How I equalize the playing field with bad short term memory.

The background is pretty long, so just skip to what to do if you don’t wanna read the background.

Background

One of the symptoms of ADHD is the sensory overload that occurs in our daily lives. It is as though you are looking through a window of constant raindrops, and the raindrops are new thoughts that always seeks your attention. Those attentions then replace the current stream of thought, making it harder to recall what is going on. Short term management is part of the executive function part of the brain. Executive functions also include attention, working memory (short term memory), and inhibitory control (impulsivity). ADHD brains have a lower executive function than those without ADHD. Thus we have worsened short-term working memory.

I did not realize this until January 2016 when I was diagnosed with ADHD, at the age of 26. All these time I have always thought that I had atrocious short term memory! Once I was diagnosed with ADHD by a psychiatrist, I started to do research as well as reading communities online with ADHD. One of the communities I found, was the ADHD Reddit community that gave me a sense of wholeness that I have never really felt before until now. However, the discussion of self-confidence on ADHD is another post I will do. Now, we must focus on the management of ADHD!

One of the benefits (and disbenefits), of ADHD, is our obsession with new hobbies. When you talk with a person with ADHD, there’s a high chance that they are a jack of all trades. New hobbies excite us and give us dopamine, making us focusing on the hobby or rather obsession for a short period. As for me, within those new hobbies is the obsession with productivity.

Definition of productivity when I asked my friend (a person who does not read methods of productivity as I have), is get to stuff done. Productivity is not only to get stuff done but it is also becoming more and more of a trending obsession in our current startup generation as well, and here. However, it is not all bad, one of the major aspect of productivity, and getting things done coincides with perfectly with people with bad short term memory. Startup world and corporate management world requires a constant amount of high volume tasks to take care of, for them it may be planning schedules, remembering schedules, emails to reply, task number one, task number 2, task number 3. At the end of the day, even those with normal executive functions cannot memorize all the tasks. For people with ADHD, that is our everyday lives, little volume of normal tasks, but to us, that is high volumes. For me, also growing up in this culture I was curious on getting things done too as a way of managing my life.

From a Google activity search, one of my earliest searches on productivity is back in 2009. I would regularly go on websites like Digg.com, Lifehacker.com, and look for new things to impress upon my peers. “Hey! Look what I can do with my computer!” things of that nature. Onward to 2014 when I started listening to Mac Power Users that they introduced to me the idea of Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Not only was I introduced to a new method of remembering tasks, but I was also introduced to the human resource bureaucratic language with words like “actionable,” “delegate,” “tasks,” thankfully the word “synergy” was never used…

What to Do

Getting things done method can be summarized into TLDR (Too long didn’t read) into figure 1. However, that is the general thinking behind it. It is based on the hypothesis that your brain has only a finite amount of energy, and you want to use it as much of it as possible for important things like thinking, creative stuff, etc. The more you try to memorize something, the mere act of remembering it will require brain energy. So instead of thinking about where I am supposed to be today, I can pull out the calendar and look at it. Instead of thinking about what I should get when I go to the market, I can just take out my phone, and it will remind me what to get.

After a page of introduction and background here is the method that I think will work for a majority of people that’s reading this. I will also include two editions for those who can afford the product and those who cannot afford the products.

My Method

For me, there are four broad categories of my workflow (how I memorize things mostly).

Categories:
 1. To-do list, simple (cheap/free)
 2. To-do list, complex (can be expensive)
 3. Calendar (free to expensive)
 4. Location-based awareness (free to expensive)

Simple to do list

For simple to-do list, it is used for everyday life tasks such as the examples figure 2.

A lot of the tasks here are simple one action tasks and is enough for the majority of the people who reads this. Whenever I have a new task, I add it to this list. I schedule a time allocation for this task, and it can be from as simple as the call to friend, or refund apps. These tasks are single item tasks meaning they do not require any steps. The benefit of a simple to-do list app like this is its simplicity in use, two interfaces should be plenty of time to input a new item: AI, and location.

