Category Archives: Memory Maintenance

help for your short-term memory

The Magic 8 Ball

My memory behaves a lot like a Magic 8 Ball these days. My thoughts stay on the surface of my mind briefly and then retreat into the background and are difficult to summon again. This is common with aging, but it is something to be fought. There is too much at stake. I look for ways to adapt and compensate for memory loss.  I have developed some systems for keeping track of paperwork, things, and time. They all involve the same items:
  • a calendar
  • a tickler file
  • file folders labeled with the months of the year
The calendar represents the present, orienting me in time. The tickler file represents the future, helping me keep track of upcoming events and needed actions. The labeled monthly file folders keep track of the recent past…here is where I find proof of a paid bill or correspondence.

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Memory Systems

My major effort these days is to counter the effect of aging on my short-term memory, and my increasing reluctance to make decisions.

I have come to rely on a system I created that I trust more than my short-term memory. The basic unit of my system is a tickler file. It’s called that because you go through it frequently, your fingers tickling through the dividers for days of the month and months of the year.

Another part of my system is my Bullet Journal. Bullet journaling is very popular right now and it is refreshing to see a non-digital system for recording actions and follow-ups being appreciated by young adults. They see it as their own invention. The name comes from the use of bullet points at the start of items listed in it.

But before I use either my bullet journal or tickler file, I use my commitment-scale. This is an internal process. I consider every thing I have to deal with and ask myself, on a scale of 1 through 10 what is my level of commitment to seeing this through? If an item is a “1” on the scale then it is of no importance. If it is a “10” on the scale it is so important it must be dealt with this moment – right now. “1’s” are not keepers. They go in the trash, the recycling, the donation box, depending on what they are. If an item falls any where else on the scale, then a decision needs to be made about when to do it and where to find it again. If an item is digital,such as an email or a website article, I use Evernote as an online filing system.

Energy Tipping Points

Somewhere between youth and old age a tipping point occurred and went unnoticed. Remember when you could burn the candle at both ends with no ill effect? Dance until dawn? Cram all night for an exam? Those were the days, right? In those days the ratio of energy expenditure to energy recovery worked in our favor. Somewhere in middle-age we began to notice the need for some down time for recovery after exertion. By now the need for physical energy is often the determining factor in whether routine things get done. Throw in a major task like clear out the garage / shed /attic and we’re licked before we start. All we can do is work with the energy available to us. Taking stock at the beginning of the day, we can get a sense of how much energy we have. If energy is low, putter. Find minor, routine tasks and get them out of the way. Take a nap. If your energy is abundant, be careful. Don’t use it all up. This kind of a day is an illusion to trap you into three subsequent days of exhaustion following a day of great accomplishment. Take it from One Who Knows.