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I frequently forget my personal belongings like glasses, pens, etc. as well as basic tasks. Below are the top 3 things I have forgotten and suffered a lot

  1. Once I forgot my glasses on a bus and lost them. I suffered and paid a hefty price to buy new ones.
  2. Recently I forgot my scarf in the snowy weather and suffered because of it.
  3. In an office toilet I forgot to close the door and faced an embarrassing situation when a colleague opened the door.

I am unable to figure out the root cause. I think it might be lack of focus or too much distraction. But my specific question is:

How can I avoid forgetting personal belongings and basic tasks?

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Overcome running on autopilot mode

Once your have figured out how to do something well enough, like catching the right bus to work, your brain likes to go on autopilot. After you have learned a habit you literally go through the motions in order to conserve mental energy and perhaps think about other things. That's probably why we come up with good ideas in the shower. Showering is an autopilot habit that frees our brain to do imaginative thinking. Not so helpful if remembering things isn't built into the habit.

There are a couple of new habits I have learned in order to remember to take stuff with me and not lose it or leave it behind.

To remember every day things I count them to make sure I have them

When I leave for work there are seven things that I absolutely must have before I leave for work. 1:wallet, 2:keys, 3:phone, 4:work badge, 5:glasses,6:tablet,7:make sure my zipper is up. There are a few everyday checklists I've memorized and usually use them when I'm leaving places. Another one I have when I leave a restaurant. 1:keys, 2:glasses, 4:phone, 5:credit card in wallet.

To remember important but infrequent things, I put them where I can see them when I leave

If i have something special to deliver the next day, for example a report, or something to take to the post office, I will put it in front of the door the night before.

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+1 for the zipper – Roy Mar 25 '14 at 21:54

You're definitely not alone in this. I find routines are very helpful to avoid this sort of thing. My wallet is always in my front left pocket, phone in front right, keys in the watch pocket. Leaving the house in the morning there's a lot of patting to make sure what should be there is there. My brain seems to internalise it though, even without the patting, when I actively choose to leave something behind, like my wallet, I get triggering occasionally when I move around and realise that my usually full pocket is empty when it shouldn't be and I have to remind myself that it was deliberate. In the same vein, when my wedding ring is in for polishing, I can feel its absence from my finger and it's very distracting.

People with OCD take this to extremes, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. I'm in the habit of double-checking the toilet lock when I close the door. I'm in the habit of putting my foot behind me to block my front door from closing until I've had a chance to check I've got my door keys (you learn that one fast when you live on your own and the spare keys are half a city away with a friend). I follow those habits even when they aren't necessary. I could have my keys in my hand and be looking right at them as I open the door, and I'd still block it from closing, it's just what I do.

Routines can't fix everything though. For things I do or use less frequently, those habits don't exist, and you can't just make them happen instantly. My strategies for dealing with less frequent cases are:

  1. Take more time. If I'd normally get up just as the train was pulling into the station, instead I'd make a point of getting up a minute or two earlier. It's when I'm flustered or rushed that I'm most likely to lose things.
    • The person behind you can wait.
    • No-one is going to snigger at you if you double check you've got everything rather than hurrying off. They might if you triple or quadruple check, but who cares what they think anyway? They're not the one
    • You won't be refused service if you take the time to put your glasses carefully in your pocket before getting your wallet out (instead of putting them on the counter while you rummage and then never picking them up again).
    • Push back on all the things that make you rush or stressed, and you'll make fewer mistakes and avoid future stress.
  2. Create associations. If I need to do something or take something, I concentrate on thinking about something routine I'm going to do and link it with what I need to remember. Leaving by by front door means I have to look at the mailbox, so I concentrate very hard on thinking that if I see the mailbox I'll know I have that letter to post. When I leave without the letter as I invariably do, I see the postbox and it triggers something in my hindbrain. I might have to stop and think about exactly what I'm supposed to remember, but I know there's something.
  3. Keep things together. If I need to give my neighbour back his keys, I put them in with my own keys, so that when I pull mine out to lock my door, his come out too. Things I need to take to the office are put on top of my bag, so I can't pick the bag up without finding them. Know your own routines, and use them to your advantage.
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This happens with everybody. You just don't know about losses and embarrassments of other people, because nobody likes to speak about it. Stop thinking there is something wrong with you.

I have once left a backpack with all my belongings except the wallet and the laptop in a train in a foreign country. After I realized I could still fly back, I suddenly felt as lightweight and free as I haven't felt for many years (but of course I also felt embarrassed, etc...).

So I'd suggest to stop thinking you are an exceptional loser and start thinking of it as a part of everyone's life. After all, it's probably not the price of your spectacles which is troubling you, but the "how could I be such an idiot to lose such an expensive item" thought.

As for practical solutions to prevent some (not all!) cases of item loss:

  • When leaving, especially in transport, take a look back at your seat.
  • Try not to carry more than one bag at a time, with all your belongings being inside it. This way you just have to remember one item. A small urban backpack is a good choice.
  • Make lists for recurring tasks like packing for a swimming pool.
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I have lupus, and one of the major symptoms I struggle with is a dissociative condition called 'lupus fog'. For most of my life I have fought to keep track of things that should be with me -- wallets, pens, glasses, keys etc.

To help with this, I use:

  • Attachment devices -- keys attached to clothes via cord
  • High visibility items -- a brightly coloured wallet, which is easier to be aware of
  • A checking routine that you run through whenever you leave a place (I really like manuelhe's numbering / counting advice)

The reality is that if, for some reason, you are predictably forgetful, your routines and countermeasures will probably suffer when you are under a lot of time pressure. The last time I lost a wallet was when I returned a rental car at an airport and was in a hurry to check in and get through the security process etc.

It pays to do some forward thinking about these situations -- only take with you what you need, avoid carrying items with high sentimental value, avoid carrying large amounts of cash where possible, be prepared to quickly go through the process of cancelling cards and ordering replacements, carry payment methods in different places (e.g., one debit / credit card in your bag, another in your wallet), carry a spare pair of glasses if you aren't able to function without them.

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Firstly, make it physically harder to forget things. Some examples:

  • Put your keys on a roll-up keychain which you attach to your pants. That way your keys will stay with you.
  • Put heavy objects in your wallet, so you always will feel that it is in your pocket. If you lose your wallet, the loss of weight will make you notice it.

You might want to check out insurances that cover loss of expensive personal items. And put your contact details on stuff you are likely to lose.

Secondly, it sounds like you suffer from absent-mindedness, having too many things to think of that cloud your mind for no good reason. Techniques such as Mindfulness meditation could be a very useful long-term tool for you, helping you to clear your mind and focus on what's important in the present, such as locking the toilet door. Please check my answers to other questions for more info on Mindfulness.

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Can you point some of posts related to absent-mindedness and Mindfullness which are related to my question. Please help – Babu Mar 25 '14 at 3:15

I'm using very simple principle for not to lost personal belongings: I place my valet, keys, badge etc. to very same place if I'm not using it. Main advantage of it - I always feel emptiness when something is missing.

In other cases, try just think more about what you doing right now.

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