How to remember stuff

Say for instance, you want to remember to take out the trash before you leave for work in the morning. Imagine yourself going about your AM routine. Close your eyes and focus on one specific thing. Something you know you’ll do for sure, like putting your shoes on before you head out the door. Got it? Now think about every little action you’d need to take to put on your shoes: kneeling down, slipping your foot in, adjusting the heel and tying the laces. Relive that memory—the more specific, the better.

Now comes the fun part. Imagine yourself standing back up, but instead of walking out the door, you walk over to the kitchen, open the garbage can, and lift the bag out. Go back to the beginning and repeat the process a couple more times. The goal is to mash up two memories and create an association between the act putting on your shoes (the trigger) and the act of taking out the garbage (the action). It’s mental rehearsal for something that hasn’t happened yet!

How to remember stuff, by Jack Cheng

6 Comments leave a comment below

  1. What I do, is to draw a trash can the wrong way round on a post-it, stick it on my forehead and then, in voila!, in the morning when I look at me in the mirror, I see the right way round trash can.

  2. What I want to know is how you draw a trash can that only looks wrong until you stand in front of the mirror :)

  3. great trashy idea…and does this have anything to do with why the heck I have to put in a load of laundry just before I walk out the door, no matter how late I already am? A pavlovian issue, to be sure, from a former time?

    love the coin bank, also. agreed.

  4. A related idea: sometimes i arrange my shoelace into a letter as a reminder for what I need to do…e.g., an “L” reminds me to grab my lunch.

  5. Wow. All I do is take the bag out of the trash, tie it up, and leave it next to my shoes. Then I remember it’s supposed to go outside. Glad to hear about the Cheng method, I’ll be saving so much time.

  6. @Jack Cheng

    Is easy: When you draw the logo (Brabantia for example) on the bin, you reverse it.