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I find there are often things that I want to do specifically when I'm doing something else, and always forget to. A couple examples (silly as they seem) will probably make this more clear.

  • The inner (plastic) curtain in the shower at work flies into the shower and brushes up against me (something to do with the airflow I guess). I want to remember to simply bring a binder clip and attach it to the other curtain. By the time I remember (i.e. when the nasty curtain is flying into me) it's too late.

  • When I'm shaving, for whatever reason I forget to shave up by my nostrils and the corners of my mouth (I realize at some point during the day and am annoyed by it).

Obviously these are not incredibly important (which is why I never remember them, I guess), but they are annoying. I am horrible at remembering to do things so I resort to lists, and that works well in a "todo" sense, but not when the task is context-sensitive (i.e. WHEN I go to the shower I have to remember the binder clip...not now).

Are there any techniques to better remember things like this?

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So there are two things there... one is universal capture (that is, getting things from your brain to your next-actions list without losing anything on the way) and the other is context (looking at the right bit of your next actions list when in a particular context)

Looking at the first one first - there are lots of universal capture methods (I've always used my phone to send myself an email or voicemail) but almost all of them fail in the bathroom, which is quite reasonable - in this case anything that serves as a reminder might work - the classic of putting a knot in your towel to remind you that you're remembering something

At the other end - the context end, we can be a bit more helpful. I personally find it surprising how much of this stuff can be taken care of outside of context. For your examples - putting the binder clip into your shower kit NOW would sort you out, and, for that matter, putting a reminder label on your razor... I do a lot of things like setting alarms for times when I know I'll be in a particular place and tying things together that need to go to the same place. The classic example is, of course, packing your work/school/play bag the night before...

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+1 for prepping things ahead of time. If I think of something I need to take to work, it goes into my backpack then rather than me trying to remember it the next morning. And then I don't have to think about it anymore! – Belisama May 2 '12 at 13:52
Dang, I was hoping to read about other methods I wasn't already doing. – Kyle Hayes May 10 '12 at 0:45

@Jer, this happens to me CONSTANTLY, and I handle it a couple different ways. But, like others have mentioned above, the idea of "taking care of it" right away is key. Do something while you're thinking about it, even if that something is writing it on your palm to remember to do later.

First, I try to do the task immediately. I find that doing these little errands throughout the day is often a great little break to re-energize me. Away from my desk for five or ten minutes to get parking meter change, visit the supply cabinet, throw a letter in the mailbox...these breaks from sitting at my desk really help me to focus a lot better.

Of course, there are some times that I just can't get away. When I'm sitting in a meeting and realize, "Crap! There's no milk in the fridge," I write myself a note, and this is a critical component...WHERE I KNOW I'LL SEE IT. On the meeting notes, right next to an important point on my agenda that I'll refer to, the busienss card of the person I'm meeting. That way, when I get back to my desk to review & take care of, I can transfer it to my calendar/to do list.

If it's something that I know I ~always~ forget (like the shower curtain) I try to at the VERY least leave myself a physical reminder (rather than a note). For instance, I had a broken lamp sitting on my desk for about three weeks in need of a nut. I finally found a footlong chunk of lamp cord and tied it to my keyring. That evening and the following day, I kept thinking "Why do I have this lamp cord...oh! Yeah!" and on the way home, I bought the nut. My lamp works now.

Much like tying a string around your finger, I often find that the more experiential the "remember to do something" can be, the more senses you can involve--reading writing, speaking it to yourself, handling a physical object--help solidify the memory and my recall quite well.

Of course, I still have endless lists. But i know that what's there is important. :)

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You are incorrect when you say these aren't "important" when in reality it is important since it annoys you.

Also, just because a task is context-sensitive, doesn't mean it's not a "todo" that you can put on a list. For example, do you make a grocery list? That's context-sensitive: "WHEN I go to the grocery store, I'm going to pick x and y things"

If you're already making to-do lists, you can go about it two ways:

  1. Make a list separate for a specific context. Examples: Grocery list, work tasks, calls I need to make, etc.
  2. Put a tag next to items on your list:
    • Ask So-and-So about meeting up with them. @Call, @Email
    • Update Direct Deposit routing @Work, @Online
    • Binder clip @Work, @Shower

Now you can look at your to-do list and do tasks based on the context. If you're on the street (for example) waiting in line for something, you can pull out your phone and start making calls.

As for the shaving thing, since it's more of a process improvement than a "todo", you can just put a simple Post-It note on your mirror reminding you do that. You can use post-it notes to remind yourself of other things too (Binder clip) if you wish.

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Thanks for the response. You're right, these are (somewhat) important, just not as important as other things (e.g. paying my credit card bill is more important the binder clip!). And the tags for certain contexts could work - I just don't know if I would even think to look at my todo list when I go to take a shower! However, perhaps just putting it on the list and looking at that list throughout the day, as I normally do, will be enough. – Jer May 2 '12 at 18:44

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