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There are some mundane tasks that you perform every day, sometimes under great stress. For instance:

  • Taking your medication
  • Locking your front door
  • Parking your car

Since you're so used to them, it may actually be that you do these things without thinking about it, like you're on autopilot.

The question is, what is the best way of always remembering whether/how you've done these things? How can you remember if you really locked the door this morning? How to remember where you parked the car in the supermarket parking area? (These things become extra hard to remember if performed under stress.)

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I have two parking lots I can park at for work, about a 15 minute walk between them so making a mistake and the end of the day is annoying. I put a meeting notice on my calendar around 430 so I remember which I parked in. Works well. – enderland Jun 11 '13 at 16:50
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I've come to rely on my processes;

I have checks to ensure things are done, and everything is done in specific ways that I can rely on.

I found I couldn't make myself remember, so instead I trust in the reliability and strength of my processes. I do it in work too, and so far it has never failed: it doesn't matter if I can't remember doing it because I KNOW it would have been done right.

On the other hand, there are some things we need a nudge for. I use an app called Hourly Chime to remind me to finish my glass of water and top up another one, and I strategically place objects (like keys) in places where I will see them when I need them and be reminded.

Phone apps are a really good way to go:

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Great ideas. I also believe in setting up processes that enforce or at least encourage you to carry out certain things. It would be interesting to see an example of your processes. – Gruber Jun 11 '13 at 20:35
Well the processes for confidence in lieu of memory are simple enough; I always push the door after I've locked it, to be sure it's locked. I keep my pass in my bag so I never forget it... In work I simply have robust, end to end processes and trust in myself to follow them. I realise that what we do becomes second nature so I trust in that rather than fighting it. And for the rest I trust in apps :) – CLockeWork Jun 12 '13 at 8:54

One easy was to remember those things is to learn the negative effects of not doing those things. For example, read and watch about house robbery. This way you get feared and will start locking your door. Make fear your motivator.

If you want to know how I do it. then here is goes.

For locking the door: I will double check the doors after locking the door. So, I make sure that the doors are locked.

For parking the car: I will park the car with respect to a reference. I park the car closer to the supermarket or closer to the entrance. By that way, I remember it.

But if you start doing it continuously for 10 - 15 days, then it becomes an habit and will do it without even thinking/remembering.

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That's part of the problem: If you do it continuously you will make it a habit -- and go on autopilot. So, while it's likely that you locked the door when leaving, how can you be really sure that you did it? Then you need to remember doing it. But how? I acknowledge that my question was a little vague, will update it. – Gruber Jun 11 '13 at 13:59
I take it your approach is to routinely doublecheck everything, so that you can rely on the fact that even if you were on "autopilot" (even when doublechecking and can't remember it), you can still rest assured that a doublecheck has indeed been performed. – Gruber Jun 11 '13 at 14:17

Processes and tools

I believe in setting up processes and tools that encourage you to do what you're supposed to do and help you remember what you've done. For example, in the case of remembering whether you've already taken your medication, you can use 7-day pill boxes:

enter image description here

Other cases are arguably harder; how do you verify whether you locked your door hours after leaving?


Another fruitful approach is to try to disable the "autopilot" mentioned in the question. This can be done by regular mindfulness training, a meditation technique inspired by Buddhism. This removes distracting thoughts, letting us clearly experience the present -- thus letting us be fully aware that we are indeed locking the door, enabling us to remember this later.

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Related to veda's answer, you could punish yourself when you forget to do one of these things. A very simple way to do it would be to carry a rubberband around your wrist, and snap yourself everytime you fail to perform a desired action. If you forgot your keys, snap. Left a light on, snap.

There was another user here that did a similar type of reward system in which he would give $5 to a stranger if he forgot to do a daily task. He would be motivated to do mundane things in order to avoid losing $5. I'd stick with the rubberband, personally, but the point is that you find some undesireable outcome you can experience in order to avoid the specific behavior in the future.

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