How to Never Forget Anything Again
Have you ever been at a party, when conversations are flowing then, out of nowhere, a genius idea pops into your head?
Maybe it’s a solution to a problem you’ve been working on. Maybe it’s the perfect gift for you sister-in-law’s upcoming birthday. Maybe it’s an email you need to send an important client.
If you’ve been having drinks at that party, it’s probably a fool-proof million-dollar business idea 😉
Whatever it is, you’re excited by the possibility of bringing the idea to life. The next day you wake up and… nothing. You can’t remember the solution, gift, email or business plan.
The human brain is a wonderful thing. It is the organ that gave you all those genius ideas in the first place. But, as far as remembering goes, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Fortunately, we live in a time where technology has stepped in to help us (and our low-RAM brains) remember all of the things.
With the right tools and the proper habits, you and your brain won’t have to worry about forgetting anything again.
My Set Up
1. Google Calendar — A free mobile and web-based calendar developed by Google. Due to its popularity, it integrates with most other desktop and mobile calendaring applications.
2. Evernote — A free note taking mobile, web and desktop application. Evernote is also capable of storing pictures, pdfs, mp3s and many other file types. Like Google Calendar, it integrates with many other applications.
3. Trello — A free mobile and web-based collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards and your work into lists and cards.
I’ve never had a great memory. From birth to 26, I relied on my sub-par memory to navigate the world. This bit me in the ass more times than I can count.
Missing important dates or events. Forgetting about promises I had made other people. Leaving work half finished and never remembering to get back to it.
At 26 I got an iPhone. It was the 4S. Like most people circa 2012, I was already in the habit of carrying my phone around with me most places. So I started using to remind me to do things.
I started with events. I sat down and put all the events I could think of into my calendar. As you may remember, my memory is not good, so I tapped out after 3 or 4 events. But I got into the habit of entering every time and place I promised to be into my calendar app (the now defunct Sunrise).
On top of having a bad memory, I don’t always give myself enough time to get to places. So I would add at least 3 reminders to each event. My default settings were set to remind me 1 day, 1 hour, and 15 minutes before an event.
I’d also be sure to get the event address. That would allow me to see how much time it would take me to drive my car or ride my bike to the location. I’d write the Google Map commute estimation in the event description. I’d also write other little notes like:
“bring the book I borrowed”
“David’s sister will be there. Her name is Sarah. She’s going to school in Chicago to be an architect. Offer to introduce to Uncle Mark.”
When the reminder popped up the day or hour before the event, I felt like a freaking genius. Like I had discovered some secret life hack that allowed me to show up on time and prepared. All I had to do was to write the event into my calendar as soon as I heard about it.
I had discovered, calendaring!
Okay. So maybe I hadn’t “discovered” calendaring. But I was doing it. The habit of writing events into my calendar as soon as I got the invite, whether that invite was in person, over text, or from email, was giving me magical benefits.
I told everyone that would listen about the Sunrise app. I told them how it could work magic for their lives too. I had a few converts. Those who got in the habit of capturing saw similar magical benefits.
Riding the calendar high, I thought about what else I could delegate to my phone. I was starting a meditation practice at the time. I used a 21-day guided meditation series by Deepak Chopra to help me get started. In addition to the mantras, the meditations came with various centering thoughts. Like:
- Who am I?
- What do I want?
- How can I serve using my unique abilities?
The answers that came out felt useful. But, forgetful me, would forget them.
So I gained another habit. After I finished the 20-minute meditation, I would open up the notes app on my phone and take a few notes. I ended up doing the meditation series more than one time. I was able to see patterns in some of the thoughts my subconscious mind was bringing up. Those notes ended up giving me clarity on where I wanted to take my career.
I had “discovered” journaling.
I started taking more notes for personal reference. I would create new notes for books I was reading or classes I was taking. As my reference material started to grow, I moved to Evernote so I could enter notes on my computer. Those notes would then sync back to my phone via the mobile app. I could also organize the Evernote notes into notebooks and stacks of notebooks so I’d know where to find the reference material when I needed it.
The notes proved extremely useful for learning, review, and reflection.
But I still had one other area of my life where my terrible memory was causing problems. My projects and to-dos.
I tried using the note taking app for this. But the list would get too long. I also had no easy way to prioritize actions in the notes app. Small unimportant task were mixed in with larger important projects. I also struggled with due dates.
I fiddled around with a few different to-do list managers. Once I found Trello, I was sold. It was visually appealing and easy to use.
I created 2 lists:
- One for all my projects.
- One for all my small to-dos.
I put the most time sensitive or important actions on the top of the list. At any moment I could look at the list and know what I needed to do next.
I looked at Trello constantly. If someone asked me to do something, I put it on the list. I’d drag and drop cards to make sure I was always working on the most important thing.
I “discovered” the to-do list.
Showing up on time is a good quality. Learning and reflecting on what you’ve learned can lead to a more thoughtful existence. Becoming someone people trust to follow through on promises they make is life changing.
The world is full of forgetful people like me. If you can be the one to always remember, you will be more useful than most.
Never Forget Anything Again
So that’s how I never forget anything.
I started with Google Calendar. Then Notes and Evernote. Then Trello.
The habit of capturing and externalizing my world came first. Then I started to organize the material in a way that was useful to me and the people I work with.
This is a big part of what I teach my clients. I get their work out of their head and into a trusted system. I do this so they never forget. I also do this so they don’t have to waste valuable brain juice remembering.
Want create your own never forget system? I’d encourage you to follow my “discoveries.” If your calendar is not airtight, start there. Then decide on a single place to keep notes. You don’t have to go digital here. Paper notebooks are awesome. Then find a to-do list manger that works for you. I recommend something you can put on your phone.
Want some help creating your own never forget system?
You can join me and 15 other entrepreneurs in an exclusive productivity training starting September 4, 2017:
You’ll learn the tools, skills and habits need to create and maintain your own never forget system.
Don’t “forget” to sign up soon. The spots won’t last long!
Zachary “never forgets” Sexton