of your brain that immediately ditches the name of a person you’ve just met in favour of retaining the name of every single Pokemon ever invented.
Reminder notes add an extra dimension to your memory
Starting low-tech, you should get in the habit of writing things down. Start with a master to-do list, then spin off messages to yourself as niggling reminders. Make sure you put these messages somewhere you’ll see them when you need them, whether that’s an annoying loose bit of paper in your pocket, a Post-it on the inside of your wallet or multiple copies of the same note sticky-taped to your bathroom mirror, computer monitor and packet of Tim Tams you’re not allowed to crack until you finish that assignment. If you want to get slightly more advanced about it, set alarms and reminders in your mobile to badger you periodically. (Another helpful motivator is having a family member or housemate who’ll eat all the Tim Tams if you don’t get there first.)
Install back-up options wherever you can
Again, this doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Keeping a spare key in a separate place to the one you’ll invariably lose is a good example. Ask multiple people to remind you about that upcoming deadline, as well as setting up a meeting request with yourself seven days before it. Making other people responsible for remembering certain things on your behalf is called transactive memory, and ideally it’s a two-way street. Maybe people come to you if they need to know the wi-fi password, and you go to them when you need to know who to ask about deadline extensions.
Forget what you don’t need
Seriously, that’s what we invented Google and spellcheckers for. Don’t worry about learning specific dates or celebrity star signs – it’s all online. You might not be much good at trivia nights, but you’ll clear out some bandwidth in your skull for stuff you need to know today. While the cloud worries about facts and figures, you can focus your mindtanks on crafting and reliving real memories. If you go down this path, it’s a good idea to have an internet-connected device with you at all times, in case you desperately need some piece of factual information as opposed to how the air smelled of spring the first day you began this project.
Install patterns in your life
Put a bowl near the front door that you chuck your keys and wallet in as soon as you get home, so you always know where they are. Keep a master to-do list in the same place on your computer – somewhere your eye naturally drifts throughout the day. Have a specific ritual of phrases and handshake ready for every time you meet someone, so you can go through those motions automatically and pay close attention to their name. (Part of the pattern should be repeating their name and thinking about which Pokemon they remind you of.)