If you’re anything like me, ideas are popping into your head all the time. “I’ll have that for dinner tomorrow, so I’ll need to do the food prep in the morning before I go to work”, “My coffee mug at work only holds one pint instead of two, so when I leave work later on I’ll go buy another one”, “Oh shit, I’ve left that girl locked in my basement for weeks now, I’d better let her out when I get home.”
In the past, the first I knew that I’d forgotten to do them, was when I remembered that I’d forgotten to do them several weeks later, or when the thing that prompted me to get the idea in the first place cropped up again. Like finding basement girl’s partially decomposing corpse for instance.
I use the “Reminders” feature heavily on my phone, but it’s become a victim of its own usefulness – I now have so many reminders going off all the time, that if I can’t deal with it there and then, I just end up cancelling it so I can get back to what I’m doing, or perpetually snooze it for 3 days and then cancel it, thinking “Why didn’t I just cancel it in the first place.”
A couple of years back I figured out what seems to be a foolproof way to remember anything that I need to do in the future. And if it’s not foolproof, then I at least haven’t yet remembered that I’ve forgotten anything using the method. Or something like that.
The key is visualisation. Let’s say I need to remember to buy a mug when I leave the gym later on today. I form an image in my mind of myself as I leave the gym. What I’m wearing, how I feel, what my surroundings look like, noises etc – the more realistically I can paint the picture, the better it works. In my visualisation, I then picture myself literally going “Aha! I need to buy that mug now”, anchoring the sensation of “mugness” to the picture. I replay this over and over in my head, trying to flesh out the details as much as possible, for maybe a minute. It doesn’t seem to need to be any longer than that.
Every time, this works. It even works through sleep – before I go to bed, I can prompt myself to remember something by visualising myself waking up, feeling sleepy, looking at my phone to see what time it is, and then remembering whatever it is I need to do. I knew I had to prep the pizza dough this morning for my home-made pizza later on, so before I went to sleep, I performed the above visualisation and this morning, literally the first thought that entered my head when I opened my eyes was “pizza dough”. Well, perhaps the second – the first one was trying to forget that troubling dream involving the mule and the radish, but I don’t like to talk about that.
There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the capacity of this method – sometimes, I’ve mentally set myself about 5 simultaneous reminders to go off during the week using this technique. I’ve successfully remembered things up to a couple of weeks in advance, having not thought about it once in the intervening time.
Give it a try – it really works.