To Remember Tasks Better, Ditch Sticky Notes And Opt For An Object

According to recent research.

Struggling for creative ways to remember your to-do list? It might be time to break up with sticky notes, email reminders or scrawled notes on the back of your hand. A new Scientific American article recommends this potentially very effective mnemonic strategy: placing an unusual object in a specific place.

The method is based on research by Harvard behavioral scientist Todd Rogers, who divided a group of study participants in two, then told one group to grab a paper clip when exiting the lab and the other group to look for a small elephant statue. Both actions were meant to activate participants’ memory of a specific prompt. Participants who were asked to look for the more unusual elephant statue “were more likely to follow through” and remember the prompt.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Rogers told Scientific American that a reminder object, as it’s called, works best when it’s strange. It should also stand out from its usual context. “For a reminder to succeed,” Rogers said, “it has to capture your attention at the moment you can focus on the task.”

Think of it this way: instead of grabbing for a pen and paper to jot down a quick reminder, associate a specific task — like sending an email — with an unusual object. Then place that object somewhere you’re guaranteed to notice it.

Read more on Scientific American.