[This article is in the practical series Personal Productivity 101. “All hard work brings a profit.” Proverbs 14:23]
Some people pride themselves on the sharpness of their memories, others continually embarrass themselves by forgetting appointments, tasks, or people. Life in the modern world isn’t getting simpler. We like all the connections we can make with people, the options we have when we shop, the many ways we can now collaborate with people in our work no matter where they are in the world. But this means most people have far more things to remember.
If you’ve tried to sharpen your memory and it hasn’t worked, it may be time to stop trusting your memory. I look at it this way: I want to use my memory for things that matter, like God and people (“Remember the wonders [God] has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,” Psalm 105:5.) A healthy relationship with God requires that we have the mental flexibility and freedom to imagine, mediate, dream, and study. I’d rather manage the flood of tiny details of life and work without having to cram my memory with them.That means having a system of recording what you need to do, where you need to be, whom you need to know. Recording such things is not difficult; it just requires commitment. I made a decision many years ago that I was not going to trust my memory. I was going to say to my brain “I like what you can do. I want to fill you with great ideas and helpful information. But when it comes to remembering, I’m going to let you off the hook, brain. I’m going to write it down instead.”
You may be someone who hates making lists. I would rather not make lists. They can seem oppressive and sometimes confusing. But that happens when we’re not smart about how we make and manage lists. We put too many things in them. Or we are random about lists. Or we write them on the backs of envelopes or some other object on the fly, we lose them, or they get buried before acted on.
In a later article we’ll look at best ways to manage lists, but for now here are some commitments anyone can make that could make a huge difference:
1. New appointment? Put it on a calendar (physical or electronic).
2. New contact? A person or place you will want to access in the future? Record it in an address book or digital contacts list.
3. Critical task? Record it in a list of to-do’s (this is a system that requires some planning; more on this later)
4. Minor task? If you need to do it, write it down.
5. New username and/or password? Record it in a secure place. (How many passwords do you have to use for all the websites and vendors you use? Using the same password everywhere is a bad idea. Remembering many is impossible. One great solution is to use one of the secure solutions like SplashID. And did you know that the most common password people use on their computer is “password”? That is a very bad idea.)
The most important thing is: just do it. All the time. Right away. Without fail. You’ll need a system that works for you first, but when you get the discipline down, you’ll actually enjoy the discipline because you’ll have more confidence about getting things done. (If procrastination is your issue, that’s another matter for another time.)
One of the key benefits of not trusting your memory is that you free your mind from the burden and tension of trying to remember the flurry of things you need to deal with. This is huge. Many people don’t realize that they walk through their days with a degree of anxiety about remembering what needs to be done. Its always there in the background, and it is made worst when we do miss something and disappoint someone or waste time or money. So make a decision today–I will not trust my memory. Then you’ll be forced to set up a system for managing the many details of life, you’ll refine it over time, and you’ll be more productive.
What do you think?