Use context to never forget again

Photo by Olu Eletu

It is annoying to forget things, especially when you do it every day. It can be a struggle to remember important things like your security badge for work so you can get in and out of the building. Feeding the cat, paying the bills, car maintenance, and the list goes on and on. How are we supposed to remember everything?

Many times, we beat ourselves up for not being better at remembering, which makes no sense. While it would be nice to increase our capacity to remember everything, it isn’t magically going to happen because we wave a wand and poof. Sometimes it sucks being a muggle.

There are things we can do to remember, make lists, set alarms, use technology to help us, but there is something we can do to remember things even simpler, without making remembering more work. Having to remember is even harder to do since it adds overhead to our mental list, instead of lightening the mental load we have to bear.

The best advice I know of is to use the context of the situation to remember things for you. This idea has been incredibly helpful for me. Many of my colleagues have a hard time remembering their security badge on and off, because it is one of those things that is a constant battle to remember. In two years I’ve used the context method to remember my badge every single day without even thinking about it, so this idea really works. It really frees up a lot of daily mental energy, which is the real win.

The basic thought goes like this: If Thing A absolutely MUST happen today, make Thing B contingent on Thing A, so that there is no way Thing B will be missed. For example, if you know you MUST have your laptop for work in your backpack or work bag, put your security badge in your backpack, so that is where it lives so that you never forget it. I am not naturally good at remembering, which is why this method has worked well for me.

Part of using context is picking the right moment of the day, that no matter what, if you always remove your badge and put it back in its exact spot in your backpack or work bag, you never lose it. My moment is in the car, when I am ready to drive home, so no one is stopping me for a chat, my boss isn’t trying to get my attention, I am alone and can focus on what I’ve decided is best to keep my day working right.

There are a ton of examples beyond this one, but when you look for opportunities to let your regular course of action dictate what you do, instead of fighting to just “be better at remembering” and trying so hard to change your natural behavior you never have to think about that thing again. It is just a part of what happens, like clockwork. Then, it is easier to let yourself off the hook and relax a little bit. It makes the day so much easier to let your circumstances remember for you.