Reminding Yourself to Remember
Many people struggle with remembering to do future tasks. It may be a symptom of being majorly stressed out, or of an underlying health condition (e.g., attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD). If you tend to have this difficulty, you may harshly criticize yourself for forgetting … yet again. Yet this problem is not a moral failing; it is the result of an overloaded mind. It is important to have compassion for yourself, consider what is going on in your brain from a health perspective and take steps to facilitate remembering on a daily basis. Here are a few tips:
- Make very short to-do lists of tasks to carry out each day: For example, use sticky notes to write 5 to-do items for the day. Choose one place to keep the list for each day—your purse, wallet, datebook, etc. Make a new list every evening. Transfer undone items to next day’s list. Shorten your list until it’s realistic to complete on most days. Use action words for each task (e.g., “pick-up meds”) and write tasks in the order they need to be done (“pickup meds on the way to work” will be first on the list). Consider very short lists for both personal tasks and work tasks.
- Give yourself visual cues to remember to perform tasks—using “in sight, in mind tools,” like open baskets and clear bins (where you keep library books to be returned, mail that needs to go out, medications that needs to be refilled, appointment cards for upcoming meetings, a change of clothing for your yoga class, a reusable bag with your food shopping list, etc.).
- Create a “take me with you” basket: In this basket (e.g., that you keep by the entrance to your house) goes things that need to go to/from the house to the car and beyond.
- Create an errand box: For example, it might be an open plastic crate on the front seat of your car that contains visual reminders of your day’s errands (the book to be returned, the medicine to be picked up, etc.). Move your items from your “take me with you” basket to your errand box as you move from house to car.
- Develop habits: When something is habitual, it requires less of your memory. Daily, weekly and monthly habits help reduce the “forgetfulness factor” (e.g., go to bed at night at the same time, do food shopping on same night of week, etc.)
- Reduce stress: Forgetfulness tends to increase in proportion to your stress level. When you notice intensified stress (or that you are forgetting more than usual), try slowing down your pace and subtracting commitments and complications. It may feel counterintuitive, but it will give you time/space to mentally and physically re-balance.
- Consider if others can help: For example, develop a very short to-do list routine with a family member. Ask an organized family member/friend to help you schedule time in your calendar to get done lingering tasks.
If you are concerned about the potential of an underlying health condition, discuss it with your healthcare providers. You can work with a counselor to explore stressors, as well as strategies to reduce stress and forgetfulness. (Reach out to us to request an appointment: 609-377-5859 or click below).
These tips were drawn from Kolberg and Nadeau’s ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize your Life (1st edition). There is a 2nd edition if you want to check it out.