Overcome Fear of Forgetting


Imagine it's your wedding day. You’re putting the final touches on your outfit and straightening your hair. Then a flash of realization: you forgot to make an appointment at the registrar's office. What do you do?!

This happened to a groom in 2013. His response? Stage a hoax bomb threat hoping the registrar's office would close so he could "reschedule" his big day. Unfortunately, his cover-up was discovered and he spent 12 months in jail. That’s a drastic story of the negative consequences from forgetting.

Everyday hundreds of thoughts flit through our minds: buy dog food, dig up Halloween costumes, make plans for Thanksgiving, and so on.

What can you do to reduce the chances of forgetting? For starters, stop using your brain as a filing cabinet

When you use your memory as your organizing system…your mind will … become overwhelmed and incompetent, because you are demanding of it intense work for which it is not well prepared. - David Allen

Instead of using your brain as a filing cabinet, try these four ideas. They’re based on concepts from productivity guru David Allen, ADHD psychologist and author Ari Tuckman, and my own experiments.

Set up an idea-capturing system

Which tool, paper or digital? Try both and see which works better. For me, I use a notepad in my car, a notebook on my nightstand, and the notes app on my phone.

Use the notes app on your phone

Speaking of your phone: open a notes app and create a few of these lists. Here are my examples: 

  • Maybe/Someday

  • Future Projects

  • To Check Out

  • To Buy

  • Talk to Spouse About

  • Restaurants to Try

I like using these lists to clear my inbox. Whenever I hear about a new idea, resource or website I want to check out, I add them to the lists. Then I can delete the email and have a clear inbox!

Make it a habit to externally capture thoughts

For the next 7 days, see how many times you can transfer your thoughts onto paper or phone when ideas you want to remember drop in. Oftentimes I get the best inspirations just before falling asleep. Before I devoted myself this habit, I convinced myself I’d remember the brilliant thought in the morning. Not!

Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them - David Allen

Learn more

Read the chapter Remembering to Remember (PDF) from Dr. Tuckman’s workbook Understand Your Brain, Get More Done. He offers concrete tips and strategies to overcome forgetting.

When I relieved my mind from being a filing cabinet, it relaxed. I felt less anxious that I’d forget to take something with me to a meeting. I enjoyed cleaning up my inbox. And my mind was free to do its supercomputer job: generating ideas. Watch out world!

Capturing is only the first part of a well-honed organizing system. Get this skill under your belt and you’re on your way to some spectacular productivity. If you’d like help on this and other productivity techniques, let’s chat. Schedule a chat with me now before your mind forgets!
Special thanks to Dr. Tuckman for permission to re-use "Remembering to Remember" chapter. Learn more about Dr. Tuckman's work with adults with ADHD plus check out his other publications.

Judy Dang