Inclusion of Siri/OK-Google/Location Based awareness:

Vital in my routine, if you are an iOS user, don’t forget to use Siri, it is easy to use especially when it is set up correctly.

If you have a place that you often go, add the place to your contacts list, and you can use commands like

Location Base Inclusion
 “Hey Siri, remind me to get rice when I get to Costco.”
 “Hey Siri, Remind me to call Mom when I leave Mighty Goods Coffee.”
 “Hey Siri, remind me to throw a rock at Mike when I Arrive at Mike’s House.”
 “Hey Siri, remind me to pick up my prescription when I arrive at CVS.”
 All those are commands that I use multiple times per week especially if these tasks are not based on time but rather based on location. For the next set are time-based events, the regular task to do when people thinks about to-dos.

Time Based to-dos
 “Hey Siri, remind me to check out students with disabilities office tomorrow.”
 “Hey Siri, remind me to go to CVS Tuesday at 5 pm.”
 “Hey Siri, remind me to call Tim for Costco membership on Wednesday.”
 “Hey Siri, remind me to eat food at 4 pm today.”
 For those with Android devices, the use of Google Tasks it is the same, it is also a simple to do list for easy addition of tasks and usage of location-based awareness.

Location Base Inclusion
 “Okay Google, remind me to get rice when I get to Costco.”
 “Okay Google, remind me to call Mom when I leave Mighty Goods Coffee.”
 “Okay Google, remind me to throw a rock at Mike when I Arrive at Mike’s House.”
 “Okay Google, remind me to pick up my prescription when I arrive at CVS.”
 All those are commands that I use multiple times per week especially if these tasks are not based on time but rather based on location. For the next set are time-based events, the regular task to do when people thinks about to-dos.

Time Based to-dos
 “Okay Google, remind me to check out students with disabilities office tomorrow.”
 “Okay Google, remind me to go to CVS Tuesday at 5 pm.”
 “Okay Google, remind me to call Tim for Costco membership on Wednesday.”
 “Okay Google, remind me to eat food at 4 pm today.”
 Cost: Reminder and Google Tasks are free on their respective devices.

Complex to do list

This is the part that costs money; a complex to-do list is not required but the worse the short term memory it is, the more reason to invest in a reminder app that has all of these qualities. Much complex to do list apps can also be used as a simple reminder too, but it is slightly better to do two individual apps as to separate the distinction between work and personal life.

The difference between simple and complex to do list.

A complex to do list app has more features that can help you organize the tasks; that is mainly the difference. Some of those features may include:

  • Customize how often for repeat tasks // Great for bill payments that happen each month.
  • Context // Also known as location based reminders.
  • Nesting features // Categories, folders, tasks within tasks, etc.
  • Visuals // Icons for different sections of the items for good quick glances.
  • Calendar integration // Great for being able to see the tasks to be done on the calendar as well.
  • Differing abilities // Ability to defer tasks delegate tasks to different time.

All these features are why complex todo list applications cost to upwards of 50 dollars, or 5 dollars a month, but most of these premium features allow you for a better recall of tasks and things to get done. This is more used in education and work places, where you can break down a research paper to it is sectioned and work on it a section at a time rather than write on the to do list “Write mid term paper”.

Here’s a Figure 3 of the complex todo list app I use.

figure 3.png

On the left side, it is the projects, the middle section are the tasks, and on the right are the features that I was talking about. Complex to do list apps often require more slightly more practice to use due to it is complexity, but it can be very useful when used often.

Cost: Omnifocus app. 50 dollars, well worth the money for my lack of short term memory. Alternative is to use the traditional pen and use the method called Bullet Journal, all that cost is a pen and a pencil. Here is how to make one here.

As for calendar: I will post a part 2 in the future!


Originally published at Thoughts Thoughts.

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