Other Productivity

Did I remember to unplug my iron this morning?

Did I remember to unplug my iron this morning? Did I turn off the stove? I used to have such thoughts a few minutes after leaving my flat or even a few hours later, when I was already at the office. Once I was so unsure if I had unplugged my iron that I came back to my flat when I was almost already at the office. I just had to double-check it. Of course, I found an iron unplugged. Raise your hand if you’ve never had that thought… I don’t see too many hands ;)

Today’s blog post was inspired by my colleague who commented on my blog post about remembering what you want to do. I wrote about finding a trigger that allows you to recall the thought you want to keep. She said that she does something similar when she wants to remember that she unplugged the iron or turned off the stove.

Why do we do this? Why do we tend to forget about such important details? Leaving an iron plugged in or a stove turned on or water running may cause serious damage to our possessions. Still, we forget about this so often and wonder about it for hours. Very often we can’t concentrate because of these thoughts. I think the reasons for this are quite easy to spot (at least in my case) – usually it’s a combination of multitasking and the morning rush. How often have you been preparing your breakfast while ironing and packing your bag same time? No wonder we don’t remember afterwards if we completed a task as small as unplugging something.

How do we deal with this? I have two tips for you – one from my colleague and one from me.

Lauren told me that when she wants to remember that she did something (like unplugging the iron) she does something special at the same time – something that is very far from a normal activity in the given situation. Like doing jumping jacks, singing, clapping her hands, etc. This is so different from normal behavior that she usually remembers doing this. And when she remembers that she did a jumping jack, she knows that she also unplugged the iron at the same time. Simple? Yes. Funny? A little bit. Efficient? You bet!

I have a little bit of a different approach to this problem. When I need to remember that I did something I talk to myself out loud, describing what I’m doing. If I want to remember that I unplugged the iron, I’ll say something like this to myself: “Dominik, you finished ironing. You reached for the plug and unplugged it from the socket. Now the plug is hanging on the ironing board and you can see it not being plugged in.” Later, if the question “Is the iron unplugged?” comes to me, I know that it is unplugged because I remember the situation when I unplugged it. I remember telling it to myself.

Are those techniques useful only for the described situation? No. I also use them in other circumstances. They keep me from wasting my time wondering if something is done or not done. That way, I can fully focus on my current activities.

Do you think these techniques can be useful for you? Maybe you have your own ways of remembering such things? If yes, please share them with us!

P.S. Thank you Lauren for the idea for this blog post :)

Photo by  Bre Pettis/ CC BY

You may also like
I will remember this!
Four stages of competence
The four stages of competence and building a habit
Tame your recurring meetings